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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.

Anna Meares, 2018 Narelle Autio. © Narelle Autio

How is it done? How do artists capture someone’s presence and personality? What is the nature of this relationship? What does it feel like to be a sitter for a portrait in the national collection?

Before handreveals the backstories of iconic works from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. Each portrait becomes a fascinating and inspiring personal and creative journey shared by artist and sitter. Interviews with artists and sitters as well as rarely seen working drawings, studies, scrapbooks, sketches, and footage taken in artists’ studios and out on location take you on that portrait-making adventure.

The exhibition examines the creative and social process of making a portrait. Being the sitter for a portrait is the most public and private of moments. A portrait artist has a complicated and exciting task. This exhibition approaches great works from Australia’s national portrait collection from both perspectives.

The intriguing character of these creative encounters structure the exhibition, revealing important parallels that offer an insight into the nature of portraiture itself. In Before hand portraits come alive as collaborations, assemblages, conversations, discoveries, speculations and revelations.

Photographer Narelle Autio and champion cyclist Anna Meares talk you through the adventure of their location shoot where the landscape to helps tell the story. A delightful collaboration emerges in artist David Rosetzky’s studio during the making of his stunning double-exposure portrait of Australian singer, songwriter and actress, Jessica Mauboy. Working drawings reveal the assembling of visage and vista in eX de Medici’s portrait of the band Midnight Oil. Preparatory sketches become intricate and evocative revelations in the hands of Jiawei Shen for his portrait of Princess Mary of Denmark and Jenny Sages for her portrait of Emily Kngwarreye.

Availability

Before hand will be available from March 2020 and into 2021. The exhibition dates to be negotiated.

Number of works

Approximately 50 framed works, a mix of paintings, photographs and drawings. Artist books and ephemera will feature within Before hand. There will also be one or two AV screens on which selected Portrait Stories (interviews with sitters and artists) will be shown on continuous loops.

Tour manual

An electronic manual will be provided to the host venue with all material required for promotion and advertising, such as logos, logo-use and acknowledgement specifications, promotional images, a DL invitation, an exhibition checklist and captions, and more.

Support

A National Portrait Gallery designer will assist with exhibition layout in the lead up to the exhibition in consultation with your team. On site during the changeover period a NPG representative will courier the exhibition and provide support with unpacking, condition reporting, layout and installation – assistance on pack-up will also be provided.

Signage and wall labels

The tour will include physical introductory signage, wall text and labels. A bespoke vinyl wall graphic can also be supplied if desired.

Related information

Jessica Mauboy, 2018 David Rosetzky
Jessica Mauboy, 2018 David Rosetzky
Jessica Mauboy, 2018 David Rosetzky
Jessica Mauboy, 2018 David Rosetzky

Before hand

The private life of a portrait

Previous exhibition, 2020

Revealing the backstories behind the NPG collection, Before hand features interviews with artists and sitters as well as working drawings, scrapbooks, sketches and footage taken in artists’ studios and out on location.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

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The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night

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© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency