National Gallery boss says security cuts not to blame after Gainsborough damaged
The director of the National Gallery insisted that security cuts have not placed priceless works of art at risk after a Gainsborough masterpiece was slashed by a visitor.
Dr Gabriele Finaldi said The Morning Walk, a 1785 painting by Thomas Gainsborough said to be worth at least 10m, would be back on public display as soon as possible.
Gallery conservationists are currently repairing the damage after a vandal used a sharp instrument, believed to be a drill bit, to make two long scratches on the work, on Saturday afternoon.
The perpetrator was apprehended with the help of visitors, triggering the evacuation of the East Wing of the central London gallery.
Reports suggested that the collection was more vulnerable to vandalism with gallery assistants or warders , required to guard two rooms, rather than one . Security was outsourced to the private company, Securitas, in 2015.
But Dr Finaldi said: I absolutely disagree . There has been no change in the way our operation has run in the gallery since we had contractors in.
He added: All our protocols worked exceptionally well . Security dealt with the incident extremely effectively and the public were kept safe . We have a very strict bag searching policy.
But inevitably as a result of this, and with such a precious collection, we will keep security under review.
The damage could have been worse . The scratches didn t go all the way through the canvas, Dr Finaldi told the i . It is relatively straightforward to deal with.
We are consolidating the pigment which has been lifted as a result of these scratches and repairing the damage .
I m confident we can get it back on public display quickly.
The incident was shocking for those in the gallery, said the director, who praised the members of the public and police who helped staff apprehend the vandal.
The new Gallery B opens to the public on Wednesday (photo National Gallery)
The Morning Walk depicts a wealthy young couple, Mr and Mrs William Hallett, both 21, strolling through woodland.
It formed the backdrop to a scene in the James Bond film Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig, which takes place in the Gallery s Room 34.
Keith Gregory, 63, of no fixed address, was appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court on Monday charged with causing criminal damage.
A unique display of paintings by the Flemish artist Rubens, hung opposite works by his Dutch counterpart, Rembrandt, will launch the first new exhibition space created at the National Gallery in 26 years.
Rubens and Rembrandt display in New Gallery B National Gallery, London
Gallery B, which opens to the public on Wednesday, will add an additional 200 square metres of display space to the ground floor.
The inaugural free show, Rubens and Rembrandt , creates a dynamic visual dialogue between the two great 17th-century masters.
Though the pair probably never met in person, their works will meet face-to-face, hung on opposing walls in the show designed to illuminate connections and contrasts between the artists.
The show feature nine works by Rubens and 11 paintings by Rembrandt, who was influenced by the older Flemish artist, from the National Gallery s extensive collection of Dutch and Flemish art.
Alongside the launch of the 1m Gallery B, Gallery A, previously open every Wednesday afternoon and one Sunday per month, will now be open to the public daily.
Visitors can now explore all of the Ground Floor Galleries and progress up to the Main Floor whilst enjoying a continuous viewing experience, the Gallery said.
The last new display space to open at the Gallery was the Sainsbury Wing in 1991.