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Sarah Howgate

Sarah Howgate

Senior Curator Contemporary Collections


Job description

As the Senior Curator of Contemporary Collections at the National Portrait Gallery, I am responsible for the care of the Contemporary Collection including Gallery acquisitions and contemporary exhibitions and displays. I am also the lead curator responsible for the research into the Lucian Freud Archive; an important archive comprising Freud’s sketchbooks, drawings and letters, allocated to the National Portrait Gallery in 2015 from the estate of Lucian Freud through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. One of my key roles is the managing of Gallery commissions, which have included Sam Taylor-Johnson’s portrait of David Beckham (2003), Michael Craig-Martin’s portrait of Zaha Hadid (2008) and Gillian Wearing’s portrait of Shami Chakrabarti (2011). I have curated major exhibitions for the Gallery: David Hockney Portraits (2006), Lucian Freud Portraits (2012), Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the Mask, Another Mask (2017) and Tacita Dean PORTRAIT (2018). I have curated displays including Alex Katz Portraits (2010), Catherine Goodman: Portraits from Life (2014), Friendship Portraits: Chantal Joffe and Ishbel Myerscough (2015) and Lucian Freud Unseen (2016).


Before joining the Gallery in 2001, I worked for Angela Flowers Gallery as an Artist Liaison Manager in London and then in Santa Monica, California as Director, where I set up a new space specialising in British figurative art. I judge the annual BP Portrait Award and in 2013 I judged the Nordic Portrait Prize in St Petersburg and the Brygger J.C: Jacobsens Portræt competition in Fredericksborg. I also sit on the jury for the Royal Drawing School residency programme.

Research interests

Since 2001, my focus has been on contemporary portraiture. Within this genre I have a particular interest in self-portraits and the work of David Hockney and Lucian Freud.  

Recent Publications

My publications include exhibition catalogues for David Hockney Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 2006, Lucian Freud Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 2012 and Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask, National Portrait Gallery, 2017. In 2006, I co-wrote The Portrait Now with Sandy Nairne and have contributed to 21st Century Portraits, published in 2013. I have written the introduction for National Portrait Gallery catalogues accompanying the Catherine Goodman: Portrait from Life display in 2014, the 2015 display Friendship Portraits: Chantal Joffe and Ishbel Myerscough and the introduction for Lucian Freud’s Sketchbooks, 2016.


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.

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Hold Still

Hold Still

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

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Margaret Thatcher by Spitting Images Productions Ltd painted plastic, 1985

Sculptures in 360°

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

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David Hockney: Drawing from Life

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

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