Mark your calendars for the museum's reopening and celebrate AAPI Heritage Month with us!
Introducing Rhea L. Combs as New Director of Curatorial Affairs
The Portrait Gallery is proud to welcome Rhea Combs as the new director of curatorial affairs. Combs comes to the Portrait Gallery from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), where she has served as curator of film and photography and head of the museum’s Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts.
Combs’ most recent exhibitions and projects at NMAAHC include the museum’s inaugural photography exhibition, “Everyday Beauty: Photographs and Film from the Permanent Collection,” as well as “Represent: Hip Hop Photography” and “Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture.”
At the Portrait Gallery, Combs will work with the museum’s Curatorial, History, Conservation, and Audience Engagement departments to draw connections between portraiture, biography and identity.
A Closer Look: Photographs Conservation at the National Portrait Gallery
Tuesday, May 4
Online via Zoom
Join Portrait Gallery Photograph Conservator Christina Finlayson for an inside look at the processes for conserving photographs in the Portrait Gallery’s collection. Finlayson’s talk will highlight her treatment of the March 1843 daguerreotype of John Quincy Adams, the earliest known photographic portrait of a U.S. president. She will also discuss treatments for a range of photographic media, from the daguerreotype to the gelatin silver print.
Art AfterWords: A Book Discussion
Tuesday, May 11
Online via Zoom
The National Portrait Gallery and the DC Public Library would like to invite you to a virtual conversation about power, gender, and collective memory. Join us as we analyze portraits from the exhibition “Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States” and discuss the related book “Rodham” by Curtis Sittenfeld. Participants are encouraged to visit the online exhibition before the event. DCPL cardholders can access "Rodham" here.
"A Closer Look: Photographs Conservation at the National Portrait Gallery" is presented by Christina Finlayson, photograph conservator at the National Portrait Gallery. Leslie Ureña, curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, will moderate the Q & A. This program is a part of the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture and is hosted by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center.
Enduring Images: Enslaved People and Photography in the Antebellum South
Tuesday, May 11
Online via Zoom
From the 1840s to the end of the Civil War, some enslaved people paid to have their photographs taken and then used these portraits to shape their identities and social ties. Considering enslaved people as active agents of early photography, this talk examines what their photographic practices meant, especially in relation to the violent disruptions of the domestic slave trade. It also reflects upon possibilities for writing the history of portraiture when the relevant images are not available.
In Dialogue: Smithsonian Objects and Social Justice
Thursday, May 13
Online via Zoom
Why is it important to have agency in how we are portrayed? Together with our co-hosts from the Freer and Sackler, Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art, we will explore this key question about representation in relationship to a 1937 photograph of actress Anna May Wong and an early 21st century photo-performance by Pushpamala N.
"Enduring Images: Enslaved People and Photography in Antebellum South" is presented by Matthew Fox-Amato, assistant professor of history at the University of Idaho. Rhea L. Combs, incoming director of curatorial affairs at the National Portrait Gallery, will moderate the Q & A. This program is a part of the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture and is hosted by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center.
The Confluence of Three Asian American Artists
Wednesday, May 26
Online via Zoom
The National Portrait Gallery’s Choreographer-in-Residence, Dana Tai Soon Burgess, and Prints and Drawings Curator Robyn Asleson discuss how perceptions of racial identity impacted the art, life, and careers of three Asian American artists. Using portraiture as a focus, the conversation will explore the complex interconnections and complementary experiences that link the modern dance innovator Michio Ito, the sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi, and choreographer and cultural diplomat Dana Tai Soon Burgess.
The National Portrait Gallery is proud to host some of its many public programs online. These digital offerings range from story times for young children to art-making workshops for all ages. Tune in to the museum's social media channels to experience them firsthand.
Visit our website's "Visit at Home" page for more in-depth program descriptions.
Portrait Gallery Spotlight: Yuri Kochiyama
May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and I see this time as an opportunity to spotlight AAPI allyship and activism. Many AAPI figures throughout history have been tireless, albeit unseen, allies to marginalized groups. Yuri Kochiyama is one such figure, and her story is inspiring. Her portrait, a photograph taken by Corky Lee, captures her in mid-stride as she protests inequalities experienced by restaurant workers in New York City's Chinatown.
Kochiyama's activism was not limited to Asian American injustices, as much of her lifetime was spent fighting for the Latino and African American communities as well. In fact, an unlikely and untold friendship developed between Kochiyama and Malcolm X. They supported each other's causes and stood in solidarity together against inequality. Yuri Kochiyama is, therefore, a timeless illustration of allyship in action.
Student Programs Coordinator
Online Exhibitions & Podcast
Enjoy online content from the Portrait Gallery on Google Arts & Culture, including the exhibitions "Maxine Singer: Picturing a Life in Science" and "The Return to Aztlán." Teachers and students can also explore our debut online curriculum, "Portraiture and Identity," which investigates how artists and sitters use portraiture to convey individual, cultural, national, and global identities.
PORTRAITS is back with season three! Episodes premiere bi-weekly on Tuesdays through June. Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, PRX, Radio Public, Spotify, Stitcher, and on our website.
Rhea L. Combs, director of curatorial affairs, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery by Abe Mohammadione / Ideas United. John Quincy Adams (detail)by Philip Haas, 1843. Acquired through the generosity of the Secretary of the Smithsonian and the Smithsonian National Board; The Burnett Family Fund; Carl and Marilynn Thoma; Connie and Dennis Keller; Tim Lindholm and Lucy Gaylord Lindholm; Mr. and Mrs. John W. McCarter, Jr.; Mr. and Mrs. Ronald J. Gidwitz; Ellen G. Miles and Neil R. Greene; Ronnyjane Goldsmith; David D. Hiller; Richard and Janet Horwood; and Mary Martell. Hillary Rodham Clintonby Ginny Stanford, 2006. Gift of Ambassador Elizabeth F. Bagley and Mr. Smith Bagley, Robert B. Barnett, Susie Tompkins Buell, The Boeing Company, Buffy and William Cafritz, David V. and Judith E. Capes, Albert and Claire Dwoskin, Catherine Spitzer Gidlow, Jill and Kenneth Iscol, Ambassador and Mrs. Philip Lader, Ruesch Family Foundation, Corky Hale and Mike Stoller, and Leon and Mary Strauss. Exposing Slavery cover image, courtesy of Matthew Fox-Amato. Anna May Wong (detail) by Nickolas Muray, 1937. © Nickolas Muray Archives. Drawn to Figures (detail) by Tony Powell, 2019. Introducing... (detail) by Tony Powell, 2019. Yuri Kochiyama (detail) by Corky Lee, 1980 (printed 2016). © Corky Lee. Pocahontas (detail) by an unidentified artist, after Simon van de Passe, after 1616. Transfer from the National Gallery of Art; gift of the A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, 1942. Maxine Singer (detail) by Jon R. Friedman, 2012. Gift of the artist. © Jon R. Friedman. PORTRAITS by the National Portrait Gallery, 2019.
All images belong to the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, unless otherwise noted.