Facing History: Contemporary Portraiture

Prints & photos from the V&A exploring modern portraits

Wednesday 24th February 2016

London's V&A museum will present Facing History: Contemporary Portraiture, a display of 80 prints and photographs drawn from museum’s collection that explores the variety of artists’ responses to the idea of portraiture over the last 20 years. On display will be work by over 20 artists including Julian Opie, Grayson Perry, Thomas Ruff, Maud Sulter and Gavin Turk. Colour woodcuts and photographs will be shown alongside etchings and cut paper silhouettes.

Readers will no-doubt be familiar with the minimalist portrait style of Julian Opie, whose work made the crossover into popular culture with his portraits of Blur gracing the cover of the iconic British band's 'Blur: The Best Of'.

Luc and Ludivine get married, No. 7, Julian Opie, 2007
©Julian Opie and Alan Cristea Gallery

Famous for his quietly disruptive approach to art and image making, Grayson Perry's Mr and Mrs Perry (2005) is inspired by pictures produced by amateur artists in the 19th century prior to the popularisation of photographic portraits. Perry imitated the crude style of such artists, using lino-cut on printed pattern papers. 

Grayson Perry, Mr & Mrs Perry, 2005, Courtesy the Artist, Victoria & Albert Museum and Victoria Miro, London
© Grayson Perry

Alongside the fine arts, photographic portraits capture moments and issues in British society over the past 20 years, including this powerful image by Tom Hunter from the late nineties.

Woman Reading a Possession Order; Persons Unknown, Tom Hunter, 1997
© Tom Hunter and Purdy Hicks Gallery, London

The display will also examine the ways in which the portrait is used today in passport photographs and identity cards. Inspired by contemporary ID cards, Cecilia Mandrile’s series ID-Intensively Displaced reflects the pressure on migrants to move from place to place. Mandrile photographs dolls in different surroundings to explore current issues relating to migration.

The display shows how contemporary practitioners have also been inspired by artists who made a speciality of portraiture, including Frida Kahlo, Rembrandt and Vermeer. Eleven works from the series Forty Fridas (2011-12) by Ellen Heck will be included. These woodcut and drypoint prints portray different women dressed as Frida Kahlo, touching on ideas about identity, individuality and self-presentation.

Facing History: Contemporary Portraiture will be shown at the V&A in gallery 88A, and gallery 90, The Julie and Robert Breckman Prints and Drawings Gallery, from 27th July 2015 – 24th April 2016 (Free Admission). 

Related Links


Loading bag contents...