Saturday, April 18, 2015

What's New, Portrait Gallery?

Where: National Portrait Gallery

When: through November 11, 2015

In the hallway leading from the G Street entrance, there's an exhibit of the Gallery's latest acquisitions.  It's what I call a continuous exhibit, meaning that it's up for a set period of time, then a new version goes up.  This collection of recent acquisitions is up for a year and will then be taken down and replaced by a new set of recent acquisitions.

The museum has a tricky job in choosing new items: how do you know if a person who is famous now will be famous 100 years from now?  You don't want to miss out on a great portrait, but you also don't want a museum full of flashes in the pan.  The number one priority in choosing a piece is the sitter's impact on American history.  Among the other considerations is the quality of the artwork, obviously.  A committee meets and decides what to add and what to pass on acquiring; it's the sort of activity that sounds like fun, but is probably less enjoyable than it appears.  I can only image there's the usual squabbling and bickering that goes on in every committee...

Whatever the circumstances, the museum has added some intriguing items to its holdings, some quite recent, like the Maya Angelou piece pictured here and some quite old, like a painting of George Washington, painted not long after his death.

I think my favorite piece was the Bella Abzug portrait; I fear she's being forgotten as time passes, but seeing her big hat made me smile.

Verdict: Easily managed in a lunch hour - you could even add this on to a visit to another small show.

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