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Black is the New Black opens at National Portrait Gallery

BLACK BRITONS: Portraits of Naomi Campbell and Sir Trevor McDonald both feature in the display (Image: Simon Frederick)

A NEW exhibition of photographs of prominent black British figures from the fields politics, business, culture, religion and science has opened at the National Portrait Gallery.

Artist and director Simon Frederick photographed each of the sitters, which include supermodel Naomi Campbell, Sir Trevor McDonald and actress Thandie Newton, Jazzie B of Soul II Soul and football coach and former footballer Les Ferdinand, to showcase momentous impact black people have had on British culture.

The portraits were made as part of Frederick’s acclaimed four-part 2016 BBC Two documentary series, also entitled Black is the New Black, which explored black culture in modern Britain.

Dizzee Rascal, the first black editor of British Vogue, Edward Enninful, author Malorie Blackman and are also among the 39 figures featured.


PICTURED: Simon Frederick

Speaking to The Voice last year, Frederick spoke about the meaning behind the title of his documentary series. He said: “Black will always be the new Black. That’s never going to change. We will always be the people doing the new things, inventing the new things, coming up with the new forms of music, new forms of style, new ways of speaking. We’ve had such a great impact of British culture that that name was apt”.

The photographs are the largest group of portraits of African Caribbean sitters to be entered into the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection.

Just before the exhibition was unveiled, Frederick published an image showing some of the framed portraits on his Instagram account, with the caption: "The largest acquisition of African-Caribbean sitters is about to be installed at the National Portrait Gallery. Proud beyond words."

Speaking last year, when the acquisition was announced, gallery director Nicholas Cullinan said: "These striking portraits of black British sitters powerfully reflect the diversity and variety of contemporary British achievement in public life."

Black is the New Black is now open at the National Portrait Gallery, London. It will run until January 27 2019. Entry to the display is free.

In addition to the exhibition, there will also be a number of events held in connection to the portraits.

The follow-up to Frederick's 2016 documentary series, Black Hollywood: "They've Gotta Have Us" is due to air soon on BBC Two. It will follow a similar format to Black is the New Black.

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