This morning, the National Portrait Gallery unveiled its latest acquisition, a painting of the philanthropic team Bill and Melinda Gates by the New York City and Truro, Massachusetts-based artist Jon Friedman (b. 1947).
Installed in the museum’s “Recent Acquisitions” exhibition, this portrait is the first work commissioned by the museum’s advisory board, the National Portrait Gallery Commission. The group ensures funding so that the Portrait Gallery continues to have “first class representations of first class people,” says museum director Martin Sullivan.
“I am pleased to welcome a portrait of two Americans who have made a mark in the lives not only of other Americans, but countless others, millions of others, around the world,” Sullivan said. The painting now joins the Portrait Gallery’s collection of more than 20,000 works of art.
For the artist Jon Friedman, the work proved to be both a pleasure and challenge. “It was a very special occasion for me, obviously, to meet Bill and Melinda and a great challenge—the first and only double portrait I’ve done,” he said. The portrait itself is a composite. “It’s an invented setting,” Friedman said, “although, pulled together from many elements that existed in reality.” The photo session took place in the offices of Bill Gates’ new company bgC3, and Friedman added narrative elements important to the couple’s life and work— the interior of the company, the landscape of the Cascade Mountains, the suburbs of Seattle, Lake Washington, “the digital revolution,” and their charity work.
“I cannot resist saying that those of us on the staff were thrilled when the portrait developed as a joint portrait,” Martin Sullivan said. “In fact, a double portrait, particularly of spouses who work closely with each other, is a tricky business; to catch not only the intimacy and the conversation, but the spark between them. This is, I think, one of the characteristics of this portrait that we are particularly thrilled for you to see.”
See the portrait “Bill and Melinda Gates” at the National Portrait Gallery, open daily from 11:30 AM to 7:00 PM (except December 25). Also check out painter Jon Friedman’s other works in the museum, including portraits of Minnie Maxine Singer and David Baltimore.