Aberdeen’s revamped Art Gallery will rival Dundee’s V&A museum, the city council’s co-leader has claimed ahead of its reopening this weekend.
The Evening Express got a sneak glimpse inside the completed venue yesterday, which has been undergoing a £34.6 million revamp since 2015.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing claimed the new tourist attraction would rival the V&A design museum in Dundee and other regional galleries across the country.
Speaking after the tour, which saw media guided around the three floors of revamped space, Ms Laing said: “The new art gallery is going to blow people away.
“They’re going to understand why it was important for our city centre regeneration that we spend money on this project.
“I definitely think it will rival the V&A. The quality of the collections we have in Aberdeen, it needs a building to showcase it.”
The revamped gallery, which has been hit by delays since closing its doors, will also go some way to helping the city “diversify” its economy, the council co-leader claimed.
She said: “It was important to us that we made sure we provided a world-class visitor attraction that will attract not just local people but tourists from far and wide.
“It’s always been our intention to make sure the redevelopment is a world-class facility.
“I think that’s what we have achieved, it’s taken a bit of time but I think with the age and complexity of the project it was important we made sure we got everything right.”
Douglas Lumsden, who co-leads the local authority alongside Ms Laing, claimed the gallery rivals any regional gallery he has seen elsewhere.
He added: “The collection we have is absolutely fantastic and we can now exhibit three times more than we could, we’ve gone up from 11 gallery spaces to 19.
“We can show off a lot more and I think we’ve got a fitting gallery to host the collection we have.”
The redevelopment has dramatically increased the amount of display space for the city’s nationally-recognised collection, with the number of galleries increasing from 11 to 19 and the number of items on display increasing from 370 to 1,080.
Among the changes are the construction of a whole new top floor, which museum bosses say will be a “game changer”, offering “new vistas” across the city.
The Remembrance Hall has also been revamped and now includes new digital rolls of honour.
These will scroll continuously on the wall of the hall, showing the names of everyone recorded in the city’s Book of Remembrance.
Technology has been introduced across the buildings, with digital touchscreens providing more information on many of the works.
Meanwhile, new LED lighting has been installed in the roof of some of the gallery space, which gives the impression of natural light and can be changed as the seasons change.
Aberdeen City Council has pledged £14.6m from capital funds, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund has made a £10m contribution but the council is still £5.2m short of its £10m public fundraising target.
Oil firm BP has donated £1m to go towards its gallery space and £1.5m has been given by the UK Government to support the Remembrance Hall renovations.
The ongoing public fundraising campaign will continue, with Mr Lumsden claiming he thinks visitors will be inspired to donate to the project once they get inside this weekend.
He said: “My feeling is now the gallery is open this weekend, once people come and visit, I think people will contribute to the gallery we’ve built here.
“There’s still a dispute ongoing with the main contractor and that dispute will continue and we’re trying to minimise the cost to the council as much as possible.”
Councillor Alex Nicoll, SNP resource spokesman, said: “The city has been robbed of its Art Gallery for far too long so I’m delighted that it will be open again very soon.
“Sadly, this is not the end of the story as the administration still need to tell us how much money this project has actually cost the people of Aberdeen.”
The first members of the public will get access to the gallery this weekend but tickets have sold out for the event.
More than 5,500 free tickets were snapped up within hours of being released last month, with timed slots in place to ensure the best experience for visitors.
From Monday, regular opening times will be 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm, with free admission.