Sunday 20 May 2018

Graham Norton's mother doesn't hold back with her less than complimentary reaction to his portrait

Graham Norton and his mother Rhoda at a private event in The National Gallery of Ireland
Graham Norton and his mother Rhoda at a private event in The National Gallery of Ireland
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

A new RTE documentary has shown Graham Norton’s mother Rhonda's less than complimentary reaction to the unveiling of her son’s portrait in the National Gallery of Ireland.

The unveiling features in RTE documentary Portrait of a Gallery – which details the extensive refurbishment of the gallery.

Having taken a look at the artwork, Rhonda turns and tells artist Gareth Reid; “Well, you didn’t flatter him, mind you.”

Norton, trying to recover from the situation says “there’s no need for flattery” before thanking Reid.

Graham’s mother Rhonda also tells artist that the piece is “so informal looking”.

It later turned out that Reid, who won the commission after being crowned Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2017, was a relation of Nortons – which was a cause of embarrassment for both of them.

Hour long documentary Portrait of A Gallery was shot over the course of three years as the Milltown and Dargan Wings are repaired.

The show, which feels like a very expensive version of Room to Improve, follows the highs and lows of the building project as the team work around logistical nightmares, bad weather and the discovery of a well in the foundations of the building.

The project which cost around €25 million carried out essential works on the two buildings which become “tinderboxes” that housed some of the most valuable art in Ireland.

The Director of the NGI, Sean Rainbird said many galleries and museums are wary of taking part in such documentaries, after a backstage BBC documentary titled on the Royal Opera House titled The House.

In the film, the British institution was depicted as being full of “gloomy staff, cursing directors and disgruntled opera-goers”.

“Because of that institutions can be wary but the film captures the breadth and depth of work that went on over the course of the years,” he said.

“A gallery has a lot of stuff going on backstage, a lot of it is back of house and a lot of it you don’t see. So I think this documentary shows the work that went into the refurbishment.”

For the past six years, 80pc of the Gallery was closed – despite this numbers of people visiting the gallery have increased – last year a record 750,000 stopped by.

Rainbird believes rotating temporary exhibitions may have contributed to this. “We had Leonardo’s drawings, Sean Scully and Lines of Vision exhibitions that have all done very well.”

In the documentary viewers also meet staff who worked laboriously on the refurbishment.

Among them are Adriaan Waiboer (Head of Collections and Research), Brendan Rooney (Irish Art) and Adrian Le Harivel (British Art) as they meticulously prepare for months in advance of the re-hang.

Portrait of a Gallery was produced & directed by Adrian McCarthy / Wildfire Films and made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It will air on RTÉ One on Tuesday 27 June at 9.35pm.

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