The National Portrait Gallery is reopening its doors this summer after three years – and today it announced the spectacular programme of exhibitions that will go on show in its newly refurbished halls.
Home to the world’s largest collection of portraits – much of which it loaned to museums across the world during its closure – the NPG will reopen to visitors on the 22 June with a display of eccentric and ground-breaking images by the 20th-century British photographer Yevonde Middleton.
Featuring dynamic portraits and elaborate still-life images captured during Middleton’s six-decade career, the show will pay homage to her innovative use of colour in the 1930s and the creative freedom the artform afforded her as a woman at the time. (She once said in an address to the Royal Photographic Society, “If we are going to have colour photographs, for heaven’s sake let’s have a riot of colour, none of your wishy washy hand tinted effects.”) Supported by the Chanel Culture Fund, it continues the gallery’s efforts to increase its representation of female artists as part of its Reframing Narratives project.
In the following week, the gallery will present a series of never-before-seen photographs taken of the Beatles in the mid-Sixties by Paul McCartney. Titled Eyes of the Storm, it will showcase an extraordinary archive of snaps offering an intimate glimpse into John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr’s stratospheric rise from beloved British band to international phenomenon between December 1963 and February 1964. Conveying McCartney’s experience at the heart of Beatlemania, the images reveal personal moments as the band navigated gigs, crowds of fans and prolific television appearances.
The autumn will see the reprise of David Hockney’s retrospective ‘David Hockney: Drawing from Life’, which opened just 20 days before the spread of Covid-19 forced its doors shut in March 2020. The exhibition explores the artist’s extensive portraits across a range of styles, from pencil, pen and ink to iPad and photographic collage. These feature his mother Laura, his friend the textile designer Celia Birtwell, his former lover Gregory Evans and his artistic collaborator Maurice Payne, as well as self-portraits. A selection of new works will be added to the exhibition, depicting those who visited Hockney at his Normandy studio between 2020 and 2022.
Next year, a vast survey of work by African diasporic artists in the UK and America will open, spotlighting modern creatives such as Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Amy Sherald, Noah Davis, Kerry James Marshall, Michael Armitage, Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Barbara Walker. Curated by the former director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts Ekow Eshun, ‘The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure’ will celebrate the artists whose figurative pieces shine a light on the complexity and vibrancy of Black experience, as well as addressing the absence of Black figures in the Western canon.
The final show announced will bring together the imaginative works of the 19th- and 20th-century photographers Francesca Woodman and Julia Margaret Cameron. Displaying more than 150 of their prints, ‘Portraits to Dream’ will show lesser-known images alongside their best-known works, exploring the idea that Woodman and Cameron shared an imaginative vision, despite living 100 years apart.
In this new phase for the NPG, it aims to better reflect its role as an expression of Britain’s past, present and future through portraiture – redressing historic inequities to represent the vision of some of the world’s most pioneering artists.
Tickets for the National Portrait Gallery’s summer 2023 exhibitions are available to book now, here.
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