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small blond boy seated at a desk with his family in the background

Marshall with Family and the World, 2013 [detail] / Jessica Todd Harper / Inkjet print / Courtesy of the artist / © Jessica Todd Harper


October 28, 2022 - January 7, 2024

"Kinship" features the work of eight contemporary artists who illuminate the complexities of our closest interpersonal relationships through portraiture. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Ruth Leonela Buentello, Jess T. Dugan, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Jessica Todd Harper, Thomas Holton, Sedrick Huckaby, and Anna Tsouhlarakis poignantly visualize the nuances of this theme within and outside of family units. Through painting, photography, sculpture, and performance, the artists reveal how kinship, by its very nature, embraces contradictions. They also highlight the crucial role that storytelling and memories have in connecting different generations, encompassing both the living and the dead.

When we started working on this project in 2018, there was no way we could have predicted that its core concepts were about to be tested on a global scale. The separation and overwhelming loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the renewed calls for social and environmental justice, and recent armed conflicts have deepened the resonance of the exhibition’s themes. Vulnerability, intimacy, privacy, community, familiarity, and recognition have all been questioned and realigned, underscoring how portraiture provides a shared space for empathy and understanding.

Kinship is the latest in the museum’s Portraiture Now series, which was established in 2006 to highlight contemporary artists whose work focuses on portraiture or figurative art.

stage icon   Performance
        Portrait of an Indigenous Womxn [Removed]
        by Anna Tsouhlarakis

        >> View documentation of the performance here.

        red poster art advertising a lost girl

back arrow icon   Return to Past Exhibitions


Woman holding a baby viewed through a screen door

Authors: Dorothy Moss and Leslie Ureña with Robyn Asleson, Taína Caragol, and Charlotte Ickes
Foreword by Rhea Combs

Portraiture—whether painting, photography, sculpture or performance—can offer invaluable insight into the nature of our familial relationships and other interpersonal bonds. Kinship features the work of Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Ruth Leonela Buentello, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Jess T. Dugan, Jessica Todd Harper, Thomas Holton, Sedrick Huckaby, and Anna Tsouhlarakis, who explore the complex nature of this theme in myriad ways. Through essays by National Portrait Gallery curators, statements by the artists, and interviews, this beautifully illustrated book illuminates the mutable yet enduring qualities of kinship.

Published by the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, and Hirmer Publishers, Munich, 2022 | Available in the Museum Shop and ONLINE.


Selected portraits from the exhibition


“Kinship” is supported by:

♦ John and Louise Bryson ♦ The Haynes and Boone Foundation ♦ Purvi and Bill Albers ♦ Susan and David McCombs ♦ Helen Hilton Raiser ♦ Lyndon J. Barrois Sr. and Janine Sherman Barrois ♦ Lisa Goodman and Josef Vascovitz ♦ Christie G. Harris ♦ Daniel and Kimberly Johnson ♦ Wendy Wick Reaves and John Daniel Reaves ♦ Sara and John Shlesinger

The catalogue received support from Frances Stevenson Tyler.

Additional support has been provided by the American Portrait Gala Endowment.