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National Portrait Gallery opens Road to 2012. Aiming High

The National Portrait Gallery in London presents Road to 2012. Aiming High, an exhibition on view 19 July – 23 Sept 2012. After three years and more than 100 photographs, the National Portrait Gallery’s largest commission, made possible by BT, includes 40 new portraits of some of the key players in London 2012.

Boris Johnson, photographed by Jillian Edelstein, 13 Jan 2012, City Hall, London. ©Jillian Edelstein National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project.

The works by photographers Anderson & Low, Nadav Kander and Jillian Edelstein go on show at the National Portrait Gallery from today 19 July. The exhibition is part of the London 2012 Festival, the spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration from 21 June until 9 September 2012, bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK.

Among Anderson & Low’s group of athletes and sports support teams are imaginatively depicted portraits of cyclist Mark Cavendish, the Men’s Rowing Eight and Rowing administrators Maggie Neto and David Tanner in a composition which echoes Grant Wood’s iconic American painting American Gothic.

Anne Braybon, Commissions Manager for the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project, says: ‘Anderson & Low return to a formal style for Road to 2012. By carefully selecting the locations and meticulous positioning of their sitters they create timeless tableaux to depict athletes and support staff behind Olympic and Paralympic aspiration’.

Jillian Edelstein’s cinematic use of locations tells the story of people involved behind the scenes in the administrative, artistic and cultural arenas, such as Mayor Boris Johnson, artist Anish Kapoor and director Stephen Daldry, from the planning of the opening ceremony to the catering and transport operations.
‘For the Road to 2012’, says Anne Braybon, ‘Edelstein draws on her passion for film to create cinematic vignettes with her sitters. She uses intriguing locations, and carefully crafted lighting to reference the stories behind the final preparations for the Games and the legacy work in the east of London’.

Nadav Kander’s portraits include Rising Stars, four black and white studies of talented young athletes, including Jade Jones and Lawrence Okoye, and Torch Bearers, ten life-size cut-out photographs of ten Olympic torchbearers shown floating above the ground, apparently stepping out in front of the gallery walls.

Anne Braybon: ‘For the Road to 2012 Nadav Kander’s compelling portraits of talented young athletes reference the iconic black and white portraits of the 1940s and 1950s such as Karsh, Brandt and Penn. Using dramatic lighting, and the interplay of highlights and dense rich shadows he focuses on the vulnerability he observed in his sitters. These contrast with his quiet sensitive portraits of ten torch bearers who represent 8000 ordinary people, nominated, for their extraordinary achievements, to run with the Olympic flame.’

These new portraits will be shown alongside 25 portraits by Brian Griffin, Bettina von Zwehl, Finlay McKay and Emma Hardy, who were commissioned over the last two years of the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project, which documents the preparations for London 2012.

Thanks to funding from BT, Road to 2012: Aiming High will conclude the journey to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games that started with the exhibition Road to 2012: Setting Out in 2010 and continued with last summer’s Road to 2012: Changing Pace.

Road to 2012: Aiming High is the largest of the Road to 2012 three-year summer cycle of exhibitions and is stylishly staged across several contrasting spaces throughout the Gallery. Celebrating the people who will collectively make the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games happen, each annual exhibition has been displayed free to the public at the Gallery.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Road to 2012 is an essential element of the Olympic and Paralympic Games made possible through the generous support of BT and the close involvement of London 2012. It celebrates exceptional British sportspeople, and some of the crucial figures working behind the scenes – whether they be coaches and managers or soil engineers, architects or the producers of the key ceremonies. It features outstanding photographic portraits that convey the determination, skill and mental prowess of those working at the highest level of international sport.’

Suzi Williams, Director, BT Group Marketing and Brand, said: ‘We began our journey with the National Portrait Gallery in 2009, setting out to share with the nation the stories of the people behind the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It’s been great to watch the collection take shape, and to be at the heart of making it happen. This year’s exhibition, of course, is the crowning glory bringing together portraits from previous years as well as unveiling new photographs. The Road to 2012 collection at the National Portrait Gallery will be a lasting record of the story of the Games for generations to come, and I’m proud we at BT have helped make that possible.’
Ruth Mackenzie, Director, Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, says: ‘The National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project is a wonderful record of the range of people working to make London 2012 a huge success. It is great that audiences can see this exhibition in London, and key highlights in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Birmingham, all for free.’

The National Portrait Gallery has also commissioned video interviews with all the photographers discussing their photographic practice and involvement in the project, as well as interviews with sitters and behind the-scenes photographs of the shoots which reveal the stories.

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