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FAD Magazine covers contemporary art – News, Exhibitions and Interviews reported on from London

Paul’s Gallery of the Week: National Portrait Gallery

Serge Attukwei Clottey: ‘Portrait of Laceta Reid’ (b. 20 May 1931, Jamaica | Came to Britain 1957) – Oil, duct tape and crystal tape on four cork panels.

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE
npg.org.uk   Instagram: @nationalportraitgallery

The National Portrait Gallery has now been back for six months after what felt a rather long hiatus for the changes achieved. Founded in 1856, it moved next to the National Gallery in 1896 and had a more significant expansion in 2000 – when The Ondaatje Wing opened – prior to the 2020-23 refurbishment. The NPG remains an unusual institution in that it implements a non-art brief – the recording of mainly British visages – largely by exhibiting art, so there are two bases for evaluating what it does. By and large the permanent exhibits are selected for significant sitters, the major exhibitions for their importance as art, with special displays more of a blend.  

That’s enough to make the gallery a significant art venue: just now the main attraction is a 70-year retrospective of David Hockney’s portraits, rather effectively arranged according to a balanced array of five main sitters: himself, his mother, a friend (Celia Birtwell), a lover (Gregory Evans) and a collaborator (Maurice Payne). The other charged-for exhibition is the Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize 2023. I noted that 42 of the 62 images are of non-white subjects: a rare proportion by the standards of UK shows, and yet – given that the prize is pretty international – it still falls short of the 80% global majority of the world’s population.  The best free display commemorates the 75th anniversary of HMT Empire Windrush’s arrival in Britain through portraits commissioned by the King, indicating that Charles is remarkably well-informed about the currently-hot artists to ask: Sonia Boyce, Derek Fordjour, Sahara Longe, Shannon Bono, Amy Sherald, Serge Attukwei Clottey…

London’s gallery scene is varied, from small artist-run spaces to major institutions and everything in between. Each week, art writer and curator Paul Carey-Kent gives a personal view of a space worth visiting.



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