The long-awaited fit-out of Aberdeen Art Gallery is expected to begin next month, the Evening Express can reveal today.
Construction work has been ongoing at the gallery, Cowdray Hall and the Remembrance Hall since July 2015 as part of a £30 million redevelopment.
The main construction works are nearing completion, with the redevelopment fit-out programme planned to begin in mid-February, ahead of an autumn 2019 opening.
The Evening Express can also reveal the gallery will open with an important loan of 1881 painting Le Passeur (The Ferryman), by British painter William Stott, as part of a partnership with the Tate in London which bought the work for £1.5m.
There will also be an exhibition entitled Alchemy in the ground floor galleries which will feature artwork by local school pupils.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said he welcomed progress being made to deliver the “world-class” art gallery.
He said: “The fit-out will still take place this year and it will still be open to the public later this year, which is great news.”
The fit-out process will begin with preparatory works, including floor protection works, fixed furniture and the installation and preparation of gallery display cases.
This would come ahead of the return of the gallery’s collections, some of which have been gracing the walls of galleries around the world.
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New figures also show the facility is projected to receive around 235,000 visitors a year, with the figure increasing in response to “exceptionally popular” exhibitions.
A report to councillors says that if those numbers are met, it would place the revitalised gallery among the top 10 museums in Scotland, joining the likes of Kelvingrove in Glasgow, the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh and the V&A in Dundee.
The project has been dogged by delays with opposition councillors hitting out at the administration for hold-ups.
It was initially thought the gallery would open in 2017 but this was then pushed to an estimated date of late last year or early this year.
However, in September, the local authority confirmed the gallery reopening was delayed again until autumn this year.
Councillor Alex Nicoll, SNP group city growth spokesman, said: “It’s comforting to know that, after being plagued with delays from the outset, we appear to be almost approaching the start of the end of this redevelopment saga.
“However, it is important to note that, despite the huge investment and delays, we are only expecting 235,000 visitors in the first year – the V&A had 100,000 in three weeks.”
Co-leader of Aberdeen City Council Jenny Laing said: “The refurbished Art Gallery including the Cowdray Hall and Remembrance Hall will be Aberdeen’s key cultural venue in the city centre, complementing the newly upgraded Music Hall, HM Theatre and the much awaited Provost Skene House.
“We are confident the revamped gallery will rival regional galleries around the world and will provide residents and visitors with a greater opportunity to view the city’s outstanding art collection”.
Other plans for the transformed arts space include increasing the number of galleries from 11 to 21, the creation of a rooftop gallery, new educational facilities and a 500sqm space to showcase exhibitions. There will also be a ground floor cafe and rooftop cafe bar with views of Union Terrace Gardens.