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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

About the exhibition

Portraits + Architecture

The National Portrait Gallery exhibition Portraits + Architecture is an experiment. The participants have been asked to think about their creative practice in a new way. The exhibition explores the relationship between creative thinking and identity and incorporates new photographic portraits of creative individuals and groups.

The exhibition presents the work of seven leading Australian architect teams with commissioned photographic portraits by seven Australian photographers. The architect teams are known for their contemporary and highly distinctive work. They have made significant contributions to Australian architecture and design culture. The photographers work across a spectrum of fine art, commercial, and design practice and have produced bold and original photographic portraits for the exhibition.

In the 21st century the social, cultural and ecological imperatives of architectural practice resonate strongly with artistic, philosophical and sociopolitical ideas and actions. Many architects, designers, artists and writers are interested in how issues of sustainability and ethics relate to innovation and creativity in technology, aesthetics and functionality. We are increasingly aware of the impact of the built environment on our daily lives, how the design of our dwellings, workplaces and public spaces affects our psychological and physical wellbeing.

The exhibition Portraits + Architecture explores the thinking that informs creative architecture practice rather than the details of specific buildings or architectural projects. The selection of the participating architect teams was based on the original nature of their practice. As a group, they represent a diversity of scale, working from different locations in Australia. The everyday work of each architect team is marked by their unique personality, attitude and aesthetic.

Each architect team was asked to create an installation that reflects their creative philosophy. The exhibition excludes traditional architecture models and plans. The installations can be considered as a self-portrait of the architects’ practice. Variously incorporating photographic, video, and three-dimensional elements installed in the gallery space, the installations are evocative and open-ended.

The experimental exploration of identity through creative process is matched to the more immediate form of photographic portraiture. Each architect team was asked to invite a photographer to create a suite of portrait photographs in response to a defined brief. The portrait photographs are presented in monochromatic black and white and based on the modular unit of the international standard A1 paper size of 594 x 841mm. This common format serves to connect the diverse installation projects throughout the exhibition while allowing each photographer to create an individual interpretation of their subjects.

The exhibition appears like a studio environment. Each installation and suite of portrait photographs occupies a distinct zone, while relationships between the installations are present through overlapping sightlines. Several of the installations invite the interaction of the visitor. There is a spirit of experimentation and playfulness as a generator of creativity, introduced in the exhibition entry zone, where visitors are invited to participate in interactive activities. The installation concepts were developed over time, and a number of them anticipate a degree of improvisation and responsiveness to their presentation in the physical space of the gallery.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency