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Having been renovated over the course of six long years, the Art Gallery in Aberdeen finally reopened its doors to the public in 2021 and what a breath of fresh air it was for the city.
With much of the original features still present it’s a free attraction in Aberdeen that everyone should take some time out of their day to visit if in the city.
The Aberdeen Art Gallery was first opened in 1885. Located in the city centre, this building designed by Alexander Marshall Mackenzie is long engrained in Aberdeens history and was closed in 2015 for a once-in-a-lifetime overhaul which took a mammoth £34.6 million investment.
If you have visited before, the first thing that you may notice is that the entryway to the Aberdeen Art Gallery lobby feels vastly bigger. There is much more open space than before and part of this is due to the removal of its popular staircase. I know a lot of people will miss the grand marble staircase, which is a big change and a sad loss but it is for good reason in creating accessibility for all and they have maintained many of the other original features so it’s not all change.
One of those original features being the granite columns which support the central hall entrance. Don’t overlook these columns as they are a feature within themselves. They are all different colours and from different quarries in and around the area and you can find small tags at the base with the derivation of each column.
The central lobby remains largely untouched, for which I am thankful, as it’s such a beautiful and open space. There aren’t too many pieces to see in the lobby but I feel it offers a sense of grandeur that heightens the expectations of what’s to come and make sure to look up as you will see a glimpse of the new second floor which has been added.
Art Gallery Renovation
So what has changed?
Primarily, the gallery has more than tripled their collection going from only 300 pieces of art to 1000+ and extending the number of exhibits from 11 to over 19, which is a massive extension and each exhibit features many different types of art from traditional to abstract.
Each exhibit has a theme, is decorated beautifully with rich colours and if you log in to the free WiFi there are curated playlists to accompany the arts which I think is such a well-considered and special touch but perhaps one that will not be well known.
Not only is it art but you can also see clothing, jewellery and pottery items etc from relevant eras which have had an impact on the time of the exhibits.
I debated with myself on how much information to provide when it comes to each of the exhibits and I don’t want to ruin the experience for you, so I am going to skim over just some of the galleries to provide a little detail as to what you can expect.
Upon entry to the first exhibit, you will see a timeline of who’s who in the art gallery. They started collecting contemporary art way back in 1885 and this will provide you with a little more detail as to the story of Aberdeen Art Gallery.
There have been several changes made to The Remembrance Hall which was opened in 1925 as a place of reflection and to commemorate the lives of those lost in the war. The hall now powers a digital scroll with the names of those lost, it also has a new large light fitting which can be lowered and also works as a projector to show a film.
Notably, is the installation of the ‘Forget Them Not’ artwork which is made of granite and marble and shaped like a spitfire wing to symbolise those times of conflict in the air, both past and present.
In Gallery 2 you will find special exhibitions from local schools and community groups which will change quarterly.
Gallery 3 can allow for artists to work in the open and allow the public to engage with the process which I think is such a unique and interesting idea.
There are many galleries with candid street photography, pop culture and contemporary art which I think will appeal to a much younger demographic and is more focused on human presence.
Gallery 5 looks at craft and decorative art including an interactive vase which you can design and decorate. There are also different materials to touch to engage you more with the design process.
Gallery 6 is all about food, eating and drinking. Looking at the fashions of tableware and how they have changed through time. This is particularly interesting to me as I love homeware and history.
Gallery 9 focuses on Queen Victoria’s introduction to the area with large portraits of Victoria and Albert. The Victorians are always a popular choice among different age groups so I expect that this will be a popular exhibit. You will notice the use of artificial lighting more prominently in this gallery as it is so bright but in no way does the lighting feel artificial throughout and it does replicate natural light.
Gallery 14 is the art of female empowerment with outfits, jewellery and looks at all women’s political and social changes throughout the years. I think that this will be another popular exhibit and it was interesting to see.
There are a couple of features which I think people will really enjoy and make this building unique to many other galleries and museums. Firstly is the new outdoor area which overlooks the city, this has some incredible views and I believe there will be tables and chairs placed outside at some point in the future. This will be very popular in the city. The second is the specialist library which is slightly hidden but exudes warmth and comfort.
Some other interesting things to see are that by the seating which is found throughout the exhibits, there are sketchbooks and pencils for the public to use if the feeling takes you.
There are many, many interactive stations throughout the exhibits where you can draw and design your own pieces of art, there are puzzles and there is also a fantastic children’s dress-up area with the use of open frames to have a little fun. This is a family-friendly environment so do not be afraid of taking children to the gallery.
The Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums building are sure to be a popular destination whether for an afternoon or to pop in and out at your leisure and I hope that you share in my excitement in the reopening of the Aberdeen Art Gallery and I can’t wait to hear everyone’s thoughts on it!
When did Aberdeen art gallery close?
The Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums building closed for redevelopment way back in 2015 for what was initially to be just two-years, which then turned into four, so I’m thrilled that the final countdown has now begun until its reopening.
When did Aberdeen art gallery reopen?
The Aberdeen Art Gallery reopened to the public on Saturday the 2nd November 2019.
Disability access in Aberdeen Art Gallery/General accessibility
There is a lift in the Aberdeen Art Gallery to allow for wheelchair and pram access which is a welcome new feature.
There are wheelchairs available for use in the gallery.
There is access to hearing loops.
There are magnifying sheets free to pick up around the gallery.
There are pop up chairs available at areas throughout the gallery.
There are toilets on all floors – Including changing stations.
Aberdeen Art Gallery Shop
The Aberdeen Art Gallery still has a traditional gift shop but it does have a more modern feel.
There are some really beautiful coffee table books which are something I love to give and receive as a gift, some decorative homeware pieces such as tea towels, jewellery, bags and accessories along with cards and some children’s books and toys.
Aberdeen Art Gallery Cafe
There is still a cafe by the entryway of the art gallery. This is now a lot more spacious with split dining areas, one area with higher tables and chairs following on to an area with sofas and lower-level tables.
It’s one of the nicer places to grab coffee in Aberdeen city centre, so be sure to pop in.
Is the Aberdeen Art Gallery Free?
Yes! Entry to the Art Gallery in Aberdeen is free.
Aberdeen Art Gallery Opening Hours
Monday to Saturday
10am – 5pm
11am – 4pm