The national capital city, portraiture, and recognition in the Australian mythscape: The development of Canberra's National Portrait Gallery

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Abstract:

This article explores nation-making at the intersection of the imagination and practice of national capital cities, portraiture, and the politics of recognition. Specifically examining Canberra's National Portrait Gallery as a national cultural institution, it seeks to account for the development of the Gallery as a place of portraiture and the Australian national politics of historical recognition. After situating the Gallery generally in the context of the development of national cultural institutions as a practice of national capital city and nation-state production and reproduction, it then briefly examines the role of particular contingencies and the specific imagination of national portrait galleries in the 'Anglosphere' in producing the Gallery. I subsequently then explore the development of the Gallery as a visual-material national centre through its built accommodation and its discursive framing, along with its practice in the field of portraiture intersecting with the building of a Australian national history through the recognition of individuals. The article concludes by emphasising that while the Gallery is a place of national pasts, presents and futures, it should be stressed that it, and Canberra's other national cultural institutions, are also very much spatial products (and producers) of particular spatial imaginations and practices of nationality and the urban.

Keywords: Australian nationalism; Canberra; liberal historiographics; national capital cities; portraiture

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14608940902891278

Affiliations: Political Science Program, Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University,

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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