National Portrait Gallery

Chanel partnership aims to enhance representation of women in National Portrait Gallery collections

Image: Georgina Masson by Horace Ové, 2002, © Horace Ové /National Portrait Gallery, London

The National Portrait Gallery has launched a new three-year project in partnership with Chanel, aiming to tell the lesser known stories of women who have shaped British history and culture.

The Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture project is part of the new Chanel Culture Fund, a global programme of initiatives and partnerships established with the goal of advancing new ideas and facilitating greater representation in both the arts and wider society.

The initiative will be led by Dr Flavia Frigeri, the newly appointed Chanel curator of the collection, and will focus on researching the Gallery’s collection to boost the visibility of certain figures. Acquiring and commissioning new portraits of women not yet represented in the institution’s halls will also be integral to the project.

Frigeri says she is “excited to find further meaningful ways to put women in the spotlight and tell urgent and untold stories that broaden definitions of greatness” as part of a scheme building on the National Portrait Gallery’s “longstanding commitment to gender equality”.

Ensuring a greater proportion of women artists and sitters are on display when the National Portrait Gallery reopens in 2023 following a major transformation is key to the initiative.

“The project will form an integral part of our plans to transform the National Portrait Gallery through our Inspiring People re-development, which includes a comprehensive re-display of the entire Collection, allowing us to fully represent all those who have played a significant role in shaping British history and culture,” according to Dr Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery.

Overdue acclaim

Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture will challenge traditional notions of women’s careers and how society thinks about women in relation to their male counterparts.

The project’s research will also explore the cultural, institutional, social and political factors that shape class, race, gender and sexuality.

Frequently overlooked and undercelebrated women whose lives, portraits and stories will be explored include:

Alice Hughes
Alma Reville
Anna Mahler
Anna May Wong
Georgina Masson
Lady Sarah Wilson
Marie-Louise von Motesiczky
Noor Inayat Khan
Patience Lovell Wright
Ray Strachey

National Portrait Gallery is releasing a series of filmed interviews with inspirational women throughout March, marking Women’s History Month as part of the Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture initiative.

Sarah Gilbert, the lead scientist on the Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine; founder of the MOBO Awards, Kanya King; actor Helena Bonham Carter; and period poverty campaigner Amika George are among those included in the films made available via the Gallery’s website and social media channels.

Art historian Katy Hessel is also today hosting a discussion regarding Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture with Dr Flavia Frigeri live at 6pm on the National Portrait Gallery’s Instagram account.