Between the Jubliee and the Olympics patriotism is at an all time high. I have even managed to paint my finger nails with union jacks!
Naturally this patriotism is expressed in our cultural institutions. No where more so at the moment then at the National Portrait Gallery and if you feel like celebrating the incredible year then it is definatly the place to head down to.
On the one hand there is the traveling exhibition The Queen: Art and Image being showed in the gallery, it's final location, until October. The exhibition charts the evolution of our monarch's public image a public image a process which continues to this day with her infamous first film appearance in the Olympic opening ceremony.
The exhibition also allows us to see some of the most iconic images of the age by some of it's most incredible artists of the past century, Warhol, Freud, the photographer Cecil Beaton, Pietro Annegoni.
More pertinently for the current climate there is the Road to 2012: Aiming High exhibition. An exhibition of some truly inspirational photography focusing upon the myriad of people involved in the Olympic games, athletes, organisers, designers, political figures, physios to name but a few. Essentially all of the people responsible for the unbelievable spectacle we are all glued to.
The exhibition includes commissions that have been planned and executed since London first won the games.
Be sure to take in all of the spaces not only the one on the ground floor. Particularly the small room in the lower level where you can see the photos charting some of the projects currently taking place in the Olympic boroughs. While this room may not include some of the most famous faces that are currently dominating our screens, it does show some possible up and coming Olympians and celebrate their dedication and their love of sport.
Some of my favourite images have to be the incredibly atmospheric painting of the paralympic athlete Tom Aggar photographed at Eton Dorney by the duo of Anderson and Low whose seamless partnership furnishes the exhibiton with some of it's gems. Including their depiction of the women's gymnastic team, including Beth Tweddle who finally won her well deserved Bronze medal today.
And the black and white photograph of the discus thrower Lawrence Okoye who qualified for the final today.
The Road to 2012 exhibition is completely free and I think it is frankly unmissable.