Exhibitions and displays policy
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibitions and displays policy
The Exhibition and Displays programme at the National Portrait Gallery plays a central role in helping the institution achieve its core objectives and aims to:
- increase the understanding of and engagement with the Collection and its subjects through outstanding research, displays and exhibitions, interpretation, education, access, publishing, national and digital programmes.
- maintain, extend and broaden the range of audiences and increase our understanding of those audiences.
- develop and explore issues in portraiture with a view to contextualising and increasing an understanding of British history and portraiture in general.
The Exhibition and Displays programme is designed to achieve a balanced programme both creatively and economically and with consideration of the increasing diversity of the Gallery's audiences. The programme is developed in accordance with the Gallery's high standards of governance to ensure the selection process is transparent.
The aim of this policy document is to provide a clear summary of the Gallery's exhibition and displays activities, in particular outlining the criteria by which the programme is decided, and the way in which individual exhibitions and displays are selected. Over the last few years increasing and extending our national and international connections has been important and will continue to be over the coming years. Loan exhibitions and the two annual portrait competitions form an important part of the overall financial management of the Gallery, through ticket income, sponsorship, event hire, related publications and retail sales.
Knowledge about our audiences is developed through market research and surveys carried out regularly during the year. The evaluation of each exhibition, as well as some key displays, is fed into discussions about future programming.
Consideration is given to the risks (across all areas) for exhibitions through the Departmental Exhibition Risk Register and individual project risk registers. These are monitored by the Head of Exhibitions and Collections Management and the Exhibitions Managers respectively. Presentation, sustainability (maintaining our audience and environmental concerns) and value for money are also reviewed at these meetings and in discussion with the Director.
The Director provides the Trustees with a regular report on exhibitions and displays at their quarterly meetings and a report on Exhibitions is presented to the Trustees annually.
This policy covers all National Portrait Gallery exhibitions and displays, including those that tour to other venues. However, it does not cover the full range of National Programmes and other collaborative activities [National Strategy, revised 2010].
Exhibitions - means larger-scale exhibitions usually involving works borrowed from external sources (private collections, museums, artists and private foundations) and from the Gallery's own collections, as well as the two annual competitions (currently the BP Portrait Award and the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize). Exhibitions often involve an admission charge and all are located on the ground floor either in the Wolfson or Porter Galleries.
The Exhibition Committee - is the senior management forum responsible for advising the Director on the strategic direction and content of the programme of Exhibitions. The Committee is made up of the Director, Head of Exhibitions & Collections Management, Exhibition Managers, Chief Curator, period Curators, Communications & Development Director, Head of Learning, Head of Finance & Planning, Head of Trading, Head of Archive & Library, Head of Publishing, Head of Marketing and Interpretation Editor (see Terms of Reference in Appendices).
Displays - means smaller scale displays mainly involving works from the Gallery's own collection and occasionally use of external loan material. These displays, special interventions and contemporary projects are located at various points within the permanent displays and public areas. The Studio Gallery displays are managed by the Learning team and contribute to the Gallery's overall objectives in Learning and Audience Development.
The Displays Meeting - is the forum responsible for advising the Chief Curator on the content of the programme of Displays. The Displays forum is made up of the Chief Curator, period Curators and representatives from Learning, Communications and Development, Visitor Services, Retail, Publishing, Library & Archive and Exhibitions & Collections Management.
4. Legal basis
Museums and Galleries Act 1992 clause 2 (3)(d) and 5(4)
DCMS Protection national cultural objects:
5. Statement of Principles
The National Portrait Gallery has two major exhibition spaces: the Wolfson and Porter Galleries. Each space houses three exhibitions a year. These are currently arranged on a spring (February - May), summer (June - September) and autumn (October - January) basis. The BP Portrait Award features annually in the summer slot in the Wolfson Gallery and the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize annually in the autumn slot in the Porter Gallery. On occasion the autumn Wolfson Gallery exhibition extends into the Lerner Galleries.
A number of exhibitions tour either nationally or internationally - this includes photographic exhibitions which normally tour to two or three venues either in the UK or abroad; or larger painting and mixed media exhibitions, which often tour internationally, and may involve a collaboration with another partner. The Gallery also organises additional touring exhibitions drawn from the collection which are not shown at the Gallery and are managed through its National Programme.
The selection criteria for individual exhibitions is governed by the following factors and the overall programme - which is assessed on a 2 to 5 years basis - should include and explore the following themes/areas:
- Different media (eg. photography, paintings, works on paper, sculpture, multi-media, new media)
- Monographs (focussing on the work of an individual artist or photographer)
- Historical range (covering the collection periods and beyond)
- Art historical movements
- Contemporary practice, including the open competitions (BP Portrait Award and Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize)
In general terms, the programme should also:
- support the Gallery's academic profile and seek to accommodate periods of research for in-house curators.
