This winter, the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne will be home to a host of famous faces from the worlds of film, television, politics, media and art in two contrasting exhibitions from the National Portrait Gallery (on display from 8 November 2014 until 15 February 2015). This programme is the most recent in a long-term partnership between the NPG and museums and galleries in the North East of England. Even as these two exhibitions open at the Laing, the BP Portrait Award 2014 is on display at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens (until 16 November) and a spectacular group of portraits from the NPG collection introduce the exhibition Screaming Steel: Art, War and Trauma 1914-1918 at the Hatton Gallery at Newcastle University (until 13 December).
Starring Vivien Leigh originated at the NPG as a display celebrating the centenary of Leigh’s birth on 5 November 1913. Almost exactly 101 years after her birth, the Laing is showing this group of elegant photographic portraits and film stills featuring one of the great cinematic beauties of the twentieth century. Through a chronological approach, the exhibition showcases both the work of celebrated photographers of the day and the film and theatre achievements of the subject herself. I have derived much involved pleasure from unwrapping and hanging these works!
Our second winter exhibition is Jonathan Yeo Portraits. This has been a first for me, working with a living artist with such an international profile. Jonathan’s studio team have been generous with time and resources and I have really enjoyed working with curator Sarah Howgate and the National Programmes team at the NPG in developing the exhibition for the Laing. One particularly pleasurable experience has been working on the hang of the exhibition in the galleries with Jonathan and Sarah. Often as a curator I work on hanging an exhibition on my own and this opportunity to co-curate with two experienced individuals with different perspectives has been invaluable. The host of celebrity faces on the walls captured by Jonathan’s lively, frank and varied painting style have been a pleasure to spend time with; I’m sure that our visitors will feel the same!