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'Yoda' fears over National Portrait Gallery development

Floating Yoda street performer
Image caption Street performers dressed as floating Yodas are often found outside the National Gallery

There are fears a £35m revamp of London's National Portrait Gallery could have an unforeseen dark side - in the shape of an army of floating Yodas.

Hordes of buskers and costumed street performers can be found in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

Authorities worry a similar sideshow could gather near the neighbouring portrait gallery if plans go ahead.

Lead architect Jamie Fobert said there was a need to "transform the unhappy piece of public realm".

The plans for the gallery, in St Martin's Place, include a new entrance and a public forecourt.

Mr Fobert said Westminster Council had expressed a "constant concern about how many Yodas you can have on that pavement in front of the National Gallery and whether that is something that is going to happen here."

The area outside the National Gallery has become home to street performers dressed as levitating Yodas and other film characters following the redevelopment of Trafalgar Square.

Gallery director Gabriele Finaldi has previously called for their removal.

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Media captionTourists give their opinions of the Trafalgar Square "Yodas"

The transformation of the National Portrait Gallery will see its entire collection re-displayed as part of the biggest changes seen since the attraction opened in 1896.

As well as the new entrance and forecourt, the East Wing will also be reopened.

So far £27.4m has been raised for the works.

Image copyright Jamie Forbert Architects
Image caption The council is concerned performers will gather on the new public forecourt

The gallery hopes to raise the remaining funds through grants and a crowdfunding campaign where people will be able to sponsor a piece of mosaic, as well as busts of people like Sir Anthony van Dyck and Sir Joshua Reynolds which will be placed in the new forecourt.

Director Dr Nicholas Cullinan said the transformation "will allow us to be more welcoming, engaging and accessible to all."

Building work is scheduled to start in summer 2020, with the project completed in summer 2023.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The current entrance to the gallery on Charing Cross Road often gets congested
Image copyright Jamie Forbert Architects
Image caption The gallery's collection will be on display across 40 refurbished galleries

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