UK Cypriot Tracey Emin draws 45 portraits of women for National Portrait Gallery doors

The gallery commissioned the Doors (2023) to counterbalance the discs carved into the building’s facade depicting prominent male figures from history.

The National Portrait Gallery has been closed for refurbishment and will reopen  unveiling an updated collection that includes enhanced representation of women artists.

Emin’s portraits, transcribed in low-relief bronze panels, celebrate women from all walks of life throughout history.

Talking about the art installation, Emin, 59, said: “Women in history are greatly underrepresented. I didn’t want to depict specific or identifiable figures.

“I felt like the doors of the National Portrait Gallery should represent every woman, every age and every culture throughout time.

“I used my self as a mental template, but the end result is many different women, some that exist in my mind and some that perhaps exist in reality here and now, as well as from the past.

“And with all terms of art, it’s up to the viewer to discern what they feel and what they see or who they see for that matter.

“I want people to stand in front of the doors and say, ‘she looks like my mother, she looks like my best friend, my daughter’.

Emin originally painted the portraits using acrylic and then transcribed the paintings onto bronze panels, which were cast at an east London foundry.

Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “In 2020, Jamie Fobert and I talked about how the doors of the new National Portrait Gallery needed a human touch to balance the imposing facade with its roundels of 18 men from British history.

“Tracey Emin came immediately to mind as one of the greatest artists working today and was the natural choice for this prominent commission, given her mastery of drawing and bronze sculpture, here brought together in an innovative and striking way.

“She has created something perfect for its context, that is moving yet monumental and that we hope everyone who walks through our doors will enjoy and relate to.”

The Princess of Wales re-opened the National Portrait Gallery following its three-year, £41.3 million refurbishment on Tuesday ahead of its re-opening to members of the public later this week.

Speaking with Emin at the gallery’s new entrance doors, upon her arrival, they spoke about her work and the portraits that now grace the bronze doors.

Emin said: “When I arrived, I was anxious.

“There was all these other things that were on my mind, and I totally forgot about the doors!

“So when I came up, I gasped – it was a big surprise and that lifted my energy.”

Sir Paul and his wife Nancy Shevell also met the princess to discuss his upcoming exhibition.

Kate waved to crowds gathered outside the gallery as she departed.

Nicholas Cullinan, director of the gallery, said the princess was “fantastic” and “really passionate”.

He added: “To have a senior member of the Royal Family that really cares about culture, museums, art and is knowledgeable and supportive is such a great thing for this countrý

Opened in 1856, the National Portrait Gallery moved to its current location off Trafalgar Square 40 years later. It houses over 11,000 portraits of historically famous and important British people in its Primary Collection