NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
I had intended to write about two comedians as well as two scientists, prompted by the current excellent exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryThe Comedians: from the 40s to Now. It includes a witty and endearing portrait of a nude Jimmy Vegas, commissioned by The Guardian, Kaul’s tribute to the famous photograph by Annie Liebovitz of a pregnant Demi Moore, which appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair.
I would also have included Annie Liebovitz’s startling portrait of John Cleese hanging upside down from a branch like a fruit bat. It took a 60ft crane to haul him into position. It’s an elaborate, theatrical, eccentric response to what must be a tough question: how do you convey the essence of a comedian? Props would be a cliché. Comedians use fleeting shards of words, movements – and silence - in a way which outwits our expectations and takes us by surprise. Not easy to picture.
The disappointing news was that I couldn’t use these photographs for copyright reasons. (But you can see Jimmy on http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/09/21/j-vegas_n_973920.) The good news is that the collection is on show until January 8th and the brochure says it’s in collaboration with partner museums in Sunderland, Sheffield and Plymouth, so I hope it’s going there sometime too..