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 National Portrait Gallery, Road to 2012, Olympics, London 2012
NPG Olympic Portrait Exhibition Opens In Cardiff - ArtLyst Article image

NPG Olympic Portrait Exhibition Opens In Cardiff

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Over 30 new photographic portraits of top athletes and key figures involved in the staging of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, are now on display in Cardiff Bay

The printed panels on large specially-designed outdoor pods can be seen next to Cardiff Bay’s Wales Millennium Centre from today until 27 May 2012. The open-air exhibition will then continue its British tour visiting Edinburgh on 1 June 2012 and Birmingham on 13 July 2012.

BT Ambassador Nathan Stephens, who features in the exhibition, is one of only two UK athletes to compete at both Paralympic Winter and Paralympic Summer Games. He lost both legs at the age of nine, while playing on railway tracks; he now aims to be the UK’s greatestParalympian thrower. His portrait by the London-based German photographer Bettina vonZwehl shows him at nearby Barry Island.

Also included in the exhibition is Finlay McKay’s dramatic photograph of double gold medallist at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, Eleanor Simmonds with her trainer Billy Pye, on the starting block at the Wales National Pool in Swansea.

The exhibition contains highlights of the largest photographic commission ever undertaken by the National Portrait Gallery, London, made possible by London 2012 partner BT, includes large-scale portraits of Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Tom Daley, David Weir, Seb Coe and Danny Boyle. The exhibition was brought to Cardiff with assistance from Wales Millennium Centre and Cardiff City Council.

As well as photographs first seen at the National Portrait Gallery in exhibitions held there over the previous two summers, Road to 2012: Setting Out (2010) and Road to 2012: Changing Pace (2011), the touring exhibition also includes exciting new portraits by the photographers currently working on commissions for this summer’s final London exhibitionRoad to 2012: Aiming High.

These include Anderson & Low’s portrait of gymnast Beth Tweddle with team colleagues and Jillian Edelstein’s photograph of Jan Matthews, who as Head of Catering, Cleaning and Waste for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG)is responsible for the world’s largest peacetime catering operation.

The final Road to 2012: Aiming High exhibition is part of the London 2012 festival, a spectacular 12-week celebration running from 21 June until 9 September 2012 bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK.

All three tour venues have connections with sitters and photographers on show. Scotland is represented by Olympic rower Katherine Grainger and photographer Finlay MacKay; the Midlands are represented by Black Country-born photographer Brian Griffin, West Bromwich-born Olympic gold medallist and London 2012 Ambassador Denise Lewis, and Olympic triple-jumper Phillips Idowu who lives and trains in Birmingham.

Brian Griffin’s portraits include former London mayor Ken Livingstone and London 2012 Ambassadors Denise Lewis and Jonathan Edwards. Photographer Bettina von Zwehl’s work for the tour includes Olympic diver Tom Daley, heptathlete Jessica Ennis and Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton.

Sitters for photographer Emma Hardy include LOCOG’s chair Seb Coe, Olympic Games Opening Ceremony Artistic Director Danny Boyle and his team, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison and world renowned author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo. Among the portraits by Finlay MacKay are Olympic gymnast Louis Smith, wheelchair racer David Weir, top triathlete brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee and Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby players Mandip Sehmi and Andy Barrow.

Made possible by the support of BT, the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012project represents an insight into contemporary approaches to photographic portraiture in the UK. The Gallery invited seven British-based photographers to contribute to the project. They were asked to work on location, in places that were relevant to the sitter’s role in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Launched in 2009 the project presents high-profile leaders and those less well-known who are working and training behind the scenes across the UK. It introduces the visionary figures who conceived London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the people responsible for designing and delivering the Olympic Park and the men and women with the enormous challenge of staging London 2012. The portraits feature the athletes at the heart of the event - World Champions, Olympians and Paralympians as well as those aspiring to be selected for Team GB for the first time.

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