A huge portrait of the former director of the National Portrait Gallery, Sandy Nairne, is to be the first important work by American artist Chuck Close ’64MFA to enter a public collection in Britain.
Close is one of America’s most influential portrait artists, known for his gigantic mosaic-patterned works, which he paints from photographs.
But his subjects are mostly American, meaning there is no example of his work in the NPG. Nor is there any in other British collections.
The gallery traditionally commissions a portrait of its retiring director and the name of Close was suggested by the gallery’s contemporary curator, Sarah Howgate, and Nairne, who got to know the artist after a Close self-portrait was exhibited at the NPG in 2005.
Nairne’s successor, Nicholas Cullinan, said: “This wonderful portrait represents both a fitting tribute to my predecessor, Sandy Nairne, and a striking example of contemporary portraiture.”
The portrait, at 1.9m by 1.5m (6ft 2in by 4ft 11in), is hard to miss. It is based on a large-format Polaroid of Nairne taken in the New York studio of photographer John Reuter.