The wave of shows is part of Portrait Mode launched by the NPG.
More than 80 organisations are participating, showcasing the range of portraiture available to see and buy ahead of the institution’s unveiling on June 22.
The NPG closed to the public in spring 2020 for a major refurbishment of the building, creation of public spaces, a new learning centre and an improved entrance. The collection is also being completely re-hung.
Portrait Mode is the final stage of a series of collaborative projects that took place during the works. Running until the end of July, it is at a scale that Nicholas Cullinan, director of t he NPG dubbed “unprecedented”.
Participants include major names such as Agnews, Richard Green, Connaught Brown, Saatchi Yates, Marlborough, and David Zwirner.
Meanwhile, auction house Sotheby’s is also taking part as is Christie’s, which stages a selling exhibition, Selfhood: Explorations of Being and Becoming in 20th and 21st century art.
Non-commercial institutions and other businesses are also involved, such as Fortnum and Mason, Dulwich Picture Gallery and William Morris Gallery.
Among the dealers showing is the Fine Art Society which stages History of the New across its London and Edinburgh galleries until July 29. It comprises a collection of pictures by artists “working at the threshold of the modern” and includes works by Sir John Lavery, the Glasgow Boy George Henry and even a portrait of a gardener by Ian Fleming, which has already been snapped up at £8000.
The firm’s Emily Walsh says that portraiture invites more conversation than any other genre at the gallery: “The best of it admits us a view on a character for better or worse, a person who has played a decisive part in history, a society we don’t know or understand.”
While FAS takes full advantage of the nationwide reach of the event, Darnley Fine Art of Cecil Court is among the nearest geographically to the NPG. It is staging a show of portraits featuring actors, artists and poets.
The gallery’s Adrian Pett says that he was keen to participate as the NPG is “right by us at the end of the street. He adds: “It’s been sad to have the gallery closed for so long and as we specialise in portraiture it seems logical to have a show to coincide.”
Among the offerings are a portrait he believes could be a depiction of Shakespeare (the second to come up on the London market this year, see ATG No 2569). Of the sitter he says that the facial structure “perfectly matches the NPG version”.
Pett adds: “It will be such a bonus for London and the art trade to have the NPG back open. People visit from all over the world to see it and be educated about portraiture and hopefully this influences them into buying a portrait at some stage.”
Over in Mayfair, Robilant + Voena, stages the combination loan and selling show Style: A Journey of Elegance from Anthony van Dyck to Kehinde Wiley (June 22-July 28).
The gallery had already considered a portraiture exhibition to line up with the relaunch when the NPG invited galleries to participate officially. The show includes works by van Dyck and Francis Bacon, as well as photographic portraits of figures such as Cary Grant and Sidney Poitier.
Some dealers, such as Browse & Darby, focus on a single artist (its show Portraits of Artists by James Lloyd runs on Cork Street), while others have a wider remit. Piano Nobile’s Celebration of Portraiture: 20th Century Britain takes in a huge range of names from Howard Hodgkin to Celia Paul.