The Portico shop, National Gallery by Lumsden

The Portico shop at the National Gallery re-opens following a three-month refurbishment with an entirely new design by Lumsden, the award-winning firm specialising in retail and F&B for cultural and visitor attractions, who’s  design approach has been to connect people with the great art of the Gallery.  

The National Gallery, located in London’s Trafalgar Square, houses the nation’s collection of paintings in the Western European tradition from the late 13th to the early 20th centuries. 

The 194sq.m new look shop has been designed as an integral part of the National Gallery experience, allowing the institution to engage and inspire visitors in novel and exciting ways.  Lumsden designed the space as a multi-sensory, three-dimensional experience, playing with scale and taking influences from the unforgettable art, architecture, conservation techniques and materials found in the Gallery.

Oversized illuminated panels act as beacons to intuitively draw people in through the three entrances to the Portico shop.  Each panel captures ‘crops’ of much-loved paintings, such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888), Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond (1899) and Rousseau’s Surprised! (1891) allowing visitors to get up close with the techniques, brush strokes, pigments, and canvases of the art in reproduction form, deepening the engagement and appreciation of each artist.  

Inspired by conservation 

During the design development process, Lumsden had been inspired by the conservation work carried out at the National Gallery.  The colour chosen for the shop walls was inspired by the Conservation Department, which is painted in a dark inky hue, a shade that gives the conservators the perfect backdrop for their work in protecting and preserving the original paintings and materials. Lumsden also features the use of antique frames, pieces of art in their own right, from the Gallery’s Frame Department where skilled crafts people restore frames using time honoured techniques. An original frame from a Garofalo painting hangs centrally in the shop, behind the cash and wrap area.  This frame can be merchandised to keep the feature fresh and relevant to highlight temporary exhibitions and seasonal events. 

Part of our design response was to surprise visitors with more playful, unexpected links to the Gallery’s rich heritage. We wanted to create moments of fun throughout with subtle animations of the collection or putting a modern twist on the Gallery’s original finishes. The final store palette includes numerous nods to the Gallery’s history such as the bold, geometric print in the seating nook supplied by Gainsborough inspired fabrics that also provided the original wallpapers in the Gallery spaces, or the Portico Marble texture showing up a backdrop of all the store graphics. The final design and palette of the Portico Shop is a true celebration of the Gallery itself”.Rina Keane, Senior Designer leading the project for Lumsden

Mark Middleton, Head of Retail at National Gallery Global Limited said of the new Portico Shop design “My initial brief for the Lumsden team was a simple one, to set a new standard for Cultural Enterprises. Not much of an ask you may think, but standing in the space as it is now, I can confidently say they have achieved this and so much more. It is hard to believe this is the same shop the transformation is to be seen to be believed.  The utilisation of bold interventions, clear mapping of the visitor routes through the space and the playful use of AV have not only enhanced the link between the retail space and the wider Gallery but have helped to create a more immersive and coherent shopping environment. This is truly a space to be proud of and one that is befitting a national institution such as the National Gallery. This has been a fantastic project to work on and I look forward to working with the team again in the near future.

Flexible Layout design

Located centrally on the second floor of the National Gallery, the Portico Shop is a windowless space and to address this, Lumsden has designed the four 3.5m high lightbox panels and a back wall illumination brought in through screens, to bring a sense of light and brightness into the room. Another key consideration in their design process was for these panels to use the height of the space to help draw people into the store and to define zones. All the panels can rotate easily to create a number of different layouts including a shop-in-shop for seasonal offerings such as Christmas, or specific exhibitions and with merchandise units made from sustainable materials at a lower level, it negates the use of extra signage.  The central spine of the shop is a celebration of the temporary exhibitions and provides cross merchandising opportunities.

Books are located along the back wall in a large-scale fixture visible from all entrances and features a recessed seating nook upholstered with Gainsborough Flamestich fabric, and an illuminated 3.6m digital panel with a beautiful animation inspired by the Bosschaert painting; A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase as a backdrop, which gives the appearance of flowing light in the space and serves to draw people to the rear of the store.

The new Portico Shop is a celebration of our Nation’s collection of great art, and also the iconic architecture of the Gallery that surrounds it, which celebrates its 200th Anniversary in 2024. The shop is designed as an extension of the Gallery, giving visitors a seamless experience that connects them with the art that they’ve come to see in new and engaging ways. We are very proud of our collaboration with the National Gallery team, our hope is that this is the start of an exciting future for National Gallery Global.” James Dwyer, creative director of Lumsden

The Portico shop reopens to coincide with the National Gallery’s latest temporary exhibition After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art.


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
View all posts by Alys Bryan →