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Shami Chakrabarti

1 of 4 portraits of Shami Chakrabarti

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Shami Chakrabarti

by Gillian Wearing
gelatin silver print, 2011
36 5/8 in. x 31 1/2 in. (929 mm x 800 mm)
Commissioned; made possible by J.P. Morgan through the Fund for New Commissions, 2011
Primary Collection
NPG 6923

On display in Room 32 on Floor 1 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Gillian Wearing (1963-), Artist. Artist or producer of 5 portraits, Sitter in 8 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Taken with a large-format camera, the sitter is shown holding a wax mask of herself which hangs from a ribbon. The notion of the 'mask' has previously occupied Wearing but, in this case, the idea was prompted by the sitter, who commented in their first meeting that her public persona is mask-like, often interpreted as 'grim', 'worthy' and 'strident'.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 7145: 'Work in Progress' (based on same portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 152
  • Lydia Miller; Samira Ahmed, Inspirational Women: Rediscovering stories in Art, Science and Social Reform, 2022, p. 107
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 278 Read entry

    Since 2003 Shami Chakrabarti has been the director of the influential human rights pressure group Liberty, becoming a spokesperson for issues relating to civil liberties. Born in London, of Indian heritage, Chakrabarti studied Law at the London School of Economics. She was called to the Bar in 1994, before joining the Home Office as a lawyer, where she contributed to the implementation of the Human Rights Act. Chakrabarti is portrayed holding a wax mask of her own face hanging from a ribbon.

    Exploring the disparity between public and private identities, the mask is a feature of the work of Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing (b.1963). In the case of this portrait, however, the idea was prompted by the sitter, who commented upon first meeting the artist that her public persona is mask-like, often interpreted as ‘grim’, ‘worthy’ and ‘strident’. The mask was sculpted from a digital scan of the sitter’s head and included glass eyes. Chakrabarti was photographed in black and white using a large format camera, an approach that replicates the static sobriety of Victorian portrait photography.

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