My chosen activity for the weekend is hiding in an art gallery followed by coffee drinking. It’s what I do. But that does not mean that I find all art easy to look at, a point I had forgotten until I went to the National Portrait Gallery.
The NPG is perfectly curated; it has a logical flow, the architecture blends the modern and old seamlessly and it has a wide range on display. All points which, by and large, equal a pleasant art experience. My problem is the portraits, I find them hella boring.
When you are just focussing on the face, you get a really good emotional reading of the sitter – but no context. Which means you have to invest a lot more when looking to get the most out if the painting – i.e. do your homework and find the context yourself.
That is fine if it is just a couple of works, but the NPG has thousands. I may be shooting myself in the foot here, but i just don’t want to put in that sort of time for a casual art encounter. So it ends up just being a gallery where the art stares back.
The only place where I felt more at home was with the Tudor portraits. I can say with certainty, this is because I already knew the context, Henry and Elizabeth are characters that I know and understand. Their history, social standing and personalities are an easy framework for the portrait itself.
Maybe I just need to take this gallery one room at a time – and force myself to appreciate what is in front of me. Or I could just go and get an iced coffee.
Can you guess what option I chose?