You’d think I was Chinese if you knew how often I seem to be killing time before a dim sum, but a damp Sunday morning is also good for getting to an exhibition so yesterday I nipped into the National Portrait Gallery for the Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize (I saw Jason Bell‘s An Englishman in New York show too).
What did I think? Well, it was OK, not too bad. Plenty of fine portraits such as this one of Charlie Waite or Felix Carpio’s Wafa, but nothing that really wowed me (Bell’s show had a few stunners). I suppose I wasn’t too taken with the predominance of not-quite-heroin-chic – undernourished bored-looking people stuck onto drab environments (for example). Nowhere near enough b&w either, though I liked Sylvain Deleu’s gymnast (better ones on his web site?) and far too many pictures claiming to be “explorations”.
The winner itself doesn’t do much for me. The subject matter, a teenage girl who has just killed her first wild animal for sport, is well-framed and provocative. I couldn’t help feeling the picture would have been stronger if she’d found some other animal to slaughter – the bock’s chestnut brown fur doesn’t stand out against the horse’s chestnut browns. It does match her hair though. So again, that’s faint praise for the winning entry. But even seen in the flesh I still couldn’t work out what made the judges choose the runner-up – an artfully-casual composition personal snap showing the photographer’s wife (oh she’s British) having her breakfast with her legs wide open. Is it art or “readers wives”?
So a pretty underwhelming view, but if you’re in central London it’s a small but worthwhile show – and the ticket costs less than the price of a prawn cheung fun (though there are three on each plate).