As well as offering remote access to the latest exhibitions, The Net Gallery is intended as a digital archive that can enable audiences to look back at past shows, with the ability to experience them in a way that isn’t possible through photos or videos alone.
One of the most moving exhibitions we have had the opportunity to capture over the last couple of years was UnMissable, which took place at The Old Truman Brewery in March 2019. Organised in support of the charity Missing People, the show was curated by Ben Moore, whose own brother, Tom, has been missing since 2003.
The exhibition brought together 25 specially commissioned portraits of people who were missing at the time. Participating artists included: Samira Addo, Charming Baker, Ricardo Cinalili, Nina Fowler, Carne Griffiths, Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf, Will Teather, Amy Shuckburgh, Mark Metcalfe, Paul Benney, Ru Knox and Tim Gatenby.
Speaking to us recently about the show, Moore noted that, “Unmissable is probably one of the most meaningful and emotional charitable exhibitions I have ever had the pleasure and privilege to curate.”
Sharing her own memories of the exhibition, as well giving on an update on the charity’s ongoing work, Missing People’s Marketing Manager, Georgia Romeril, said:
“It was an exciting opportunity for the charity to enter the art world and reach a brand new audience. For the families that took part, it was a unique way to keep the search for their loved one alive. One family member told us that seeing the finished portrait, which was a colour piece of a black and white image, was like seeing a new photo of their missing son for the first time in many years.
“The charity continues to support missing people and their families 24/7. Support and funding for charities is in decline due to the pandemic, however demand for our service has increased, with people finding themselves in difficult and unsafe environments during lockdown, and feeling like their only option is to leave. Our focus is on improving the remote delivery of our 24 hour helpline, and preparing for what we predict will be a sharp increase in reports of people going missing, as lockdown measures continue to ease, and more people face the financial and emotional impacts of pandemic.”
You can explore the virtual walkthrough of the exhibition by clicking the play button on the image below:
We asked two of the participating artists, Nina Fowler and Will Teather, to share their memories of participating in UnMissable:
“I was so intrigued when Ben Moore asked me to be a part of this initiative, especially as I knew it was a subject extremely close to his heart. When he ‘assigned’ me Mary Flanagan’s portrait I felt an immediate connection to the photos. Perhaps because they belonged to an era I have always been attracted to, the clothes, the black and white film, the assumed innocence. I wasn’t provided with many details of Mary’s disappearance, just her age when she went missing (16) and the length of time she had been gone for – 59 years. This made my heart sink with sorrow for her family. The weight of not knowing for such an inexhaustible length of time must be unbearable. It made me think of the Bob Dylan lyric “I’ve never gotten used to it, I’ve just learned to turn it off.” from the song ‘If you see her say hello’. I combined two of the photos in my drawing, one of Mary on a warm day – a summery dress, a breeze in the net curtains. The parrot comes from the image of Mary and her sister, Eileen, visiting Petticoat Lane in the 1950s. It seemed to symbolise the hope that someone, somewhere was looking out for her.”
“I was a little surprised, having agreed to paint a portrait for the Unmissable exhibition, to be sent a selection of photos that included one Richard Edwards. It took me a couple of moments to identify him as the missing guitarist of the Manic Street Preachers.
“Like many people I guess, I was a big Manics fan at the time of his disappearance. To my mind, they remain one of the last great political and socially conscious bands that the UK has ever produced. In many ways they were the formative band of my youth, with Richey’s lyrical genius at the centre of this. In fact, I drew a portrait of Edwards when I was still at school. I saw the Manics in late 1994 with Richey performing as part of their Holy Bible tour, shortly before his disappearance. It was my first gig, and I have reunited with an old school friend to watch the band on many occasions since. The band’s early work and startling image, that Edwards was integral to cultivating, has influenced both the aesthetics of my paintings and my own songwriting into my adulthood.
“So, to find myself creating this portrait, with the blessing of his family, had personal resonance. Edwards is still missing of course and creating this artwork caused me to reflect yet again on the loss of his talent, but also how hard it must be for any family to never know the fate of their siblings. I’ve known and liked Ben Moore, the curator of the exhibition, for several years and agreed to be part of this show, knowing how hard it must have been for him to lose his brother. I hope that I paid a fitting to tribute to one of the missing idols of my youth.
“Following Unmissable the painting is destined for long-term display at the British Music Experience in Liverpool.”