Experience London’s portrait gallery at the National Museum of Korea
A portrait photo of British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood hangs side by side with a portrait painting of British-American fashion journalist Anna Wintour in a room of the National Museum of Korea in the Yongsan district of central Seoul.
Westwood’s 2012 portrait is as novel and provocative as her own fashion design; The then 71-year-old designer with bright yellow-dyed hair stands next to a toilet and wears a T-shirt that says “Climate Revolution”.
Meanwhile, Wintour’s portrait, painted in 2009, is simple and elegant, just like her signature bob hairstyle with neat bangs. Interestingly, the creators of the portraits are as famous as the subjects of the portraits. They are the British photographer Martin Parr and the American painter Alex Katz.
On another wall in the room hangs the portrait of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani human rights activist who advocates women’s education and is the youngest Nobel Prize winner, created in her signature style by the renowned Iranian artist Shirin Neshat in 2018 Portraits are part of “Icons and Identities from the National Portrait Gallery, London”, a special exhibition that runs until August 15 at the National Museum.
This exhibition is a must see in at least two ways. First, the 78 portraits, sculptures, photographs and media art on display include many works that are considered highlights of London’s National Portrait Gallery, founded in 1856 and the world’s first museum dedicated to portraiture. The Seoul Museum was able to borrow the important works because the museum in London started a major renovation last year and will remain closed until 2023.
Highlights include the portrait of playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616), which according to curator Yang Su-mi of the Korean Museum was the first portrait ever to be included in the National Portrait Gallery’s extensive and extensive collection; and the portrait of Elizabeth I (1533-1603), one of the most famous monarchs in world history.
Portraits of the revolutionaries in science Issac Newton (1643-1727) and Charles Darwin (1809-1882), whose pictures are also known to Koreans because they appear in many textbooks, can be seen as well as a group portrait of the Bronte sisters, painted by her younger brother. The writer Charlotte Bronte (1816-55) and the poet and novelist Emily Bronte (1818-48) have huge fans in Korea.
Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement: “’Icons and Identities’ is a unique opportunity to share a selection of the gallery’s most popular portraits internationally while the London building is temporarily closed for our Inspiring People renovation. It is the first time that many of these plants have been abandoned [Britain] and the first time that our extraordinary collection travels to Korea. ”
Another reason that makes the exhibit a must-see is its particular layout, which is different from that of the National Portrait Gallery. The London Museum’s extensive collection is generally displayed in chronological order based on British history. As a result, visitors who begin the dramatic history of the Tudor dynasty may find it difficult to focus when they finally get to portraits of contemporary personalities.
On the other hand, the exhibition at the Seoul Museum is divided into five thematic sections – “Fame”, “Power”, “Love and Loss”, “Innovation” and “Identity & Self-Portrait”. Visitors can see the portraits here in a new context and also turn their attention to contemporary personalities, such as the video portrait of the architect Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) of the famous artist Michael Craig-Martin and the self-portraits of the renowned artist Lucian Freud (1922- 2011) and David Hockney.
“The exhibition shows the life stories of 76 characters portrayed by 73 artists,” said Yang. “The personalities who have shaped the history and culture of Great Britain and the world over the past 500 years also have interesting and touching personal stories that are suggested in their portraits.”
“In addition, the exhibition examines the many different functions that portraits have had in society throughout history,” she continued. “It also offers a glimpse into art history. The works of different eras and styles range from paintings on wooden panels from the 16th century to holographic works from our time. ”
Min Byoung-chan, General Director of the National Museum of Korea, said, “This special exhibition was organized amid the global Covid-19 crisis […] it will serve to quench our thirst for art and culture from other parts of the world that we missed last year. ”
FROM MOON SO-YOUNG [[email protected]]