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News Release: Large Open Air Photographs of Denise Lewis & Phillips Idowu....National Portrait Gallery/BT Road To 2012 come to Birmingham City Centre

Friday 13 July 2012

Stunning open-air exhibition tour of large photographs of athletes and key London 2012 figures on view in Birmingham from Friday 13 July 2012

Birmingham, Centenary Way:
13 July - 9 September 2012
With thanks to Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery  

Admission Free  

Made possible by BT 

Photographs of Midlands athletes Phillips Idowu and Denise Lewis will go on display in Birmingham as part of a new outdoor exhibition of 30 portraits of key figures of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, London, working in partnership with London 2012 partner BT, Road to 2012 opens at Centenary Way, Birmingham on Friday 13 July 2012. It is the National Portrait Gallery’s first-ever outdoor exhibition tour.  

Denise Lewis and Jonathan Edwards by Brian Griffin, Canary Wharf, London © Brian Griffin - National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project; Phillips Idowu (right) with Aston Moore by Finlay MacKay,  Birmingham High Performance Centre, Birmingham © Finlay MacKay – National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project

West Bromwich-born Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis, is photographed alongside fellow London 2012 Ambassador and Olympic triple-jumper Jonathan Edwards, by Brian Griffin. It is one of five portraits in the exhibition by Black Country-born photographer Griffin. Others include former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and architect of the Olympic Park Aquatics Centre Dame Zaha Hadid.

Brian Griffin (b.1948) is recognised for his groundbreaking depiction of work. He takes his inspiration from a broad range of visual culture. Old Master painting informs his lighting, and his interest in nineteenth-century symbolism, classical sculpture and B-movies contributes to his images. Invited to portray the sitters in groups for this commission, Griffin rarely preconceives an image, preferring to observe and respond to his sitters. Drawing on his imagination, technical virtuosity and experience as a film maker, Griffin works with sitters to create compelling and complex scenarios.

Olympic triple-jumper Phillips Idowu, who lives in Birmingham, is dramatically captured training in Birmingham’s High Performance Centre, with his coach Aston Moore watching in the foreground, by Scottish photographer Finlay MacKay.

Among Finlay MacKay’s (b.1972) work in the exhibition are a photograph of double gold medallist at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, Eleanor Simmonds with her trainer Billy Pye, on the starting block at the Wales National Pool in Swansea, Olympic gymnast Louis Smith, wheelchair racer David Weir, top triathlete brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee and Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby players Mandip Sehmi and Andy Barrow.  

The printed panels, on large specially-designed outdoor pods, of highlights from the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project, the largest photographic commission in the London gallery’s history, and part of the London 2012 Festival, can be seen at Birmingham’s Centenary Way from Friday 13 July until 9 September 2012.

The exhibition, made possible by London 2012 partner BT, includes large-scale portraits of Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Tom Daley, David Weir, Seb Coe and Danny Boyle. The exhibition was brought to Birmingham with assistance from Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery.

As well as photographs first seen at the National Portrait Gallery in exhibitions held there over the previous two summers, Road to 2012: Setting Out (2010) and Road to 2012: Changing Pace (2011), the touring exhibition also includes exciting new portraits by the photographers who worked on commissions for this summer’s final London exhibition Road to 2012: Aiming High, opening 19 July.

These include Anderson & Low’s portrait of gymnast Beth Tweddle with team colleagues and Jillian Edelstein’s photograph of Jan Matthews, who as Head of Catering, Cleaning and Waste for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is responsible for the world’s largest peacetime catering operation.

The final Road to 2012: Aiming High exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London is part of the London 2012 festival, the spectacular 12-week celebration running from 21 June until 9 September 2012 bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK.

All three tour venues (it has also been displayed in Cardiff and Edinburgh) have connections with the sitters and the photographers. Photographer Bettina von Zwehl’s work for the tour includes Olympic diver Tom Daley, heptathlete Jessica Ennis and Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton.

Sitters for photographer Emma Hardy include LOCOG chair Seb Coe, Olympic Games Opening Ceremony Artistic Director Danny Boyle and his team, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison and world renowned author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo.

Made possible by the support of BT, the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project, part of the Cultural Olympiad, represents an insight into contemporary approaches to photographic portraiture in the UK. The Gallery invited seven British-based photographers to contribute to the project. They were asked to work on location, in places that were relevant to the sitter’s role in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Launched in 2009 the project presents high-profile leaders and those less well-known who are working and training behind the scenes across the UK. It introduces the visionary figures who conceived London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the people responsible for designing and delivering the Olympic Park and the men and women with the enormous challenge of staging London 2012. The portraits feature the athletes at the heart of the event - World Champions, Olympians and Paralympians as well as those aspiring to be selected for Team GB for the first time.

