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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.

Announcing... Portrait23: Identity

15 November 2022

In this major new exhibition marking the National Portrait Gallery’s third decade, 23 Australian artists and collectives have been invited to create portraits without constraints or boundaries.

Portrait23: Identity logo

Portrait23: Identity is a major contemporary art exhibition that aims to reflect on and redefine portraiture in 21st century Australia.

This expansive exhibition and program features new work from multi-award-winning contemporary Australian artists and collectives working across every state and territory. Responding to the broad concept of identity, each artist has been invited to realise a new approach to portraiture across a range of mediums, not only painting, drawing and photography, but street art, suspended textiles, performance, ceramics, bronze, and soft sculpture.

Sandra Bruce, NPG Director of Collection and Exhibitions said Portrait23 was an opportunity for the National Portrait Gallery to broaden preconceived ideas about portraiture and representation.  “Each of the artists selected is well-known and influential in their own right, but many would not consider themselves to be portraitists.

“The National Portrait Gallery is excited to work with them on this innovative, provocative exhibition, that moves beyond expected notions of what portraiture conventionally is.  A portrait is generally understood to be a literal visual likeness of a person, perhaps going so far as to reference their interests and endeavours.  With Portrait23, through directly engaging with some of Australia’s most exciting contemporary artists, we are bringing new, diverse concepts and perspectives around the genre, and its inherent universal theme of identity, to the table,” she said.

Presented across four galleries from 10 March to 18 June 2023, Portrait23: Identity will be accompanied by a publication featuring nine commissioned pieces of writing from leading Australian authors reflecting broadly, and personally, on the notion of identity, as well as a program of performances, lectures and events. Portrait23: Identity is a free exhibition and exclusive to Canberra.

Penny Grist, NPG Curator Exhibitions said Portrait23: Identity was an invitation for artists to stretch, push and break through the constraints of portraiture.  “The exhibition has been defined by the artists actively asserting a multitude of experiences and perspectives that have the potential to expand and enrich our understanding of portraiture’s potential,” she said.

NPG First Nations Curator, Meriam woman Rebecca Ray said Portrait23: Identity opened the Gallery up to a new kind of dialogue.  “While identity has always remained a core feature of portraiture, this exhibition reveals a shift in the genre towards honouring the power of storytelling.  What we see are deeply personal evocations of themes that resonate collectively – cultural knowledge, the body, feminism, visibility and invisibility, activism, community, legacies of ongoing colonisation and journeys of migration.”

Artists and collectives included in Portrait23: Identity

Nell, Abdul Abdullah, Angelica Mesiti, Atong Atem, Baby Guerrilla, Christopher Bassi, Deborah Kelly, Dylan Mooney, Fiona McMonagle, Julie Gough, Kaylene Whiskey, Sally Smart, Alison Alder, Mia Boe, Tarryn Gill, Vipoo Srivilasa, ‘stArts with D’ Performance Ensemble, Kate Beynon, Latai Taumoepeau, Yarrenyty Arltere Artists, Naomi Hobson, Amrita Hepi, Arts Project Australia. 

Writers who have contributed to the publication Portrait23: Identity, are Yassmin Abdel Magied, Maryam Azam, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Michelle Law, Hugh Mackay, Vivian Pham, Yves Rees, Madeleine Ryan, Nardi Simpson.  The publication also includes conversations between the curators and the artists on their processes and practices.   


Rachel Hopkins 0408 491 545
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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.

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