We live in a world surrounded by portraits. Loved ones and friends smile from frames in our homes; pictures of famous musicians and celebrities crop up on our Instagram feeds or shine from glossy magazine covers. We encounter portraits everywhere: in places of worship, on billboards, in books, and in newspapers. Portraiture is an art form that has been around for centuries, and its popularity continues today.
Drawing primarily from the BMA’s permanent collection, Ways of Seeing: Portraits brings together various works from the Museum’s collections that consider the many ways artists have represented people from the 1500s to the present day. From a rare Renaissance-era portrait drawing to contemporary photography, this show examines how artists have pictured themselves and others across time.
Highlights of the exhibition include a screenprint of former First Lady Jackie Kennedy by Andy Warhol, a Civil Rights-era photograph of Malcolm X by Eve Arnold, and Annie Leibovitz’s unusual portrait of the artist Christo. Featuring works by Käthe Kollwitz, Shirin Neshat, Wilmer Wilson IV, and other artists from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe, this exhibition offers us a glimpse into the lives of other people. Artists also fashioned images of themselves or others that may or may not be truthful representations of someone’s likeness or character. This exhibition prompts questions about what portraits are, why they were made, and the messages they offer about the people they show. They speak about love, grief, history, memory, and identity.
Ways of Seeing: Portraits is the newest iteration of the BMA’s Ways of Seeing series that explores themes, perspectives, and ideas from across the Museum’s global art collections.