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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.

Portrait of Patricia Piccinini

2019
Allissa Oughtred

inkjet print on paper (frame: 161.5 cm x 125.0 cm, sheet: 146.5 cm x 110.0 cm)

Patricia Piccinini (b. 1965) is an artist best known for her mutant life-like creatures rendered in silicone and her iconic hot-air balloons. Born in Sierra Leone, Piccinini arrived in Australia with her family in 1972, and grew up in Canberra. After graduating in Fine Arts from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1991, Piccinini and a group of artists, including her husband Peter Hennessy, initiated the Basement Project Gallery in Melbourne, which she coordinated until 1996. She and Hennessy have been a collaborative team since then, working out of their studio in Collingwood. Always beginning her creative process with drawing, Piccinini's interdisciplinary practice encompasses sculpture, installation, photography, sound and video. In a 2020 essay 'Some thoughts about my practice', she identified connection, empathy, unnamed emotions, diversity, storytelling, surrealism and wonder as concepts central to her practice. Piccinini's work has been represented in numerous art biennales all over the world, including in Taiwan, Cuba, the UK, Germany and Korea, and her 2003 exhibition We Are Family represented Australia at the 50th Venice Biennale. Commissioned for the 2013 Centenary of Canberra, her hot-air balloon Skywhale was followed by Skywhalepapa in 2021. When Piccinini's solo exhibition ComCiência was exhibited throughout Brazil in 2015–2016, it attracted a record-breaking 1.4 million viewers. A major survey of her work, Curious Affection, was shown at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art in 2018. Piccinini's work has appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, and is held in most of Australia's major national and state collections. In 2014 she was awarded the Melbourne Art Foundation Visual Arts Award, and in 2016 an honorary Doctor of Visual and Performing Arts from the Victorian College of the Arts. She was appointed the VCA’s Enterprise Professor in 2017.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of an anonymous donor 2019
© Allissa Oughtred

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Allissa Oughtred (age 38 in 2019)

Patricia Piccinini (age 54 in 2019)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

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Eye to eye

Previous exhibition, 2019

Eye to Eye is a summer Portrait Gallery Collection remix arranged by degree of eye contact – from turned away with eyes closed all the way through to right-back-at-you – as we explore artists’ and subjects’ choices around the direction of the gaze.

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
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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.

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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.

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