National Portrait Gallery Unveils 'The Doors' by Tracey Emin
Editorial / Artists

National Portrait Gallery Unveils 'The Doors' by Tracey Emin

20 Jun 2023 | 2 min read

The National Portrait Gallery has been closed for the last three years due to work on their £41 million redevelopment project.

After an unprecedented 111 days with their doors closed to the public, visitors will soon be welcomed back into its sacred halls to be met with a changing ethos paired with some new faces.

British artist and Turner Prize nominee, Tracey Emin, has been commissioned by the gallery to create The Doors (2023). The result is a combination of 45 female portraits that have been hand-drawn in Emin's signature style and then cast in low-relief bronze panels to adorn the three new doors that make up the gallery’s newly designed forecourt: Ross Place.

Tracey Emin's The Doors commission at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Tracey Emin's The Doors commission at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

The highly secretive installation is part of a wider push by the institution to balance out the collection’s gender inequality. The director of the National Portrait Gallery, Nicholas Cullinan, said in a statement that the commission was in an effort to “balance the imposing façade, with its roundels of eighteen men from British history”. As before the refurbishment effort, the gallery exclusively depicted prominent male figures from British and European history - which are carved into the building’s stone facade.

Commenting on the installation, the YBA artist says she based the portraits loosely on a mental image of herself but with a desire to “represent every woman, every age and every culture throughout time”.

Tracey Emin creating The Doors

Tracey Emin creating The Doors

Harry Weller, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

“I used myself as a mental template, but the end result is many different women, some that exist in my mind and some that perhaps exist in reality here and now, as well as from the past. And with all terms of art, it’s up to the viewer to discern what they feel and what they see or who they see for that matter. I want people to stand in front of the doors and say, ‘she looks like my mother, she looks like my best friend, my daughter’.”

Tracey Emin

Sketches of the portraits

Sketches of the portraits

Harry Weller, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Reopening their doors on June 22nd, the newly refreshed National Portrait Gallery collection has been revealed to include better representation of women artists and female subjects. More than 50 new works have been acquired and commissioned since the gallery’s closure, with 48% of artworks featuring women in the 20th and 21st-century galleries, compared with the previous 35%.

The Princess of Wales speaks with artist Tracey Emin at the reopening of the National Portrait Gallery

The Princess of Wales speaks with artist Tracey Emin at the reopening of the National Portrait Gallery

Stuart C. Wilson

National Portrait Gallery, London in 2019

National Portrait Gallery, London in 2019

R Boed

Tracey Emin will join Dr Nicholas Cullinan in conversation on Friday 23rd June 2023 to discuss her new commission and the Gallery’s reopening.

No doubt there are big things coming for the famous Royal Academician with another iconic public-facing commission secured under her belt.

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