The National Gallery of Ireland has announced a €20 million refurbishment scheme – the single biggest project in its history.
The refurbishment will see both the Dargan and Milltown wings, which have been closed since 2011, reopened as exhibition spaces.
The project is expected to generate about 300 full time construction and specialist jobs.
The funding will be split 80:20 between the State and the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI) which has its own resources from philanthropic funding.
The tendering process will start presently and it is hoped to begin refurbishment work during the summer with a view to having all the work completed by 2015.
The refurbishment programme will be one of the cornerstones of the 1916 centenary celebrations, according to the Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan.
Mr Deenihan said the project will help visitor numbers to more than a million from the current 660,000. He also said the size of both wings made them suitable for hosting large Government receptions and there was a shortage of such locations at present.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said he was “delighted to have been able to facilitate the project”. In a statement, he said he is “particularly happy that the National Gallery will be fully reopened in pristine condition in time for the 1916 centenary”.
The Dargan wing is part of the original gallery which was opened in 1864 and the Milltown Wing followed in 1903. Both wings have been closed because it has proved too difficult to keep the temperature controlled to preserve the paintings.
The roof of the Dargan wing has been completed, the first phase of the project. The wings will see the installation of 21st century climate, heating and security systems.
There will be a reopening of Victorian features and spaces within the building previously unseen by the public and a new connection between the Millennium Wing in Clare Street and the Merrion entrance.
Since both wings have been closed the works including some by Jack B Yeats and Lavery’s The Artist Studio, have have only gone on display on a rotational basis.