Review: Hot Scots, National Portrait Gallery

Karen Gillan by Suki Dhanda
Karen Gillan by Suki Dhanda
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ROYALTY, politicians and philosophers are perhaps what we expect from the National Portrait Gallery. Well they certainly surprise with Hot Scots, a collection of portraits of something much less traditional – pure fame.


We’re talking David Tennant and Susan Boyle.

At least in everyday life, it’s these showbiz celebrities who represent Scotland to the rest of the world. Perhaps that’s the point this mini exhibition wants to make.

Ranging from a posed Sean Connery in black and white to a candid shot of violinist Nicola Benedetti, a large range of photographic styles and printing methods are included. A particularly moving photograph of playwright John Byrne wearing a hoodie under his suit represents the more meaningful side of things, while the picture of comedian Armando Iannucci is more in the style of a promotional press shoot.

Despite this artistic range, the emphasis is on the celebs rather than the photographers. And not all of the photographers are Scottish.

Most of the collection is gathered on a single wall, which makes it feel like the family photo-filled downstairs toilet of a country estate. This particular family has an unfortunately futuristic view of showbiz, and has painted everything – right down to the label cards and picture frames – a sparkly silver chrome.

Further adding to the difficulty is the noisy teenage son next door, playing a loud art video with lots of white noise.

In short, this part of the gallery isn’t a curatorial triumph.

However, Hot Scots is only one of the eight flagship mini-exhibitions which form the basis of the National Portrait Gallery’s new look. Together, the collections give a dizzyingly diverse picture of the Scots from Hume to Dawn Steele, while the handy trail maps and touch-screen displays give everyone a guided tour tailored to their interests.

Do visit, but spend most of your time in the other rooms.