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Press Release: Gallery's biggest ever commission results in spectacular exhibition...including 40 new photographs of London 2012 stars

- Road to 2012: Aiming High, National Portrait Gallery, 19 July – 23 Sept 2012

New portraits include Mark Cavendish, Anish Kapoor and Boris Johnson

- National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 projectmade possible by BT, Premier Partner of the London 2012 Festival

- Part of the London 2012 Festival, Admission free

After three years and more than 100 photographs, the National Portrait Gallery’s largest commission, made possible by BT, reaches its conclusion today with the opening of its exhibition Road to 2012: Aiming High.

40 new portraits of some of the key players in London 2012 by photographers Anderson & Low, Nadav Kander and Jillian Edelstein go on show at the National Portrait Gallery from today 19 July. The exhibition is part of the London 2012 Festival, the spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration from 21 June until 9 September 2012, bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK. 

Among Anderson & Low’s group of athletes and sports support teams are imaginatively depicted portraits of Mark Cavendish, the Men’s Rowing Eight with Rowing administrators Maggie Neto and David Tanner in a composition which echoes Grant Wood’s iconic American painting American Gothic.

Nadav Kander’s portraits include Rising Stars, four black and white studies of talented young athletes, including Jade Jones and Lawrence Okoye, and Torch Bearers, ten life-size cut-out photographs of ten Olympic torchbearers shown floating above the ground, apparently stepping out in front of the gallery walls.

Jillian Edelstein’s cinematic use of locations tells the story of people involved behind the scenes in the artistic   and cultural arenas, such as Anish Kapoor and Stephen Daldry, from the planning of the opening ceremony to the catering and transport operations.

These will be shown alongside 25 portraits by Brian Griffin, Bettina von Zwehl, Finlay McKay and Emma Hardy, who were commissioned over the last two years of the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project, which documents the preparations for London 2012.

Thanks to funding from BT, Road to 2012: Aiming High will concludethe journey to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games that started with the exhibition Road to 2012: Setting Out in 2010and continued with last summer’s Road to 2012: Changing Pace.

Road to 2012: Aiming High is the largest of the Road to 2012 three-year summer cycle of exhibitions and is stylishly staged across several contrasting spaces throughout the Gallery. Celebrating the people who will collectively make the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games happen, each annual exhibition has been displayed free to the public at the Gallery. 

Photographers Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low have been collaborating as "Anderson & Low" since 1990. The wide-ranging work includes portraits, abstracts and nudes, and is noted for attention to concept, form and lighting. Their work is exhibited worldwide, in numerous public and private collections, including V & A, London, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Galleries in London and Australia, the United States Olympic Center and he Museum of Modern Art, New York. Their take on the concept of portraiture pushes the limits of the genre and Manga Dreams, (a hybrid between portraiture, graphics, calligraphy and cyber-culture), was featured in the 2011 Venice Biennale. Their publications include Athletes, Gymnasts, Athlete/Warrior, Champions, Circus, Manga Dreams, Chrysalis and Family Intimacies. Their most recent publication Endure – An Intimate Journey with the Chinese Gymnasts, isthe result of an unprecedented two-year collaboration with the elite gymnasts in Beijing.

Anne Braybon, Commissions Manager for the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project, says: ‘Anderson & Low return to a formal style for Road to 2012. By carefully selecting the locations and meticulous positioning of their sitters they create timeless tableaux to depict athletes and support staff behind Olympic and Paralympic aspiration’.

Nadav Kander holds a key position in contemporary British photography. He brings a cool keen eye, and consummate craftsmanship to an ambitious breadth of subject matter. Israeli-born Kander traces a passion for photography back to his teenage years in South Africa where he grew up. Since settling in London in 1982 he has built a multi-award winning career. Two diverse projects in 2009 augmented his international reputation; the New York Times commission to make 52 portraits of the Obama Administration, later exhibited as Obama’s People and his landscape work in China, Yangtze - The Long River, which  won the prestigious Prix Pictet prize.

Anne Braybon: ‘For the Road to 2012 Nadav Kander’s compelling portraits of talented young athletes reference the iconic black and white portraits of the 1940s and 1950s such as Karsh, Brandt and Penn. Using dramatic lighting, and the interplay of highlights and dense rich shadows he focuses on the vulnerability he observed in his sitters. These contrast with his quiet sensitive portraits of ten torch bearers who represent 8000 ordinary people, nominated, for their extraordinary achievements, to run with the Olympic flame.’

