On 21 July, the BP Portrait Award: Next Generation Young People’s Private View opened up the Gallery only for 14-19-year-olds as a showcase of youth talent and portraiture. The hosts for the evening, the Gallery’s Youth Forum are a group of young people who develop events to make the Gallery more youth-friendly. Youth Forum members Himarni and Esther talk about how the night brought a youth perspective to the BP Portrait Award 2014.
I felt a quiet thrill at being able to welcome more than a hundred young artists to this year’s Young People’s Private View. Youth Forum were excited to bring together our passion for portraiture and work as a team to help deliver our largest annual event. Creating a space for young people to engage directly with portraiture is important for us and valuable for the Gallery and other young people.
The ‘Talking Points’ activity gave young people the opportunity to closely explore selected works and allowed us to navigate together questions such as the perception that the subject is always the hero of their portrait. By relating to these portraits under the ‘hero/anti-hero’ theme I opened up discussion about issues highly relevant to our lives, such as the artist’s moral status in society and the ‘genderqueer’ woman in 31 years, by Tania Wischerath, as a modern feminist hero. These thoughts are now on the walls in BP Portrait Award 2014 along with labels for themes ‘colour’, ‘finished/unfinished’ and ‘photorealism’.
Speaking at the Private View, artist Richard Twose told us that one of the first things most would notice about a portrait is the eyes. What was noticeable from the night was how many eyes were looking back at those portraits. It was great to meet so many young people enthusiastic about art, enjoying and talking about the exhibition. The activities, music and mocktails encouraged a creative atmosphere, and it was interesting to walk around the Gallery space to see people sketching and creating their own interpretations of the works. The evening created a link between young viewers and BP Portrait Award artists. I think the opportunity to meet artists is rare but also hugely important to aspiring young artists or those with an interest in art.
‘Such a special environment has been created for tonight, it's great to see the portraits in rooms full of other young people, it's really invigorating. And I love hearing artists talk about their work.’ (Guest at Young People’s Private View)
Photographs: Anthony Luvera © National Portrait Gallery, London