The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London has entered into a partnership with the photographic agency Magnum Photos.
Portraits of leading women in British life, taken by female photographers from Magnum’s roster, will enter the permanent collection of the newly reopened gallery as a result of the project, which is part of Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture, a three-year partnership with the Chanel Culture Fund that aims to enhance the representation of women in the NPG’s Collection.
The initiative has included the 2022 acquisition of Självporträtt, Åkersberga, a self-portrait by the artist Everlyn Nicodemus, the first painted self-portrait by a Black female artist to be acquired by the museum.
The Magnum project will see seven new photographic works go on display. Sitters from the new series include the Cambridge University classicist Mary Beard, who is posed among busts of male classical figures at the British Museum, where she is currently a trustee.
Also photographed is the 20-year-old environmentalist Bella Lack, the activist Amika George, who has campaigned for free period products in the UK, and the actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, who, deaf since birth, came to national recognition for her role as Frankie Lewis in the BBC’s EastEnders.
The women were photographed by one of Magnum’s most famed photographers, the documentary and conflict photographer Susan Meiselas, as well as the agency’s former president, Olivia Arthur, and current president, Cristina de Middel.
The portraits of two of the sitters— Lack and Ayling-Ellis— will go on display in a new gallery at the NPG titled History Makers, which was created with support from The National Heritage Lottery Fund Gallery.
After a three-year closure and a full reassessment of its collection, the now reopened NPG has increased the representation of female artists on display in post-1900 galleries by 129%, while the number of female sitters on display in post-1900 galleries has increased by 134%.
Almost half—48%—of the total portraits on display made after 1900 now feature women, up from a third in 2020.
The project is led by a dedicated curator who works for the gallery: Flavia Frigeri, who joined the gallery in 2020 and whose job title is the Chanel Curator for the Collection. Yana Peel, the former director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, is now Chanel’s Global Head of Arts and Culture.