National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

I spent a happy hour with the staff of the Australian NPG,  remembering the circumstances in which it had first been established when Gordon and Marilyn Darling objected to its original subordination to the National Library.   They started lobbying the Australian national government and – it being Australia and they being well connected with the Howard government – they quickly achieved their objectives, enabling the NPG to be established in the old Parliament House under Andrew Sayers as Director.   I was asked what was happening to the New Zealand National Portrait Gallery.   The answer is that I have lost touch.  My impression was that it didn’t have the same level of political and private backing being too associated with a celebration of middle class achievement.   The Australian NEW seems to have escaped this narrow celebratory character by a broad range of sitters including, not surprisingly, a lot of sportsmen and, I was told, a tattooed taxi driver, who wouldn’t make it into the London NPG.   I was asked if I tried to broaden the representation of the London NPG.    I could only remember the inclusion of cooks and gardeners and my sorrow that the Trustees had turned down W.G.Sebald on the grounds that he wrote in German.

National Portrait Gallery Canberra


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