The Gallery's early years were spent without a permanent home and for forty years the collection was moved around London to a succession of homes before finally relocating to its permanent home in St Martin's Place.
Charles Saumarez Smith was director of the National Portrait Gallery until 2002, having succeeded John Hayes in 1994 and has been instrumental in advancing the National Portrait Gallery's Ondaatje wing. In 1996 Piers Gough of CZWG Architects remodeled the nineteenth and twentieth century galleries on the First Floor. Sandy Nairne became director in November 2002.
Visitors to the National Portrait Gallery continue increase with over one million visitors in 1998, the first time this has happened in the Gallery's history without the opening of a new development to boost visitor numbers.