London's Courtauld gallery to reopen after 3-year transformation

The Blavatnik Fine Rooms at the Courtauld Gallery in London, UK
The Blavatnik Fine Rooms at the Courtauld Gallery in London, UK Copyright David Levene
By Shannon McDonaghTheo Farrant
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The historic listed building on the banks of the Thames welcomes visitors back to indulge in one of Europe's most prestigious art collections.


The Courtauld Gallery in London, closed since 2018 for renovation, will reopen its doors this month to showcase its world famous assortment of paintings.

It follows a major €58 million regeneration of its home site, Somerset House, which has been completely transformed to better showcase its sweeping, intricate collections.

Most notably, its French impressionist paintings and dedication to the study of the renaissance period.

Renovation of moldings, restructuring of rooms, creation of disabled access are just some of the changes visitors can expect from the historic listed building on the banks of the Thames.

Three years of reimagining the space will finally come to light when the Courtauld reopens its doors on November 19.

Jim Winslet
The Courtauld is part of London's Somerset House, an 18th century neoclassical arts venueJim Winslet

Emphasising space and light

The LVMH Great Hall's palatial expanseHufton+Crow

Visitors can expect spacious, brighter rooms that are a world away from the Courtauld first founded 89 years ago.

Historic value remains front and centre – clever canvas arrangements meld effortlessly alongside refurbished architecture, spotlighting mastery spanning the Middle Ages to the 20th century.

"What we wanted to do was harmoniously blend one of the UK's largest collections with this important historic building," Ernst Vegelin van Claerbergen, in charge of the gallery, told AFP.

"The two things meet and work beautifully together."

Celebrating the early Renaissance and decorative arts

Jim Winslet
The Blavatnik Fine Rooms will feature Courtauld classics displayed for the 21st centuryJim Winslet

Designed by Stirling Prize-winning architects Witherford Watson Mann with gallery design by Nissen Richards Studio, the redevelopment revitalises and opens up the building conceived by Sir William Chambers in the 1770s to create an inspiring setting for the 21st Century.

The Blavatnik Fine Rooms, spanning the second floor, will provide the stunning setting for a series of new displays of works from the Renaissance to the 18th century.

Highlights will include Botticelli’s large-scale The Trinity with Saints, unveiled after a three-year conservation project, and The Courtauld’s celebrated collection of works by Peter Paul Rubens.

Watercolours and Von Gogh portraiture

David Levene
Van Gogh’s Self- Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) in the LVMH Great RoomDavid Levene

Among the major works carried out, the complete overhaul of the 'Great Room', the oldest exhibition space in the British capital, the Royal Academy having held its famous summer exhibitions there between 1780 and 1836.

'Self-portrait with a bandaged ear' by Vincent Van Gogh or 'Un bar aux Folies Bergère' by Édouard Manet are two of its crown jewels. In fact, the Courtauld is one of the few galleries in the UK you can access original work from Van Gogh.

In a completely redesigned and open space, visitors will be also able to enjoy famous paintings by Cézanne, Modigliani, Seurat, Degas, Gauguin, Renoir, even Monet.

21 Turner watercolours were gifted to the gallery between 1974-2004.

The significance of the Courtauld

Jim Winslet
Visitors are welcomed back to the gallery this month for the first time in 3 yearsJim Winslet

The Courtauld Gallery houses the collection of the Courtauld Institute of Art – one of the most prestigious academic hubs for art history in the world.

With a yearly intake rarely exceeding 500 pupils and the Princess Royal as its Chancellor, its embrace of European creativity is like no other.


COVID-19 hit the art world hard, and the ripple effects are still being felt today. Though renovations at the Courtauld were already underway when the pandemic arrived in the UK, its absence has been just as sharp as its contemporaries - The Tate Modern and The National Portrait Gallery, for example - reopened last year.

"We feel that it is the right time to reopen," says Vegelin van Claerbergen. "The mood is changing and we hope this will bring joy, fun and inspiration to people who want to get out and explore the city and reconnect with the arts," he added.

The renovation of the rest of the museum was financed, among other things, by a donation of 10 million pounds (€11.62 million) from a couple of philanthropists, the Blavatniks, and a contribution of 11 million pounds (€12.8 million euros). million euros) from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Tickets to the Courtauld Gallery can be found here. Watch the video above to find out more.

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