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Glossy - Faces Magazines Now

Friday 2 July until Sunday 31 October 1999

Magazines are the portrait galleries of the 90s... Glossy is about magazines. The exhibition presents the work of eight photographers, Australian by birth or long-term residency, who are producing portraits for publication in magazines around the world.

John Farnham, 1996 by Polly Borland
John Farnham, 1996 by Polly Borland

The images on display have all been taken within the last five years and are indicative of the strength and diversity of their work in an international arena... If Glossy says nothing else, it says that portraiture continues to flourish, be it outside the bounds of accepted fine art practice. It boldly screams that portraiture is sexy and, surprise, surprise, it sells.

Director’s foreword

Celebrity and photography are two important subjects for a contemporary portrait gallery. Celebrity and photography go together. This marriage is nowhere better demonstrated than in the pages of magazines. In the newsagent we are surrounded by magazines - confronted on all sides by faces and facades. Magazines represent a significant phenomenon of contemporary culture which deserves our scrutiny, and the exhibition Glossy is an examination of the way magazines create a contemporary iconography.

We have long been used to the idea that we live in an age of mechanical reproduction. Yet in this age, as in all previous ages, we search for heroes and villains, for excitement, colour and surprise. Such yearnings enliven the pages of magazines and make them a reflection of the world which we inhabit.

Glossy is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s program of exhibitions which seek to explore the possibilities and the limits of 20th-century portraiture. Glossy is an unusual exhibition for the National Portrait Gallery because the works on the walls are treated as part of a process - a process which ends in enormous numbers of multiplied images in printed form. Nonetheless, the artists, choices of ideal format, size, surface and technique have all been taken into account in the display of the exhibition.

Like all of the displays at the National Portrait Gallery, this selection of works is not intended to constitute a definitive statement; rather it has been assembled to highlight a range of significant emerging artists’ personal approaches.

Andrew Sayers