Gallery searches for Canberra’s most compelling love story

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Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, May 30, 1937, unknown photographer.

ROMANTICALLY-inclined Canberrans have only until the end of the weekend to enter the National Portrait Gallery’s most unusual competition.

Aimed at celebrating the coming winter blockbuster exhibition, “Love Stories”, the competition asks members of the public to share their love stories, with the most compelling storyteller given the chance to pop the question in the gallery itself.

This is not the time to procrastinate. February 29 is traditionally a day for lovers to take “a leap of faith”, and also in Irish tradition, every leap year on February 29, a woman is “allowed” to propose to a man if she’s fed up waiting for a proposal—although as the gallery is quick to point out, since Australia now has marriage equality, the gallery has reframed the tradition to include anyone asking anyone for their hand.

And so, the proposal will take place on Saturday, February 29 in the Portrait Gallery building, with the presumably happy couple also winning a before-hours private highlights tour, a portrait session with a professional photographer, a champagne breakfast at Portrait Café and a night’s accommodation at Midnight Hotel in Braddon as well as tickets to the opening night of “Love Stories”.

Inspired by stories of love, from the sensuous to the scandalous, this exhibition of works from the collections of the National Portrait Galleries of London and Canberra will run as an Australian exclusive, for a three-month season.

The show will feature portraits of some of the world’s best-known couples from the 16th century through to the present day, including King Charles II and his mistress Barbara Palmer, Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas, John Lennon and Yoko Ono family, and David and Victoria Beckham, snapped by photographers like Cecil Beaton, Annie Leibowitz, Man Ray, David Hockney and Patrick Lichfield.

As well, new photographic portraits of well-known Australian lovers have been commissioned by the NPG for the exhibition.

Members of the public are invited to write their love story in 100 words or a one-minute video and send their entry—along with full name, age (must be over 18), email address, phone number and social handles—to by 11.59pm this Sunday, February 23.

 “Love Stories”, National Portrait Gallery, June 20-October 11. Bookings at


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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