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Portrait Gallery Events: Week Two

January 25, 2012

The Missing – A National Collaboration

6pm. Wednesday 18 Jan.

1 hour talk

This event first caught my eye as I am very curious about The Missing, a book published in 1995 by Andrew O’Hagan on his investigations into missing persons. How then, did  The Missing take on a new life form as a National Theatre of Scotland production (by the same name) and influence a new addition (and excitedly, a new medium – film!) to the Portrait Gallery collection? After being lucky enough to catch both the NTS play, (adapted by O’Hagan) and the artwork Missing by Graham Fagen at Tramway last September and having recently seen the Missing displayed in the newly refurbished Portrait Gallery, I thought why stop there? James Holloway, Director the of the Portrait Gallery and John Tiffany, Director of NTS who both commissioned and directed the play, and artist of Missing, Graham Fagen came together for one night only to discuss all of these  projects and I thought it seemed like a great opportunity to hear what spurred on such an artistic collaboration.

The Missing Event - A National Collaboration

The panel in full flow...

The discussion took place in the Scottish National Gallery’s lecture theatre, a room which on reflection could have felt a little impersonal, given the sensitive subject matter of ‘mispers’ (O’Hagan’s description of vulnerable people that go missing from British society). It was however, actually extremely intimate and moving and, despite the harrowing nature of the subject matter, quite funny at times. Ruth Wishart, a Herald newspaper columnist and BBC broadcaster, led the conversation and her dry wit and direct manner kept the panel, especially James, on his toes.

Missing is its current setting, Photograph by John Mckenzie

It was obvious that the three men have been in partnership for some time (James had introduced the two back in January 2011) as they all seemed at ease with each other discussing the creative process behind such a sensitive issue.  Coincidently, (and unknown to James and John), Andrew and Graham actually grew up together in the same area of Irvine. When the time came for the three of them to meet with the author, Graham and Andrew reminisced about their childhood and how a peer from their housing estate had gone missing. This relationship only added new layers to this unique collaboration.

I think one of the most poignant comments from the discussion that has stuck in my head, came from James’ explanation on why he wanted an art work like the Missing in the Portrait Gallery.  The Gallery is not about missing people, portraits hang on the walls representing people from Scotland and he felt the Missing would give these ‘mispers’ a place amongst society and a home.

The Missing Event - A National Collaboration

A smiley finish

Clare from the NGS Press Team attended The Missing: A National Collaboration. Graham Fagan’s work is on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery until 31 March 2012.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Colin Gilchrist permalink
    January 25, 2012 3:44 pm

    This was an occasion I was sorry not to be able to attend. What a wonderful sentiment behind the Missing hanging in the Gallery – I shall pay more attention the next time I visit!

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