The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay officially opened the redeveloped Aberdeen Art Gallery in a sun-soaked Granite City.
Charles and Camilla arrived outside the Art Gallery on Tuesday, September 21 and were greeted by Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeen City Barney Crockett.
Young children from Robert Gordon’s College were waiting patiently by the gallery waving flags to welcome the couple. Both Charles and Camilla stopped to talk to the children alongside Mr Crockett.
Mr Crockett said: “It’s a great excitement for me but also for the whole city, I think it’s really another indicator that things are on the up and we’re getting back to normal.
“I think both the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay have played a great role in inspiring that and pushing things forward. I think they’re working at a tremendous rate, and it’s fantastic we’re so high up on their itinerary and they’re doing so many things for the city today.”
The royal tour
The couple then entered the gallery for the first time since it reopened in 2019, after their official reopening was delayed due to the pandemic.
They were greeted by members of Aberdeen City Council, including council leader Jenny Laing, the museum manager Alex Robertson and art gallery service manager Helen Fothergill.
The Duke and Duchess were taken on a tour of the gallery, where they were able to enjoy the extensive collections and speak to those involved in the four-year refurbishment of the iconic building.
Veterans awaited the couple in the Remembrance Hall and the couple stopped to speak to the group.
Men Bahadur Gurung was one of the veterans that the couple spoke to and he said it was a “great honour” to meet the Duke and Duchess.
He added: “It was a wonderful day. We just had a general conversation, and they were so lovely.”
The couple seemed particularly interested in the Forget Me Not installation commissioned by Gordon Burnett and made out of intricate forget-me-not flowers.
The Duke, who was wearing Gordon tartan and his Gordon Highlander’s badge, was shown around the Balmoral Phenomenon gallery where a collection of outfits belonging to Frances Farquharson was on display.
The former editor of Harper’s Bazaar and chatelaine of the Invercauld Estate was known for her love of fashion and striking tartan ensembles.
Prince Charles appeared very merry in the Balmoral Phenomenon gallery, laughing with staff and members of the royal party as he viewed paintings depicting his ancestors.
The Duchess – who was wearing a Balmoral tartan dress by Mr Roy – met with pupils from Hanover Street Primary School in the Exploring Art gallery. The youngsters had recently been participating in the Art Chat project, and Camilla was interested to hear what their favourite parts of the exhibitions were.
‘Intimate’ reopening of the Aberdeen Art Gallery
On the sunny terrace the Duke and Duchess unveiled a plaque to mark the official reopening of the gallery.
Marie Lanaghan trustee with the Art Gallery development trust said: “It was a very intimate, lovely, official opening. We were so lucky to have His Royal Highness and Camilla, it was just brilliant. The weather shows off the terraces beautifully upstairs, and all the artworks were looking amazing.
“We did speak to him and his wife and it was wonderful. I think they seemed really bowled over by it, it’s an exquisite gallery.”
The couple were then invited back down to unveil the Robert the Bruce Sword, which marks the 700th anniversary of the granting of the freedom lands to Aberdeen.
As the royal tour came to an end, Camilla stopped to speak to the locals who had lined up along Schoolhill hoping to catch a glimpse of the couple.
The redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery
The art gallery closed for a £35 million redevelopment which took four years to complete.
It reopened to the public in November 2019, however, due to the pandemic the official reopening ceremony was unable to go ahead.
Councillor Marie Boulton explained: “We obviously had to delay the official opening several times because of Covid, but we got there today and what a day to do it on, with the beautiful sunshine making the granite sparkle. We couldn’t have had a better day for it.”
The gallery has been made more accessible to visitors to ensure that everyone can enjoy the extensive art collections held within the gallery.
Mrs Boulton said: “I think they were really impressed with the way the gallery has been sensitively redeveloped and I think part of the conversation I had with His Royal Highness was the fact that we’ve made the gallery fully accessible, because before we would have to put people in the goods lift if they were in a wheelchair.
“For me that wasn’t acceptable, so I was really pleased when that was one of the main focusses we had in redeveloping the art gallery.”
Council leader Jenny Laing said it had been a “wonderful day” explaining the visit shows that the gallery is a national and international event space.
She said: “He’s come and he’s been very enthusiastic, spent a lot of time talking to people about the redevelopment here and real interest in the future of the gallery.
“His Royal Highness was very happy with the gallery and he realises this is a great asset for the city of Aberdeen.”
The British Art Show is being held at the Aberdeen Art Gallery for the first time. It opened in July and has already proved to be a popular exhibition.
Mrs Laing added: “Being able to pull in something like the British Art Show is a real que for Aberdeen, and I think the public that has flocked here to see it is a real testament that they want to see those types of exhibitions here and the gallery now allows us to do that.”