The June 17, 1972, break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Complex quickly escalated to a political and legal crisis that reached the highest levels of the United States government—including President Richard Nixon. The word “Watergate” came to mean the burglary itself, the subsequent cover-up of White House complicity, and President Nixon’s use of federal agencies to obstruct justice. The media’s relentless, razor sharp focus on Watergate culminated in the summer of 1974. Time magazine devoted forty Watergate-related cover stories—and portraits—to the scandal.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the Watergate break-in, this exhibition of photographs, paintings, sculpture, and works on paper from the National Portrait Gallery's collection brings visitors face-to-face with the scandal's cast of characters. Portraiture and visual biography combine to present us a new window through which to consider the questions raised by the crisis and its fallout.