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When Big Art Goes Home - A New Exciting Project by the National Portrait Gallery

  • Death Mask by Tracey Emin, 2002. © Tracey Emin:National Portrait Gallery, London, purchased with support of the Art Fund, White Cube and the Artist, 2017 Photo © Jorge Herrera
July 26, 2018
A philosophy graduate interested in theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

Many of the most beloved portraits from the National Portrait Gallery have grown out of life in a range of cities and towns across the country. For that reason, the gallery has launched a unique, inclusive and ambitious national initiative which will send 50 artworks to towns and cities closely associated with their subjects.

The project, titled Coming Home, will see the gallery loan portraits of iconic individuals to a range of places across the country from 2019 onwards.

An institution known for collecting portraits of individuals who have made a significant contribution to the country’s life and history since 1856, the National Portrait Gallery will now provide a unique opportunity for cities across the country to celebrate their local heroes.

Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Dr Nicholas Cullinan with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, in front ofKing Richard III by Unknown artist, late 16th century
Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Dr Nicholas Cullinan with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, in front ofKing Richard III by Unknown artist, late 16th century © National Portrait Gallery, London. Photo: © Jorge Herrera

Famous Portraits Coming Home

For the first time as part of this project, Sir Thomas Lawrence’s famous portrait of William Wilberforce, which was one of the early acquisitions of the gallery, will be exhibited in Hull, the place of his birth. At the same time, the 16th-century portrait of Richard III will be shown at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester, where the king was buried.

Other works include Emma Wesley’s portrait of Johnson Beharry which will travel to PWRR & Queen’s Museum in Dover, David Hockney‘s Self-Portrait with Charlie which will go to the artist’s hometown of Bradford, Kate Peters‘ photographic portrait of Sheffield-born athlete Jessica Ennis Hill which will travel to Museums Sheffield, and Tracey Emin‘s Death Mask which will be exhibited in the artist’s hometown of Margate at Margate Library.

William Wilberforce by Sir Thomas Lawrence 1828. © National Portrait Gallery, London
William Wilberforce by Sir Thomas Lawrence 1828. © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Nation’s Family Album

The launch of the initiative was attended by Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, who said he was delighted to see these fifty famous figures returning home “so that current generations can be inspired by their stories.”

We are determined to ensure that more of the UK can see some of our world-class art collections, and with thanks to the National Portrait Gallery, Coming Home is an exciting first step in the right direction.

On the other hand, Dr Nicholad Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, hopes that sending portraits to the cities related to their subjects “will foster a sense of pride and create a personal connection for local communities to a bigger national history.” As he explains, the initiative institution aims to be a national gallery for everyone, in their role “as the nation’s family album.”

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, in front of William Wilberforce by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Photograph by Jorge Herrera
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, in front of William Wilberforce by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Photograph by Jorge Herrera. Photograph by Jorge Herrera

The Importance of Home

Victoria Pomery, Director of Turner Contemporary, one of the partnering institutions, sees the project as “a great opportunity for audiences across the UK to experience a range of artworks from the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection and to consider the importance of ‘home’ in all our lives.”

Before the launch of this initiative, the museum has already returned the only existing portrait of all three Brontë sisters to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth. The painting is on view until August 31st, 2018 as part of the celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of Emily Brontë’s birth.

Featured image: Death Mask by Tracey Emin, 2002. © Tracey Emin/National Portrait Gallery, London, purchased with support of the Art Fund, White Cube and the Artist, 2017 Photo © Jorge Herrera. All images courtesy the National Portrait Gallery.