Portrait of Honour 2014: Mats Ek by Lesley Leslie-Spinks

Saturday 15 November will see the unveiling of the 2014 Portrait of Honour at Gripsholm Castle. This year, choreographer and director Mats Ek has been captured by photographer Lesley Leslie-Spinks.

This year’s sitter for the Portrait of Honour is the world-famous Swedish choreographer and director Mats Ek (born 1945). He grew up in an artistic family with two parents who were both well-known figures in theatre and dance. It is therefore not surprising that Mats Ek has swung between the worlds of theatre and dance. He has, however, achieved his greatest successes as a choreographer. The Cullberg Ballet and Mats Ek are now drawing in audiences all over the world. His interpretations of classics such as Giselle, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty make regular appearances on international dance stages. Most recently, Mats Ek created a masterpiece in the ballet Juliet and Romeo (2013), which has already taken on the status of a classic. 

Lesley Leslie-Spinks (born 1946) is one of Sweden’s best-known performing arts photographers. She was born and raised in Canada, but came to Europe in 1968 in the company of her then husband, dancer Jeremy Leslie-Spinks. She began photographing dance and quickly developed a special ability to capture the perfect moment. Lesley Leslie-Spinks has been following Mats Ek and the Cullberg Ballet since 1976, but has also worked as a performing arts photographer for Stockholms Stadsteater and others. For Lesley Leslie-Spinks, working with the camera has been a way to explore and understand the world as perceived through dance. At the same time, she has become part of a tradition that began in Sweden in the 1950s, which raises performing arts photography from documentation to its own art form, on a par with the finest in visual art.

Lesley Leslie-Spinks has never been a portraitist in the conventional sense, although in her capacity as performing arts photographer, she has documented many different sides of human nature. Like all photographers, she has attempted to capture the moment and, in the portrait of Mats Ek, the encounter between her and her model appears to have a truth about it. The master choreographer has a soulful and meditative look. It has become a visionary portrait of the artist. In the pupil, we see not only a window, but the photographer herself. A portrait of two artists who have closely followed each other for almost 40 years.

Caption: Mats Ek by Lesley Leslie-Spinks

© Lesley Leslie-Spinks, Mats Ek, choreographer and director. 

The National Portrait Gallery at Gripsholm Castle, the world’s oldest national portrait gallery, was founded in 1822 and is managed by Nationalmuseum.

A number of works are added to the collection each year, including an annual Portrait of Honour, donated by Gripsholmsföreningen, depicting a distinguished Swedish citizen


Art Library and Museum Archives,
Holmamiralens väg 2,
Skeppsholmen, Stockholm 

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