National Portrait Gallery closes to the public for private fashion show of Royal favourite designer

Helena Horton
The Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan Markle are frequently seen in Erdem - Getty/Wireimage

The National Portrait Gallery is closed to the public today for a London Fashion Week show, in a closure which is uncommon for an institution which relies on public funding.

Independent British designer Erdem Moralioglu, a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan Markle, has hired out the gallery to showcase his work — but a leading artist has described the closure of the public gallery as a "dangerous precedent."

The National Portrait Gallery has also only announced the closure in small print on its website — which some have argued could lead to disappointed potential gallery goers.

Patrick Brill, who creates art under the pseudonym Bob And Roberta Smith, is displayed in the Tate and is a lecture at London Metropolitan University, argued the government should increase funding for the arts so galleries would not have to close to the public.

He argued on BBC's Radio 4 Today programme that the situation is " have to close to stay open".

The closure is in the small print on the website and is not advertised on the home page

Alexandra Shulman, former editor of British Vogue and former trustee of the National Portrait Gallery said it was "very sad" for the estimated 5,000 people who would have otherwise gone to the gallery today.

However, she said that it is necessary for it to close in order to raise funds, and that it is important for institutions to support London Fashion Week, which is an important British business event.

Ms Shulman explained: "As I understand it, Erdem has hired the NPG for his fashion show, as we all know public institutions are having their funding cut and to run a fantastic gallery like the National Portrait Gallery is, you need to raise funds.

"I believe that at the moment the Cezanne show, which was a paid-for show, is off, and they're between shows so they need to find other ways of getting some revenue." 

She said she guesses the show will raise a "reasonable" amount of money but warned: "I'm not saying that Erdem as an independent British designers is going to have millions — it's not like Ralph Lauren taking it over."

Mr Smith described the decision as a "cry for help", adding: "This is actually a pretty awful precedent, I agree with Alexandra, I don't think it's been done on a whim, nobody in these museums wants to close to the public, that's why these institutions are here, to be open to the public — we own these paintings and the people's jobs in these museums is to open the doors and get the public in to look at them."

He explained: "We used to spend 7p in every £100 on the arts and now that's down to about 3p. That's just wrong."

The artist also said that trustees should be doing more to lobby the government for funding, so museums and galleries do not have to close to the public in order to raise money.

A National Portrait Gallery press spokesperson said in a statement: "The gallery is a charity and has to self-generate over 70% of the funds needed. A key income stream is hiring out gallery spaces. Every effort is made to ensure that this activity does not impact on public access, but sometimes due to the nature and complexity of an event some closure is necessary."

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