The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Britain and the Formation of the UAE

Past international programme archive
16 March - 26 March 2021

Etihad Museum (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

Queen Elizabeth II
by Cecil Beaton
October 1968
NPG P1491

An exploration of the formation of the United Arab Emirates through the display of key political figures featured in the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection. The exhibition demonstrates the importance of photography to the nation through a story of its leaders who were instrumental in the development of Dubai and the close relationship between the UK and UAE. These include photographs by Cecil Beaton and Eve Arnold, featuring some of the most celebrated works of the Gallery from the 20th century.

The portraits cover a range of elements throughout the creation of the nation, from Britain’s withdrawal from the Seven Emirates and the union in 1971. Photographs of Prime Ministers Clement Atlee, Harold Wilson and Edward Heath explore their differing priorities and stances on British involvement in the UAE.

The inclusion of Queen Elizabeth II acknowledges her influential role in fostering a positive relationship with Emirati rulers, representative of her impact on Britain’s International affairs.

Following the end of Britain’s formal presence in the Gulf, the late Ruler of Dubai Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum was responsible for the improvement of the economy and the development of the country as a regional hub for trade. His portraits represent the significant role he played in the creation of modern day Dubai.

Visit From Your Armchair

Self-portrait as My Father from the series Encounter  by Silvia Rosi © Silvia Rosi

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

An online exhibition celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.

Visit now

Hold Still

Hold Still

Explore our community photography project, which presents a personal record of the UK during lockdown.

Explore the exhibition

Margaret Thatcher by Spitting Images Productions Ltd painted plastic, 1985

Sculptures in 360°

See sculptures and fascinating objects from our Collection from all angles.

View the 360s

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

Watch highlights from our special exhibition, which had to close early in March 2020 due to lockdown.

See the video