The doors to art galleries are portals to wonders within, but rarely are they a work of art in themselves. The reopening National Portrait Gallery has changed that by commissioning Tracey Emin to design three large bronze doors, and she has decorated them with portraits of women.

The women on the doors are there to counterbalance the sculpted roundels of notable men that were carved into the building’s stone façade when the gallery was originally opened in 1856.

The Doors (2023) by Tracey Emin at the new National Portrait Gallery (c) Olivier Hess

Central to the Gallery’s new forecourt, Ross Place, Tracey Emin’s low-relief bronze panels are a celebration of women from different walks of life, known and unknown. Mothers, daughters, sisters and friends, they are portraits of every woman. Central to the vision of the new National Portrait Gallery, the panels are the artist’s contemporary response to the under-representation of women in historical art collections.

Reworking the surface of the clay before casting the panels in bronze at an East London foundry, the artist’s finger and thumbprints remain visible in metal, revealing the making process. Originally painted in acrylic on paper, Emin’s drawings were then transcribed onto the bronze panels.

One of 45 panels from The Doors (2023) by Tracey Emin, in situ at the National Portrait Gallery (c) Olivier Hess.

The gallery reopens to the public on 22nd June 2023.

Tracey Emin will join Dr Nicholas Cullinan in conversation on Friday 23rd June 2023 to discuss her new commission and the Gallery’s reopening.

Tickets to the event are on sale from here.

Online £8 (£6 Members / concessions; £5 under 30s)


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