Is Kate Middleton Ruining British Art?

Jonathan Jones points out "the way the royal family makes British art stupid."

Kate Middleton (2016). Courtesy of Getty Images.
Kate Middleton (2016). Courtesy of Getty Images.

In a scathing opinion piece for the Guardian, art critic Jonathan Jones has taken London’s National Portrait Gallery to task for its decision to display portraits of Kate Middleton, which originally appeared in Vogue magazine, in its latest exhibition, “Vogue 100: A Century of Style” (on view until May 22).

Jones has seemingly had enough of the Duchess of Cambridge, referring to “the way the royal family makes British art stupid,” and noting, “Kate Middleton’s relationship with the NPG is typical of the monarchy’s politely poisonous effect on art.”

But behind his outrage is actually a refusal to accept photography as an art form altogether, missing the point of what a portrait gallery is all about.

The National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1856, “established with the criteria that the Gallery was to be about history, not about art, and about the status of the sitter, rather than the quality or character of a particular image considered as a work of art,” it states on its website. They stand by this statement 160 years later.

To this end, Jones really no reason to criticize this particular portrait, which he calls “just slight and silly pictures that only a flatterer would call art.” His grievances are with the institution itself.

Jones’s critique is also a jab at the gallery’s director, Nicholas Cullinan, whom he accuses of fawning over the London-based fashion photographer Josh Olins, who was co-commissioned by Vogue and the Portrait Gallery to create the images in the show.

Needless to say, this isn’t the first time Jones has criticized the exhibition of photography in museums. It likely won’t be the last.

However, at least one commenter at the Guardian is with Jones, writing, “[I] would much rather see pics of a lovely, natural looking young Mum, than a dirty bed.”


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