BP Portrait Award

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Gallus Gallus with Still Life and Presidents by Stuart Pearson Wright winner in 2001

The BP Portrait Award is an annual portraiture competition held at the National Portrait Gallery in London, England. It is the successor to the John Player Portrait Award.

It's reputedly one of the most prestigious art competitions for contemporary art[1][2][3] and the most important portrait prize in the world.[4][5][6][7] The Daily Mail defined it as "the portraiture Oscars".[8]


British Petroleum took over sponsorship of the competition in 1989 from John Player & Sons, a tobacco company, and has sponsored it since. The presence of both sponsors has triggered protests, with the group Art Not Oil (part of the international Rising Tide network) being responsible for most of those against BP.[citation needed]

The exhibition opens in June each year and runs until September. First prize is typically £30,000. In the early years of the century, the prize went up from £5,000, and its catchment area was gradually extended from residents of the UK and is now unrestricted.

In 2012 the competition received 2,187 entries from 74 countries (including 1,500 from the UK)[9] of which 55 paintings were selected to be exhibited.


Selected works[edit]

It has become a BP Portrait Awards convention that a single work is selected to be used prominently on that year's posters and other publicity materials, and for the cover of the year's exhibition catalogue. Recent "showcase" portraits include:

  • 2005 – "Portrait of Chantal Menard", by Sean Cheetham
  • 2006 – "Matthew", by Ben Jamie
  • 2007 – "Winter Portrait", by Ingolv Helland
  • 2008 – "Konjit" by Maryam Foroozanfar
  • 2009 (In Scotland) – "On Assi Ghat", by Edward Sutcliffe
  • 2009 – "Georgie", by Mary Jane Ansell
  • 2010 – "Blue Coco", by Shaun Downey
  • 2011 – "Geneva", by Ilaria Rosselli del Turco

BP Visitor Choice[edit]

Each year, the BP Visitor Choice competition offers visitors to the highly popular BP Portrait Award exhibition the opportunity to vote for their favourite portrait in the exhibition.

  • 2006 – Vanessa Garwood
  • 2007 – cz: Hynek Martinec
  • 2008 – José Luis Corella
  • 2009 – José Luis Corella
  • 2010 – cz: Michal Ožibko
  • 2011 – Jan Mikulka
  • 2012 – Colin Davidson


External links[edit]