Women’s Portraits Are Carved By Tracey Emin For The New Bronze Doors Of The National Portrait Gallery In London

Women’s Portraits Are Carved By Tracey Emin For The New Bronze Doors Of The National Portrait Gallery In London

The three brand-new entrance doors of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London are covered in 45 portraits that “represent every woman” in TRACEY EMIN’S THE DOORS (2023). The Doors (2023), hand-drawn and cast in bronze by British artist Tracey Emin, were unveiled prior to the gallery’s opening on June 22, 2023; Together, these portraits of women counterbalance the gallery’s sculpted roundels, which depict notable historical male figures. In this major commission, Emin, who is known for her autobiographical and confessional body of work across a variety of media, incorporates her poignant and equally poetic vision, prompting visitors to engage in raw introspection and soul-searching.

The number of women in history is disproportionately low. I didn’t want to show any particular or recognizable figures. I believed that every woman, every age, and every culture should be represented on the doors of the National Portrait Gallery. I used myself as a mental model, but the end result is a lot of different women, some of which are only in my head and some of which may be in the real world right now and in the past. In addition, the viewer is ultimately responsible for determining what they feel, what they see, and who they see. People should stand in front of the doors and say, “she looks like my mother, she looks like my best friend, she looks like my daughter.” That’s what I want.

Low-relief bronze panels by Tracey Emin are a celebration and representation of women from various walks of life, both known and unknown—mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends—that are central to the NPG’s vision for its new forecourt, Ross Place. More specifically, the artist’s contemporary response to the underrepresentation of female artists in historical art collections is represented by the panels. The Portland stone busts in The Doors (2023), which depict 18 male biographical writers, historians, and prominent artists from history, including Horace Walpole, Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Anthony van Dyck, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, give this imposing public space a very human touch, are now steadily contrasted with the building’s facade.

Tracey Emin’s finger and thumbprints remain visible in the metal after she reworked the surface of the clay before casting the panels in bronze at an East London foundry. This reveals how she created her portraits of women for The Doors (2023). After being meticulously transcribed onto the bronze panels, the drawings were first painted in acrylic on paper.

EXPANDING THE RISE OF WOMEN AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY On Friday, June 23, 2023, the artist will participate in a conversation with Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery, to talk about her new commission and the building’s reopening. When the National Portrait Gallery reopens on June 22, more than fifty works purchased and commissioned during the closure will be on display, significantly expanding the collection’s representation of women. Our galleries have been enhanced by significant historical loans and acquisitions, such as Lady Margaret Beaufort, the first large-scale portrait of an English woman and one of the first large-scale portraits of a single person in the UK (circa 1510) and the self-portrait of the Victorian miniaturist Sarah Biffin, who was born without arms or legs (circa 1820). According to NPG, 36% of portraits in the Gallery will feature women, up from 36% in the Gallery’s closure, and 48% in galleries built after 1900.