Edinburgh’s Scottish National Portrait Gallery to reopen with brand new Ken Currie work

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh is to reopen on Friday – and visitors will be treated to a striking new Ken Currie work.

Arriving at Queen Street’s National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) on a long-term loan directly from the artist, the large portrait is titled Unknown Man and depicts forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black in surgical robes, standing behind the covered remains of a body.

The pair met during a BBC Radio 4 discussion programme on the relationship between art and anatomy.

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Currie then visited the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee, where Professor Black then was director, and was so moved by her work he asked her to sit for a portrait.

He said: “I am delighted to be able to loan the painting Unknown Man to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

“This will make the painting more accessible to a wider public and hopefully draw attention to the astonishing work that Sue Black has undertaken in her long career as an Anatomist and Forensic Anthropologist throughout the world.

“I’d like to thank both the Portrait Gallery for facilitating this loan and Sue Black herself for her patience and co-operation in the making of this painting.”

Currie regards Unknown Man as being connected to his popular commission Three Oncologists with both to go on display together in The Modern Portrait.

Professor Dame Sue Black and artist Ken Currie in front of Currie's new portrait, Unknown Man (2019), of which Professor Black is the subject.

The exhibition will also show dozens of pieces featuring famous Scottish figures including Sir Billy Connolly, Annie Lennox and Doddie Weir – as well as several other works recently acquired by NGS.

Christopher Baker, NGS director of European and Scottish art and portraiture, said: “Encounters between accomplished artists and subjects can have electrifying results and that is certainly the case with this powerful portrait of the distinguished forensic scientist Professor Dame Sue Black by Ken Currie.

“It has a confrontational quality and alludes to her important and revelatory work, with all the drama and intensity and careful calibration that are the hallmarks of the painter’s career.

“We are proud to be able to show this extraordinary painting, which will be a key attraction in The Modern Portrait display, when the Scottish National Portrait Gallery reopens to the public.”

Visitors can book their free tickets to the exhibition on the National Galleries of Scotland website.

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