Champions: Portraits by Anderson & Low

Past display archive
30 October 2008 - 8 March 2009

Room 40


Striking, iconic nude studies of leading international athletes photographed by Anderson & Low form the basis of this first showing of their Champions portfolio. These works celebrate the achievements and physique of international sportspersons at the height of their careers through classically posed, black and white portraits.

Several years in preparation, the portfolio was produced in support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation to raise awareness about the global issues of HIV/AIDS. The subjects for the portraits are drawn from a range of sporting disciplines and include Thierry Henry, Matt Dawson, Billie Jean King and Venus Williams. By participating, these sports stars have drawn attention to the importance and relevance of continued education, prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Anderson and Low described the project: 'From the start, we wanted to photograph athletes from a range of countries, sports, and races. For all that they have in common, such as physical beauty, mental and emotional strength, and commitment to their goals, the participants offered us unique artistic opportunities with every shoot. Through their very act of participation, all the athletes have laid themselves bare. A major part of our statement is achieved through the project's nudity. These people have the most amazing physicality, but despite this they are as vulnerable to HIV and AIDS as the rest of humanity, and hence the nudity becomes symbolic of this. We want to make them icons of a different sort with this work.'

Sir Elton John, Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, says 'I am delighted that the National Portrait Gallery is hosting this exhibition of wonderful photographs of internationally renowned male and female athletes. Anderson & Low have caught in these heroic images of the human body at peak physical condition just how frail, vulnerable and defenceless we all are in the face of such a pernicious virus as HIV'.

The Elton John AIDS Foundation aims to provide funding for educational programmes targeted at HIV/AIDS prevention and/or the elimination of prejudice and discrimination against HIV/AIDS-affected individuals, and for programmes that provide services to people living with or at risk from HIV/AIDS.

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