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Coventry's Stars On Show


Declan, 13 years old, loves Radford Common in Coventry City, by Maryam Wahid.       © National Portrait Gallery, London

Internationally celebrated cultural and political figures who were born or are associated with Coventry – including George Eliot, EM Forster, Philip Larkin, The Specials, Susan Hill, Vanley Burke, Sarah Siddons, Ellen Terry, Billie Whitelaw, Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Mo Mowlam – are featured in an exhibition of portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry. The exhibition, Creative Connections, opens on 4 March and runs until 30 May 2022.

The exhibition connects artworks from the two galleries by highlighting the creative links between the people on display and their work. Highlights include a portrait of Vanley Burke displayed next to commissioned photographs from the Herbert’s collection, portraits of Basil Spence and Graham Sutherland presented alongside the Trial Piece for the tapestry within Coventry Cathedral and a portrait of Benjamin Britten, who wrote the War Requiem for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral displayed next to work by Matthew Picton who uses the score of War Requiem to create a map of Coventry showing the destruction of the city in the Blitz.

Guz Khan, BAFTA Nominee Portrait, 2020 by Rankin, Lent by the National Portrait Gallery

The exhibition includes portraits recently acquired for the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent Collection, including Rankin’s photograph of the comedian and actor, Guz Khan, politicians Zarah Sultana, MP for Coventry South, and Taiwo Owatemi, MP for Coventry North West and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, taken by Charlotte Hadden.

Local art students from Barr’s Hill School in Coventry have worked collaboratively with artist Maryam Wahid and the Herbert’s Learning and Engagement Team to explore the collections of the two galleries to celebrate the inspirational stories of people associated with Coventry. Maryam Wahid’s work explores identity and representation, and she has created photographic portraits of the young people which are showcased in the exhibition. Maryam Wahid was a judge for the National Portrait Gallery’s Hold Still photography project in 2020 which was spearheaded by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.

Photo © Janette Beckman

Francis Nielsen, Culture and Creative Director of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, said: “We are thrilled to be working with the National Portrait Gallery, artist Maryam Wahid and students from Barr’s Hill School to present Creative Connections at the Herbert this spring. An exhibition celebrating iconic people linked with Coventry seems an incredibly fitting show to have on display as we end our celebrations as UK City of Culture.”

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum on Creative Connections as part of our transformational Inspiring People project. By working in collaboration with organisations across the UK we hope to make our portraits accessible to many more people, enabling them to seek out their stories within our Collection.”

Creative Connections is a National Portrait Gallery project in partnership with the Herbert Gallery & Museum. Creative Connections is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Art Fund with the generous support of the Palley family.