Marie and Albert's Excellent Adventure to view Leonard Cohen's Portrait at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Sláinte, Marie.  Good job!

February 24, 2012

Marie Nolan wrote a terrific report about her family's visit to view the Venetia Dearden portrait of Leonard Cohen which is owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London. (more)

Marie's report reads like a thriller novella. Will they or won't they...

She was kind enough to let me feature her report.

The back story
I stumbled upon the portrait on the internet whilst searching for something else, a common occurrence in Cohenland. I posted it on the leonard cohen forum and referenced a post by Mordy. Subsequently, some forum members went to the NPG to view the portrait but it was not on display. Then sebmelmoth2003 posted info that one could apply for a viewing appointment.

Cast of conspirators:
From the leonardcohenforum
bridger15 wrote: Ask for a private viewing away from the exhibition du jour. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
At the National Portrait Gallery
Marie Nolan
Albert Noonan
Emily Noonan
James Noonan
In advance of a family trip to London last summer and inspired by Arlene's suggestion I decided ask for that private viewing at the National Portrait Gallery.  
I recalled that Sebmelmoth2003 had posted contact details and I emailed the gallery advising them that I would be in London for a few days and that I would like to view the portrait during that time. They responded that they could accommodate us and suggested a date and time. 
The Viewing took place at the Heinz Archive & Library at 39-45 Orange Street, this is situated directly opposite the back entrance of the National Portrait Gallery.
Emily Noonan
There was myself and Albert and our two teenagers James and Emily, who at this stage in their lives didn't find it at all unusual that we would make such a visit! 

Security was tight and when we arrived, we had to produce proof of our appointment, photo id and we were asked to sign a visitor's agreement form.
We were then given passes and were escorted to the archive area. This was rather like a formal library setting, very quiet with a number of academic types sitting behind large mahogany tables.
We were introduced to a lady called Helen. She had the original print ready for viewing. It was lying flat on one of the large tables. It was covered with two layers of tissue paper.
James Noonan
She lifted the paper and revealed the portrait to us.

My initial reaction was that it looked better than it does on photos on the net. It was approximately 24 x 18 inches. We commented on how lovely it was to see it in reality and a gentleman came over to greet us. He said in a quiet voice that he just wanted to say hello and he thought we might be Canadian. He was a fan also and although he didn't see any of the recent concerts he had seen Leonard in the seventies at the Royal Albert Hall.

I was looking closely as Leonard's bolo tie and Helen offered to decipher the writing on it, she began writing out the letters on a notebook, I stopped her explaining that Camargue was written on it - I knew this thanks to our very detailed Clothing Time thread in Comments and Questions. She said "Ah you know your Leonard Cohen".

I did ask if there were any plans to exhibit the print again, but they had no plans at that time. He said that all the portraits at the Gallery are of British citizens. They had acquired the portrait of Leonard as part of a set of photos they purchased from the photographer Ventia Dearden, He did say that if any particular "themed" exhibition were to be organised in the future it may be a possibility.

We were there for about ten minutes, I asked if I could take a photo of it and Albert also asked if he could take a photo of me viewing it. We were given a polite but firm no to both requests. We thanked Helen for her time and made for the exit.

We were asked to return our passes on departure but not before we took a sneak photo. The tension is evident in the photo with me distracted and looking towards reception for fear of being "caught". (photo at the top)

Detail of security pass Marie is holding in photo at the top

 Looking back, we were very satisfied with our visit and can certainly recommend it to others. Perhaps, (as Arlene suggested) if enough people request a private viewing they might actually put Leonard out on public display.... now that would certainly be a case of, for him they really did make an exception !
PS. And of course , when in Covent Garden later that day I " Cohenised " the Apple Store

*   *   *
A special kudo to Marie for wearing her symbolic "final concert in Las Vegas" polka dot dress on this special Leonard Cohen occasion.

And special thanks to Albert for his great clandestine photos. He's awfully good at that.


Albert Noonan

The photos of Emily and James were taken in Berlin, August 2010, when I had dinner with the family. A few nights later, Albert, Marie and I attended Leonard Cohen's concert at the Berlin Waldbuhne.
- The thread that started this adventure on the leonardcohenforum here 

- On the LC Forum, Marie Nolan is IrishMar and Albert Noonan is IrishAl.

Albert's YouTube Channels
"albertnoonan"  Leonard Cohen Tour 2008-2010 i(here)
"DabbyNoNa" Adam Cohen, NEeMA and the Webb Sisters  (here)

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