When: through November 13, 2011
The Portrait Gallery opened in 1968 with a total collection of 500 items. It now holds over 20,000 works. A commission meets bi-annually to decide what objects to accept. The paramount concern is the importance of the sitter to American history. In the future, the museum directors anticipate that video portraits will be of increasing importance. There is an exhibit of recent acquisitions that hangs permanently in one of the corridors - the works change every few months to highlight new pieces. The current show ends today, but a new set of pieces will be on display beginning on Friday - a quick turnaround time, I must say. Some of the pieces that particularly caught my eye were:
- a photograph of William Cody and several Lakota leaders at Wounded Knee - Cody was there to help negotiate a peace settlement and recruit performers for his Wild West Show - of course, I remembered the show I'd seen in the Ripley some months ago, consisting of portraits of these Native American performers
- photographs of John Heenan and Tom Sayers, boxers whose portraits were placed facing each other, so it looks as if they're about to start fighting
- a bust in nickle-plated bronze of the architect Philip Johnson with black glasses (also bronze) - I know I've heard of him before, but where? Perhaps in another Smithsonian exhibit...