Jillian Edelstein’s work is a bravura example of photographic versatility. Relishing different ways of using the medium she has built an award-winning career in both portraiture and photojournalism. Born in South Africa, Edelstein worked as a press photographer before moving to London in 1985. Her first job with The Sunday Times led to portrait commissions from top international magazines including the New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair. In Truth and Lies (2001), a powerful book and touring exhibition on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and her new book, Here and There: An Expedition of Sorts, she weaves together portraiture, photojournalism and landscape.

‘For the Road to 2012’, says Anne Braybon, ‘Edelstein draws on her passion for film to create cinematic vignettes with her sitters. She uses intriguing locations, and carefully crafted lighting to reference the stories behind the final preparations for the Games and the legacy work in the east of London’.

Road to 2012 hasalso toured as a free outdoor exhibition to the heart of Britain’s busiest cities. 30 printed panels of the photographs including some from the latest commissions, have just opened in Birmingham, following visits to Cardiff and Edinburgh.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Road to 2012 is an essential element of the Olympic and Paralympic Games made possible through the generous support of BT and the close involvement of London 2012. It celebrates exceptional British sportspeople, and some of the crucial figures working behind the scenes – whether they be coaches and managers or soil engineers, architects or the producers of the key ceremonies. It features outstanding photographic portraits that convey the determination, skill and mental prowess of those working at the highest level of international sport.’

Suzi Williams, Director, BT Group Marketing and Brand, said: ‘We began our journey with the National Portrait Gallery in 2009, setting out to share with the nation the stories of the people behind the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It’s been great to watch the collection take shape, and to be at the heart of making it happen. This year’s exhibition, of course, is the crowning glory bringing together portraits from previous years as well as unveiling new photographs. The Road to 2012 collection at the National Portrait Gallery will be a lasting record of the story of the Games for generations to come, and I’m proud we at BT have helped make that possible.’

Ruth Mackenzie, Director, Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, says: ‘The National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project is a wonderful record of the range of people working to make London 2012 a huge success. It is great that audiences can see this exhibition in London, and key highlights in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Birmingham, all for free.’

The National Portrait Gallery has also commissioned video interviews with all the photographers discussing their photographic practice and involvement in the project, as well as interviews with sitters and behind the-scenes photographs of the shoots which reveal the stories. 


Road to 2012: Aiming High

19 July - 23 September 2012, National Portrait Gallery, London, Admission Free


An exhibition of striking new photographs of people from East London community groups who are working with the National Portrait Gallery opens on 19 July 2012 in the Bookshop Gallery as part of the Road to 2012: Aiming High exhibition, in partnership with BT.  Exploring stories of inspiration, talent and team-work in four of the six east London Host Boroughs, Road to 2012: A Local Story features a selection of images and recordings of community groups. Documented by East-London photographer Katherine Green, Road to 2012: A Local Storyhighlights east London perspectives on the changing landscape and the impact of the Olympic and Paralympic Games on the local environment. The exhibition shows young people and adults actively involved in community sport and social groups in the boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Greenwich.


9 August – 9 September 2012, Four Corners, 121 Roman Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 0QN

Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 18.00, Admission Free

Facing East is an exhibition of photographic portraiture by Fine Art and Photography students from the University of East London capturing the spirit of different communities in east London as the area prepares for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The work was produced through a series of master classes with the commissioned photographers working on the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project.


Birmingham, Centenary Way: 13 July - 9 Sept  2012 (having visited Cardiff, adjacent to Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay:30 March- 27 May 2012 and Edinburgh, Mound Precinct:1 June - 8 July 2012) 

For further Press information please contact: Neil Evans, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery Tel: 020 7312 2452 (not for publication), Email: [email protected]

To download Press images, please visit the press website:

For press information on BT London 2012 Projects please contact: Digby Halsby, Flint Public RelationsTel: 020 3463 2082 Email: [email protected]

For BT press information please contact the BT Group Newsroom on its 24-hour number: 020 7356 5369.

