Ana Maria Pacheco

National Portrait Gallery

Every now and then, great institutions wake up in a cold sweat and—a bit like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa—discover they have metamorphosed into something resembling a dinosaur. The National Gallery awakens intermittently and tries various means of remedying the situation: appointing a trustee who is an artist (albeit a well-established one), for example, or inviting artists to select shows drawn from the permanent collection. Since 1990, another approach has been to offer artists a studio in the gallery for a two-year period, with the idea that they might make work inspired in some way by the collection and then exhibit it. Of course, this could be seen as a somewhat conservative scheme, a nostalgic pining for the last century, when whole days were set aside for artists to work in the gallery, sitting at the feet of the old masters. Thus far the results have not been happy. The first three “

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