- encourage ideas and curatorial involvement from outside the institution.
- include geographical themes with both a national and international outlook.
- cover popular subjects and artists, as well as academic or specialist topics.
- reflect and attract a broad range of audiences in terms of age, social and cultural background.
- encourage innovative interpretation that enhances an engagement with portraiture, history and contemporary issues.
Any such programme is also considered in terms of whether it:
- follows the gallery's sustainability policy, managing resources effectively and responsibly.
- provides scope for raising substantial revenue against managed costs across each financial year.
- maximises its impact and economic benefit through the length of its run.
The National Portrait Gallery has eleven regular display spaces: Room 3 (Tudor miniature) showcases; Room 16; Rooms 17-19 (Regency Gallery) showcases; Rooms 23, 24, 26, 28 (Victorian) showcases; Room 31(Early 20th Century Gallery) showcases; Room 32 Balcony end wall; Room 33 (First Floor Landing); Rooms 37a, 38a, Rooms 40-41 (Contemporary Galleries), the Bookshop Gallery, the Main Hall and the Studio Gallery. It may also make occasional use of other spaces. Displays are changed once or twice a year, with the Bookshop Gallery changing three times a year but in some instances we lengthen displays to make resources savings.
In general terms the programme should be:
- Opportunistic - focusing on the celebration of anniversaries, events or projects suggested by external parties.
- Resourceful - focusing on the display of recent acquisitions or newly commissioned portraits.
- Exploratory - with a focus on specific events, characters or strengths within the collection, often using sensitive material that can only be shown for a limited period.
- Insightful - broadening the Gallery's displays through the occasional addition of high-quality portraits from external sources with an emphasis on providing insights into recent and contemporary art practice in portraiture.
The Board of Trustees determines overall policy and comments on the combined programme of exhibitions and displays at its quarterly meetings but delegates responsibility to the Director. Individual responsibilities are then managed as follows:
The Director has overall responsibility for the content and presentation of the Gallery's Exhibitions and Displays programme.
The Head of Exhibitions & Collections Management leads the planning and development of the Gallery's Exhibitions and Displays programme.
The (Internal or External) Exhibition Curator leads the exhibition project in all curatorial aspects - researching and establishing the concept for an exhibition and catalogue/publication.
The Exhibitions Manager leads on the organisation and management of exhibitions in the Wolfson and Porter galleries, including touring exhibitions.
The Exhibitions Project team (made up of representatives across the Gallery) is responsible for the delivery of the exhibition within the Gallery via monthly project management meetings.
The Chief Curator has responsibility for the Gallery's Displays programme.
The Head of Exhibitions and Collections Management, the Curatorial team, the Exhibitions Manager (Special Projects), the Interpretation Editor and Collections Services staff are responsible for the day-to-day organisation and practical management of displays.
7. Procedures for proposal
The Gallery's Exhibitions programme is agreed 2-5 years in advance.
- Proposals for Exhibitions are accepted from both internal and external sources. A standard template is employed when preparing exhibition proposals. This is available internally on the Gallery's network, and externally by request from the Exhibitions department.
- All exhibition proposals are considered first by either the Director or the Head of Exhibitions & Collections Management. The Exhibition Committee considers proposals that meet the Gallery's Exhibition Policy.
- The Exhibition Committee meets six times a year (every two months) to discuss proposals and is chaired by the Director.
- The Head of Exhibitions & Collections Management or the Director will communicate all successful and unsuccessful proposals.
The Displays programme is agreed 3-12 months ahead to allow flexibility to respond to events.
- Proposals for Displays are accepted from both internal and external sources.
- A standard template is available for Gallery Displays and can be found internally on the Gallery's network.
- The Displays Meeting meets four times a year and is chaired by the Chief Curator. Additional meetings are arranged to discuss the Bookshop Gallery and Room 16 displays which then feed into the quarterly Displays Meeting.
- The Chief Curator or relevant curator will communicate all successful and unsuccessful proposals.
8. Breach of Policy
Actions taken by staff in contravention of the Gallery's stated policies or procedures may be treated as a disciplinary offence, to be dealt with in accordance with the Gallery's Disciplinary and Grievance Procedure.
9. Review - update
This policy will be reviewed every 3 years. Next review: May 2013
10. Date approved - update
Approved by the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery at the 741st meeting on 1 July 2010.
The following additional papers are available on request:
- Exhibitions Committee terms of reference
- Exhibitions Schedule
- Exhibitions proposal template
- Gallery Displays Process
- Gallery Displays proposal template
Head of Exhibitions and Collections Management