Black is the New Black: Portraits

The National Portrait Gallery’s largest acquisition of portraits of Afro-Caribbean sitters has gone on public display for the first time. The display brings together exceptional figures from the world of politics, business, culture, religion and science, photographed by artist and director Simon Frederick as part of his acclaimed BBC TWO documentary Black is the New Black, broadcast in 2016. With the support of Oath, Frederick gifted the entire portfolio of forty prints to the National Portrait Gallery in August 2017.

Each of the thirty eight portraits featured in the display will be ‘brought to life’ through a bespoke augmented reality (AR) app, created by Oath's in-house creative team, which will enable visitors to view video interview content from the BBC TWO Black is the New Black series on their mobile screens. After downloading the app on iOS or Android, visitors can hold their phones up to the portraits, which will come to life with moving images and audio of the sitter. Users simply touch a portrait to watch the short video interviews.

Sitters include Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, who has explored racism through her writing for children and young adults; Patricia Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, who was both the first black woman and youngest woman to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel; and John Sentamu who was appointed Archbishop of York in 2005, becoming Britain’s first black Archbishop.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, said: “These striking portraits of black British sitters powerfully reflect the diversity and variety of contemporary achievement in public life. I am delighted we have been able to display the full collection for the first time, which, at a stroke, much improves out representation of Afro-Caribbean sitters, and we are extremely grateful to Oath and to Simon Frederick for the very generous gift of photographs.”

Artist and director Simon Frederick constructed still portrait photographs as well as filming the participants for Black is the New Black, a four-part documentary in which Frederick employed the power of talking heads with no archive footage or voiceovers. Frederick’s work spans from celebrity portraiture to art exhibitions to global advertising campaigns and TV. He is known for his recent role as a lead judge and co-host alongside Isabella Rossellini on the Sky Arts programme Master of Photography and for his series Black is the New Black on BBC TWO.

Sitters: Architect and designer Sir David Adjaye; scientist and educator Maggie Aderin-Pocock; dancer and choreographer Ashley Banjo; children’s writer Malorie Blackman; fashion designer Ozwald Boateng; musician and music producer Jazzie B; model Naomi Campbell; menswear designer Charlie Casely-Hayford; film director Noel Clarke; musician, dancer and broadcaster Alesha Dixon; ballet dancer Shevelle Dynott; digital entrepreneur and founder of SB.TV Jamal Edwards; Editor in Chief of British Vogue Edward Enninful; writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun; footballer and Director of Football at Queens Park Rangers Les Ferdinand; musician and DJ Goldie; actor David Harewood; comedian and actor Sir Lenny Henry; producer and director Terry Jervis; musician, radio presenter and actress Beverley Knight; heptathlete and Olympian Denise Lewis; physician and surgeon Christopher B. Lynch; journalist and broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald; trade unionist Bill Morris, Lord Morris of Handsworth; musician Laura Mvula; DJ and broadcaster Trevor Nelson; actress Thandie Newton; rapper and grime artist Dizzee Rascal; barrister and Attorney-General for England and Wales Patricia Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal; Archbishop of York His Grace the Most Reverend and Right Honourable John Sentamu; artist Yinka Shonibare; musician Tinie Tempah; MP and Labour politician Chuka Umunna; civil servant and Chief Executive of Ofcom Sharon White; journalist and newsreader Charlene White; comedian Gina Yashere; DJ and broadcaster Reggie Yates; and journalist, author and broadcaster Gary Younge.

Address: National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE

Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross

Admission is free.