From outside the UK dial + 44 20 7356 5369. All news releases can be accessed at our web site:

For London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad information please contact Paul Woodmansey in the London 2012 Press Office on +44 (0)203 2012 461, [email protected], or visit the website at Find out the latest from London 2012 HQ on our blog or follow us on Twitter

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE opening hours: Saturday-Wednesday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Fridays:10am - 9pm (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Recorded information: 020 7312 2463 General information: 020 7306 0055 Website:

About BT

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BT is proud to be the official communications services partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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About the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival

The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements. Spread over four years, it is designed to give everyone in the UK a chance to be part of London 2012 and inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially among young people.

The culmination of the Cultural Olympiad is the London 2012 Festival, the spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration bringing together artists from across the world with the very best from the UK, from Midsummer’s Day on 21 June and running until the final day of the Paralympic Games on 9 September 2012. The London 2012 Festival celebrates the huge range, quality and accessibility of the UK’s world-class culture including dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, fashion, film, comedy and digital innovation, giving the opportunity for people across the UK to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Principal funders of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival are Arts Council England, Legacy Trust UK and the Olympic Lottery Distributor. BP and BT are Premier Partners of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival.


Portraits by Anderson & Low

Tom Aggar / Yamile Aldama /Jane Goldsmith, Yogi Breisner, Andrew Thomas, John McEwen / Mark Cavendish / Fran Halsall / Tim Reddish, David Sparkes, David Carry, Kate Haywood / Peter Keen /  Charles van Commenee and Ed Warner / John Atkinson, Sergei  Sizhanov, Andrei Popov and Eddie van Hoof and Sam Hunter, Theo Saeger, Sam Oldham, and Daniel Purvis / Anne Dunham /  John Hurst, David Faulkner, Danny Kerry / Cameron Nichol, Greg Searle, Phelan Hill, James Foad, Mo Sibihi and Ric Egington, Tom Ransley, Alex Partridge, Noddy Reilly-O’Donnell / Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell /  Maggie Netto and David Tanner /  Hannah Whelan, Jenni Pinches, Beth Tweddle and Rebecca Tunney /   Rebecca Herbert, Sally Walton, Nicola White, Emily Maguire, Laura Unsworth and Helen Richardson, Laura Bartlett, Madeleine Hinch, Kate Walsh, Alex Danson and Sarah Thomas

Portraits by Jillian Edelstein

Fiona Banner and Bob & Roberta Smith / Martin Creed / Stephen Daldry / Margaret Ford and Eleanor Fawcett / Robert Hillier / Boris Johnson / Anish Kapoor / Gerard O’Sullivan, George Whitelock / Cecil Balmond / Mark Bensted and Billy Smith / Martin Green / Hamish Hamilton /  Peter Hendy and Graham Jones /  Jan Matthews /  Philip Sheppard /   Catherine Ugwu

Portraits by Nadav Kander – Rising Stars

Jon-Allan Butterworth / Jade Jones / Lawrence Okoye / Jodie Williams

Portraits by Nadav Kander – Torch Bearers

Ilan Davies / Diana Gould / Abtisam Mohamed / Callum Pattinson /  Kenneth Reid / Selina Shetty on behalf of Sandeep / Victor Spence / Andy Tutte / Sandra Watts / Rhyania Blackett-Codrington 

Portraits by Brian Griffin                    

David Higgins, Ian Galloway and Sir John Armitt / Jim Heverin, Dame Zaha Hadid, Stuart Fraser and Mike King / Antonn Russek, David Skerritt, Stephen Deeble and Clare Staveley / Debbie Jevans and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson / Mike Kenny, Jason Kenny and Mick Fee / Jonathan Edwards and Denise Lewis 

Portraits by Bettina von Zwehl  

Rebecca Adlington / Nathan Stephens / Jessica Ennis / Katherine Grainger / Tom Daley / Savannah Marshall   

Portrait by Emma Hardy

Lewis Bown / Chris Holmes / Sebastian Coe / Michael Morpurgo and Greg Nugent / Ruth Mackenzie / Stella McCartney / Chris Allison 

Portraits by Finlay MacKay

Jonathan Brownlee, Alastair Brownlee and Malcolm Brown (Portrait Restaurant) / Mandip Sehmi / Mandip and Jagtar Sehmi / Paul Hall /  Louis Smith / Kate Macgregor, Annie Lush and Lucy Macgregor / Jenny Archer /  David Weir

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