London’s National Portrait Gallery has revealed the first images of its proposed new design, part of a £35.5m redevelopment which is the biggest-ever at the building since it opened in 1896, and which would increase its gallery space by 20%.
The design, by Jamie Fobert Architects, proposes adding a new visitor entrance and public forecourt on the building’s north face, in addition to the existing entrance; it would also return the gallery’s East Wing to public use, and add new retail and catering facilities, and a new Learning Centre for visitors. The redevelopment would also see the gallery’s collection – which includes 250,000 photographs – redisplayed and reinterpreted across 40 refurbished galleries.
When William Henry Fox Talbot pioneered the salted paper and calotype processes in 1841, he soon turned his new inventions to food, capturing two baskets overflowing with fruit. Creating an image designed to mimic the paintings of the time, and to contrast the colours and textures of the pineapple and peaches, he also made an image rife with welcoming symbolism – the pineapple a sign of hospitality, the peach a sign of fecundity.
“Fox Talbot’s photograph was copying the traditions of painting and its attendant symbolism,” says photography curator and writer Susan Bright. “But it was also concerned with the role of photography, and elevating its status to that of art. In this respect it resonates nicely with artists such as Daniel Gordon, whose work also deals with the medium of photography. But his constructed pineapple has nothing to do with symbolism, or striving to be understood as art. It is art. He is questioning the role of visual perception, what is real and what is not.
“The way food is photographed says a tremendous amount about significant aspects of our culture,” Bright continues. “It is often about fantasy, be that national, sexual or historical. Photographs of food are the carrier for so many things – desire, consumption, taste, immigration and feminism, for example. It has been a major part of the development of fine art, editorial, fashion, marketing and product photography throughout the 20th and 21st century.”
“The new Photography Centre brings to life some of the V&A’s most beautiful original picture galleries and provides a permanent home for one of the finest and most inspiring collections of photography in the world,” says Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at the V&A. “The spaces and facilities allow visitors to access, explore and enjoy photography in its many forms.
“The Photography Centre encompasses more than a new gallery space. Beyond its walls lies an associated programme of research, digitisation, learning activities, publications, exhibitions, access to items in stores, and collaborations with other UK and international partners. Photography is one of our most powerful forms of global communication, and I’m thrilled that we can contextualise the past and present of this powerful medium in new and exciting ways.”
It’s an important development for photography in the UK and it opens on Friday – the V&A’s new Photography Centre, which more than doubles the museum’s existing photography space.
Cindy Sherman’s first UK retrospective goes on show at the National Portrait Gallery, London from 27 June – 15 September, 2019.
Titled Cindy Sherman, the exhibition will feature around 180 works, including the seminal series Untitled Film Stills. Shot from 1977-1980 in New York, the 70-strong series cemented both her reputation and her approach – manipulating her own appearance to explore the complex relationship between facade and reality.
Cindy Sherman has long been known for her love of dressing up. Inventing new characters became part of her photography early on in her 35-year career, and her most famous work remains Untitled Film Stills (1977 – 80), in which she posed as imaginary B-movie and film noir actresses.
Now 64, Sherman has her first solo show in London since 2011 at Sprüth Magers’ Mayfair gallery, with a body of work also inspired by the Hollywood machine. In a selection of large-scale colour portraits, Sherman is the subject of all the images – re-cast as various ‘grandes dames’ of 1920s Hollywood, in what appear to be publicity shots.
A joint exhibition of Cindy Sherman’s History Portraits and David Salle’s Tapestry Paintings will inaugurate Skarstedt, a new gallery in Mayfair, London.