National Portrait Gallery

The vast collection of intimate portraits of people famous and otherwise is illuminated by as much natural light as possible in an elegantly designed setting. 

See the faces of Australia’s history at the National Portrait Gallery. Traditional and modern painting, sculpture, collage and photography bring these personalities to life.

Famous faces, such as Nick Cave, Cate Blanchett and Rupert Murdoch, are the first images you’ll view as you enter the gallery. Discover insightful and intriguing portraits of people you may not recognise, but have important stories to tell. Journey through Australia’s history from pre-colonial times through to the convict era, federation, world wars and recent decades. Come face-to-face with prime ministers, politicians, governors and the royal family, as well as artists, musicians, activists, doctors, clergy, indigenous elders and everyday people. See how portraiture has evolved as part of art history, from oil paintings to today’s digital media technologies.

The National Portrait Gallery houses over 450 works in its permanent exhibitions. Enter an elegant modern stone and wood building that allows you to feel the Australian sunshine on your face while standing inside. The design creates harmony between the natural environment outside and the exhibits inside. Different timbers collected from around Australia appear in the building’s walls and floors.

Portraiture is often described as the most intimate of art forms. Gaze into the faces of these subjects for hours on end. Look for Ned Kelly’s death mask, an iconic piece of Australia’s enduring fascination with the famous outlaw. Throughout the year, the gallery hosts short-term exhibitions of contemporary Australian art across all mediums, including the annual National Photographic Portrait Prize which showcases excellence in new photography. Delight in a variety of live music, theatre, film and educational events.

Find the National Portrait Gallery in the same precinct as the High Court and the National Gallery of Australia, near the banks of Lake Burley Griffin. The gallery is an important stop on the way around Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle. Regular buses stop near the gallery. If you drive, make use of the underground metered parking. Enjoy a lunch at the Portrait Café and choose a beautiful gift from the Portrait Gallery Store. The gallery has free entry, with fees for some special exhibitions.