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New Guildhall gallery opens for public and pikemen alike

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The Corporation of London has opened its new Guildhall Art Gallery within a brand new £70 million building, designed by architect Richard Gilbert Scott. The building is in keeping with the original Guildhall and is on the site of the original 1885 gallery, which was destroyed by fire during the Second World War. It will provide a showcase for an art collection, part of which is four centuries old.

The project was begun in 1987 with an archeological investigation of the site, which unearthed medieval and Saxon remains and part of a Roman amphitheatre. The site was subsequently declared a scheduled ancient monument - with the result that Gilbert Scott had to design the new building around the remains, which ultimately will also be on show to the public.

Approximately 250 artworks will be on display at any one time in the three-floor gallery, with the curator rotating pieces from a total collection of 4,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures, which has been developed since the 1660s. Artists represented include Constable, Millais and Lord Leighton.

The building, Guildhall Yard East, also houses a picture store, a painting conservation studio, frame-restoration workshops and four floors of offices. Because at times it will form part of ceremonial processions, the ceiling heights had to be sufficient to accommodate pikemen carrying their weapons.

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