Cindy Sherman and the Portrait of the Day at The National Portrait Gallery

This Cindy Sherman exhibit has been on my radar for a while but with the unexpected trip to the States it just got forgotten until I passed by on my way to I Camisa and Sons for Prosciutto the other day.

As I started planning for a trip, my first trip, to the National Portrait Gallery the first step was to visit the website and look for a talk or a tour. To my great surprise they offer, at 12:30 every day, a short talk on the Portrait of The Day. No knowing ahead of time, just pop in, look for the sign, wander to the gallery, grab a seat (provided) and listen to a little talk. Yesterday was Thomas Hobbes. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the young woman who read a 15 minute script, but I did love the experience and knowing this is another thing that I can always wander into.

The Museum: I’m not sure what I expected having passed the grand building a number of times but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the Tudors were well represented but there were rooms dedicated to The Romantics (Art, Invention and Thought), Science and the Arts, and even Royalty, Celebrity and Scandal. There were family portraits and portraits of Government at work. Currently there is the BP portrait competition and yes, the Cindy Sherman.

As you enter the building, after the bag check, a long escalator takes you past the more modern portraits of current artists and celebrities along with a few of people I dont know how to identify.

And not just paintings but sculptures too.

They did, as far as I am concerned, a great job on displaying and explaining all there was to see. One of the nicest things I found in the Tudor rooms were alongside the benches…explanation boards.

And real explanations next to the paintings. If you don’t know your history you can definitely learn it here in a day. They seem to have not missed a thing.. but how would I know?

Above you can see one of the portraits I liked best in the BP competition, SASKIA by Jennifer Anderson. The exhibit was varied and worth an hour that I didn’t have as I was, as always, starving and looking for food. I was on my way to La Fromagerie on Lambs Conduit and hoping to eat there if no other place appeared on the 40 minute walk ( yes, it should have been 20 but I wandered).

And then there was Cindy Sherman, a girl who likes to dress up. The breathe of work was staggering. Room after room of photos she took of herself portraying movie stars, ordinary people, the posh, the broken.

Sometimes, as in the photo above left, she modeled herself on an older painting, here by Ingres of a Madame Moitessier that belongs to the Gallery.

On first glance I didn’t see much but a girl who has ingeniously made a living playing dress up, but as I read and looked and wandered more I could see she was commenting on our times, our values, our lives and this played into the question I am always asking ‘what is art?”. I still have no answer but I keep looking. Looking and learning in a slow 5 steps forward 4.75 steps back rambling way. If only I could retain what I see, hear and read…if only.

One of the things I am always looking for or wondering about these days is what about winter? Is there a coat check? a members room? Clean bathrooms. Well, yes, the bathrooms on the lower level just as you walk in and down the stairs were clean, there is no members room, but there is a coat check and what appears to be a self serve locker room for backpacks or other packages.

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