The National Portrait Gallery in London.

London’s National Portrait Gallery Expands Its Definition of Portraiture

The National Portrait Gallery in London has announced plans to expand its collection by acquiring works that aren’t considered traditional portraits. It’s a move that Louise Stewart, the museum’s cross-collections curator, said was “a real departure for the gallery,” Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper reports.

“We want to explore how identity was expressed before painted portraiture. Before Tudor times, people were not interested in a physical likeness of an individual,” Stewart said. In addition, to acquiring pre-Tudor works and works made outside the UK, the institution is looking to increase its holdings in ceramics and works that show the influence of other cultures on British identity. Stewart said that wooden carvings of Queen Victoria created by the Yoruba people of Nigeria and based on photographs are an example of artworks that the museum might pursue for its collection.

The new acquisitions will be funded by Art Fund’s New Collecting Awards program. The gallery will have nearly $50,000 to spend on “global and ephemeral” portraits created pre-1600s.