Help save Joshua Reynolds’ Portrait of Omai

The Portrait of Omai (c1776) by Joshua Reynolds has had a temporary export bar placed on it by the UK government and is at risk of leaving the country forever. Join with us in our efforts to help the National Portrait Gallery acquire the portrait through a donation.

Image of the portrait of Omai (Mai), d. 1779, By Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1776 Image of the portrait of Omai (Mai), d. 1779, By Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1776

Your donation will help acquire the Portrait of Omai for the national collection, so that it can be shared with everyone forever

We’ve been working with the National Portrait Gallery to generate support, and, thanks to many generous trusts, foundations and individuals, together we’ve already raised almost half the £50 million needed to secure this work by 10 March 2023.

If successful, the National Portrait Gallery will be able to tell the story of Mai, one of the earliest Polynesian travellers to Europe, by sharing the portrait with visitors across the UK. If you’re passionate about supporting our public collections, please join us today.

“This acquisition is amongst the most important we, as a nation, could ever make, and will be remembered for generations to come.”

Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery

This hugely significant work depicts the young Polynesian man Mai, or Omai, as he was also called in Britain, who arrived in England with Captain Cook in 1774. Touring London and beyond, Mai caused a sensation in Georgian high society before departing for Polynesia in 1776.

Widely regarded as the finest portrait by one of Britain’s greatest artists, this painting holds a pivotal place in global art history. The work has always been in private ownership and has not been on public display in the UK for over a decade. There is now a unique opportunity to secure this masterpiece for the National Portrait Gallery, so that it can be shared with the public forever.

How your donation will help

Art Fund and National Portrait Gallery members feel passionately about supporting the UK’s public collections, and it is the collective power of our supporters that has enabled us to act throughout our history.

We’ve been working closely with the National Portrait Gallery to raise funds to secure the portrait, and Art Fund has awarded an exceptional grant of £2.5 million. And, with thanks to trusts, foundations and individuals, together we’ve already raised almost half the £50 million needed. There remains a very ambitious challenge, but this is a unique chance to bring a painting of outstanding international significance into public ownership.

If you would like to help save the Portrait of Omai, so that it can be shared with everyone forever, please consider donating. Any donation, of any size, will make a difference and help to galvanise further support.

If you would like to discuss making a contribution of £10,000 or more, please contact Scarlett Millar in Art Fund’s Development team on development@artfund.org or call 020 7225 4843.

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