Wednesday 5 July 2023

Lunched and Refurbed

 Despite my recent comments on the state of the metropolis, I must report that today I thoroughly enjoyed  a day – well, an afternoon – in London. I was lunching with an old friend whom I hadn't seen face to face in way too long – and it was a very good lunch, which always helps – then after it we strolled off to have a look at the newly refurbished and reopened National Portrait Gallery. The refurb seemed to both of us to be a great success, making the place feel much more open and spacious and less difficult to get around  – and get into, come to that: the new main entrance on the North side of the building works brilliantly. The rehang of the portraits, which now include many new items and a higher proportion of photographs (some brilliant, some very ordinary), also works well, managing to be at once chronologically structured and unpredictable, so that you never know quite what you'll happen upon next. And – wonder of wonders – there didn't seem to be any of those tiresome 'interpretative' captions pointing out the deplorable failure of  people from the past to conform to the moral postures of the 21st century. 
  In an earlier life, I spent quite a lot of time at launches and other jollies at the NPG, and I remember on one occasion getting trapped for what seemed like an eternity in front of a double portrait of Neil and Glenys Kinnock, a picture that at first looks pretty ordinary, but becomes weirder and weirder, and more and more disturbing, the longer you look at it. On this visit, happily, I didn't spot it: I hope it has been consigned to the stores, and that it will remain there.


  1. I’d enjoy hearing what you think makes that painting weird. I do spot a couple of odd things, but I’m not good at this sort of thing…

    1. Where to begin? The pose, the composition, the lighting, the colour palette, the flat quasi-photographic look, the sheer quantity of odd objects (including an array of mini-teapots)... But yes, you do need to see it full size to get just how weird it is.