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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.

On display in Gallery Two

Contemporary Gallery

Nick Cave, 1999 Howard Arkley
Nick Cave, 1999 Howard Arkley

On being established in 1998, the National Portrait Gallery, in a unique move for an Australian public museum, set about to make the commissioning of artworks an essential element of its collection-building strategy. Driven by a wish to acquire portraits of distinguished present-day Australians, by equally distinguished contemporary artists, the NPG’s commissioning program has to date brought about the creation of over forty works encompassing approaches as diverse as video and tapestry; and sitters whose professions range between entomology, philosophy, law and space exploration to music, sport, poetry and architecture.

Typically displayed in the Contemporary Gallery are many of the results of this program, such as Anne Zahalka’s backlit photographic portrait of founding patron Marilyn Darling AC; Dame Elisabeth Murdoch by the Victorian Tapestry Workshop; and Howard Arkley’s iconic image of musician and writer Nick Cave, one of the very first works commissioned for the Collection.

1Richard Walley, 2015 Julie Dowling. 2Quentin Bryce, 2016 Michael Zavros.

Related information

Gallery two entrance
Gallery two entrance
Gallery two entrance
Gallery two entrance

Collection display galleries

Previous exhibition, 2019

The collection display includes a wide selection of portraits that tell extraordinary stories of encounter, exploration, independence, individuality and achievement in Australia. Visitors to the Gallery can follow the development of portraiture from oil painting to digital media.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

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© National Portrait Gallery 2020
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia


Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.