National Portrait Gallery Premieres More Than 20 Newly Acquired Portraits and Two New Commissions in “Recent Acquisitions”

On View Nov. 3–Oct. 27, 2024
October 6, 2023
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Portrait of older Black woman holding white twigs

Betye Saar by Michele Mattei, inkjet print, 2012 (printed 2018). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

Copyright 2003 Michele Mattei.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will premiere “Recent Acquisitions,” showcasing 21 additions to its collection. The latest iteration of this annual display focuses on portraits representing women-identifying sitters or made by women artists. It also includes two new portraits commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in its ongoing commitment to supporting diverse sitters and contemporary artists. The exhibition will be on view on the museum’s first floor from Nov. 3 through Oct. 27, 2024.

The 2023–24 edition of “Recent Acquisitions” will present portraiture in a variety of media—from painting, sculpture and works on paper to photographs and time-based media.

“This exhibition recognizes the diverse contributions by women represented in our collection as artists or as sitters from across disciplines and time periods as well as the museum’s commitment to telling those wide-ranging stories,” said Rhea L. Combs, director of curatorial affairs at the National Portrait Gallery. “The work featured here ranges from a c. 1916 hand-painted pastel photograph of entrepreneur and philanthropist Madame C.J. Walker by the late D.C.-based photographer Addison N. Scurlock, to a 2023 mixed-media portrait of the science fiction writer Octavia Butler by contemporary artist Bisa Butler and a 2023 oil painting of the ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth’ Opal Lee by artist Sedrick Huckaby.”

Other sitters include artist Ruth Asawa, singer Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, actress Greta Garbo, Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, artist Shigeko Kubota, actress and dancer Carmen de Lavallade, artist Nellie Mae Rowe, astronomer Vera Rubin, artist Betye Saar and photographer Ming Smith. This exhibition also debuts new portraits of Earth and planetary science professor Walter Alvarez by Carmen Lomas Garza and Rabbi Sally Priesand by Joan Roth, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in 2019 and 2022, respectively. Priesand is the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi by a rabbinical seminary, and the first woman rabbi to be featured at the Portrait Gallery.

 “Recent Acquisitions” is curated by Robyn Asleson, curator of prints and drawings; Taína Caragol, curator of painting, sculpture and Latino art and history; Combs; Charlotte Ickes, curator of time-based media and special projects; and Ann Shumard, senior curator of photographs. 

This exhibition was supported by the Portrait of a Nation Gala.

National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the nation’s story.      

The National Portrait Gallery is located at Eighth and G streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Connect with the museum at npg.si.edu and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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SI-305-2023

Solo Medios 

Gabrielle Obusek

202-633-8299

obusekge@si.edu

Concetta Duncan

202-633-9989

duncanc@si.edu

New Acquisitions