Listen to the photographers talk about their careers and their work for the Road to 2012 project

A specially designed mobile website will enable visitors to access video interviews with photographers and sitters on their mobile phones, with QR codes on the panels linking though to these.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Thanks to BT this tour to the heart of three major British cities means that these extraordinary images – highlights of the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project – of inspirational people involved in London 2012 can be enjoyed for free by hundreds of thousands of people.’

Suzi Williams, Director BT Group Marketing and Brand, says: ‘From the very start of our London 2012 journey we’ve believed that the Games are about more than just sport – that’s why we’re proud to be a Premier Partner of the Cultural Olympiad. Our Road to 2012 project with the National Portrait Gallery creates a legacy for the nation – a celebration of the people at the heart of the Games. That’s why taking the portraits on tour is so important – they belong to the nation and we want to give as many people as possible the chance to see them.’

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, and it is great that audiences can see Road to 2012 exhibitions for free in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Birmingham and, of course,  London.’


Artist’s talks in Birmingham

The National Portrait Gallery, Birmingham Library, Birmingham City University and Birmingham Museums present a series of talks by photographers commissioned to make work for the National Portrait Gallery / BT Road to 2012 project exhibition.  

Brian Griffin: Inspired by Art

Friday 13th July

1.00-2.00pm, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Meet in the Round Room at 1.00pm)

Brian Griffin will lead a short walking tour to discuss some of the key paintings in the Birmingham Collection which have inspired his photography and his portraits of the visionaries who won the bid to the host the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the individuals responsible for designing and building the Olympic Park and venues.

Bettina von Zwehl

Tuesday 17th July

Library Theatre, Chamberlain Square 6.30-8.00pm

Bettina von Zwehl was invited to make a series of athletes’ portraits on location and develop an approach that would give the viewer a sense of personal encounter with her sitters. Travelling across the country with her assistant and husband David Robinson, von Zwehl photographed the athletes in settings where they live or train. Robinson's control of light and von Zwehl's concentrated engagement with her subjects result in meditative observations of face, physique and mood.

Anderson & Low 

Monday 23rd July

Lecture Theatre, School of Art, Birmingham Institute of Art & Design Margaret Street, Birmingham City University 6.30-8-00pm

Anderson & Low discuss the portraits they made for Road to 2012: Aiming High. Invited to photograph elite athletes and key support staff from some of the UK’s most successful sports they drew on their interest in fine art and architecture to develop a formal approach. With virtuoso lighting, carefully selected locations, and meticulously positioned sitters they create timeless tableaux.


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

Admission Free

For further Press information please contact: Neil Evans, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery, London Tel: 020 7312 2452 Email: [email protected]  To download Press images:

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.

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

BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications solutions and services, operating in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to our customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, Openreach, BT Retail and BT Wholesale.

BT is proud to be the official communications services partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and a Premier Partner of the Cultural Olympiad.

In the year ended 31 March 2011, BT Group’s revenue was £20,076 million with profit before taxation of £1,717 million.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

For more information, visit

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 leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK, from Midsummers 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, comedy, film 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:

Beth Tweddle, Hannah Whelan, Jenni Pinches and Rebecca Tunney
Anne Dunham
Women’s hockey team

Portraits by Jillian Edelstein

Jan Matthews
Peter Hendy and Graham Jones, Transport for London
Philip Sheppard

Portraits by Brian Griffin:

Soil Engineers 
Denise Lewis and Jonathan Edwards 
Olympic Park Leadership Team 
Kenny Family 
Ken Livingstone and Tony Winterbottom    

Portraits by Bettina von Zwehl

Tom Daley 
Jessica Ennis 
Rebecca Adlington 
Katherine Grainger 
Nathan Stephens
Victoria Pendleton

Portraits by Emma Hardy

Sebastian Coe 
Danny Boyle, Mark Tildesley and Suttirat Larlarb
Chris Allison 
Michael Morpurgo and Greg Nugent 
Stella McCartney
Chris Holmes 

Portraits by Finlay Mackay   

Alistair Brownlee and Jonathan Brownlee with Malcolm Brown
Eleanor Simmonds with Billy Pye
Andy Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed
Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor
Louis Smith 
David Weir
Aaron Cook with Christine Cook, Nigel Cook and Luke Cook 
Mandip Sehmi and Andy Barrow 
Phillips Idowu  

Location Centenary Way, Birmingham


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