National Portrait Gallery Presents “Eye to I: Self-Portraits from 1900 to Today”

September 25, 2018
News Release

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Tseng Kwong Chi by Tseng Kwong Chi, © 1979, Muna Tseng Dance Projects Inc.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery announces “Eye to I: Self-Portraits from 1900 to Today,” organized by the museum’s Chief Curator Brandon Brame Fortune. At a time when countless “selfies” are posted on social media channels and identity is proving to be more and more fluid, the museum will present a sampling of how artists have approached the exploration of representation and self-depiction through portraiture. With each self-portrait, artists either reaffirm or rebel against a sense of identity that links the eye to “I.” Drawing primarily from the museum’s vast collection, “Eye to I” will examine how artists in the United States have chosen to portray themselves since the beginning of the last century. The exhibition will be on view Nov. 2 through Aug. 18, 2019. A press preview with the curator will take place Thursday, Nov. 1, from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

“Eye to I” will feature more than 75 artworks in a variety of styles and media ranging from tiny caricatures to wall-sized photographs, from colorful pastels and watercolors to dramatic paintings and time-based media. The exhibition will show how select artistic practices have transitioned from gazing into the mirror to looking into the camera; from painted, sculpted or drawn surfaces to mechanical reproductions such as prints and photographs; from static forms to video and other digitized modes. Artworks in the exhibition span the art historical timeline from 1901 to today. Early works will include a turn of the century self-portrait by American realist painter Everett Shinn from 1901 and a 1903 charcoal drawing by Edward Hopper. Also on view will be recent works, including a Vimeo video titled “Who’s Sorry Now” (2017) by Brooklyn-based artist Amalia Soto starring her internet persona Molly Soda and a 2018 “Internet Cache Portrait” by Berlin-based artist Evan Roth.

“Individuals featured in ‘Eye to I’ have approached self-portraiture at various points in history, under unique circumstances and using different tools, but their representations—especially when seen together—raise important questions about self-perception and self-reflection,” Fortune said. “Some artists reveal intimate details of their inner lives through self-portraiture, while others use the genre to obfuscate their private selves or invent alter egos.”

“Eye to I” will feature self-portraits by prominent figures in the history of portraiture, including Berenice Abbott, Josef Albers, Richard Avedon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Thomas Hart Benton, Louise Bourgeois, Patricia Cronin, Imogen Cunningham, Walker Evans, Tsuguharu Foujita, Elaine de Kooning, Joan Jonas, Jacob Lawrence, Nickolas Muray, Alice Neel, Louise Nevelson, Faith Ringgold, Diego Rivera, Lucas Samaras, Fritz Scholder, Roger Shimomura, Shahzia Sikander, Ralph Steiner, Andy Warhol, Martin Wong and Beatrice Wood.

“Eye to I: Self-Portraits from 1900 to Today” concludes the Portrait Gallery’s 50th anniversary exhibition program. An expanded, illustrated companion book will accompany the exhibition and is slated for spring 2019. The public can join in the dialogue around this exhibition’s exploration of self-portraiture via the Portrait Gallery’s social media channels using #myNPG.

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 American story.

The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Connect with the museum at and the museum’s blog.

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Concetta Duncan

(202) 633-9989

Tseng Kwong Chi by Tseng Kwong Chi, selenium-toned gelatin silver print, 1979 (printed 2017). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquisition made possible through federal support from the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

© 1979, Muna Tseng Dance Projects Inc.