The first six "guests" on the exclusive invitation list for the National Portrait Gallery’s 20th birthday celebrations have been announced.
Playwright Louis Nowra, basketballer Andrew Gaze, quantum physicist Michelle Simmons, novelist Peter Goldsworthy, Chinese-Australian ballet dancer Li Cunxin and rugby player Tony Shaw are the first subjects to be named for the upcoming show entitled 20/20: Celebrating 20 years with 20 new portrait commissions.
20/20 will be the largest undertaking in the history of the gallery’s commissioning program; all 20 portraits will go on display in Canberra from October 20.
"20/20 brings together individuals who have made outstanding contributions across diverse fields of endeavor but may not be well known to the Australian public,” said NPG director Angus Trumble.
“Each portrait has been a labour of love to match sitter with artist to achieve the ultimate expression of synergy. I think the Australian public will be as excited and thrilled as we are to see the variety of techniques and approaches to portraiture in these 20 new works.”
Australian artist Imants Tillers has painted a larger-than-life portrait of one of Australia’s most prolific playwrights, Louis Nowra, which is assembled on 64 canvas boards.
Sydney-based photographer George Fetting has captured Gaze and Simmons has been photographed by Malaysian-born photographer Selina Ou.
Australian photographer Sarah Rhodes has photographed Shaw and Adelaide-based visual artist Deidre But-Husaim has painted Peter Goldsworthy.
Chinese-born artist Jun Chen has captured Cunxin in oil paint.
Trumble said a fascinating part of the process was putting together the birthday party invitation list.
“When you are looking around the community and the country for individuals whom we think in 50, 100 years' time will have been important to capture in a portrait it's an interesting thing,” he said.
“Increasingly, these days portraits don't happen unless someone takes steps to do it, the irony there is that we've never lived in such an era of mass proliferation of selfies and images of every kind, but a very small fraction of those have the complexion of a fine work of art.”
Trumble, who leaves the NPG early in 2019, said the 20/20 project represented a vast amplification of what the gallery has done from the very beginning.
“There’s that whole idea of coming of age, at 20 .. and 20 years is a long time, we've had a very rapid growth but … for those of us in the firm grip of middle age 20 years is the blink of an eye.
“I think the two things can be true at the same time.”
20/20: Celebrating 20 years with 20 new portrait commissions will be on display from October 20 to February 10, 2019.