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 which had sponsored it from its inception in 1980, 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 1993, Tom Hallifax was used to advertise the awards.[9]

In 2012 the competition received 2,187 entries from 74 countries (including 1,500 from the UK)[10] of which 55 paintings were selected to be exhibited.


John Player Portrait Award[edit]

BP Portrait Award[edit]

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:

  • 2004 – "Caroline", by James E Crowther
  • 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.


  1. ^ "Cent Magazine". Cent Magazine. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "National Portrait Gallery in London". xamou art. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  3. ^ "Fine Art Connoisseur - The Best In Contemporary Portraiture At London's National Portrait Gallery". Fine Art Connoisseur. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "Royal Society of Portrait Painters". Therp.co.uk. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "BP and National Portrait Gallery". Arts & Business. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "The Journal - Familial feel at this year's BP Portrait Award Exhibition". Journal-online.co.uk. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Ignacio Villarreal. "World's most innovative new portraits go on display in Wolverhampton". Artdaily.com. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Field, Marcus (15 June 2013). "JK Rowling's three eggs for breakfast and why Prince Harry isn't ginger... Britain's top portrait painters reveal the secrets of their sitters". Mail Online (London). Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "Fineart". Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "Naked 'Auntie' wins £25,000 art prize". The Telegraph (London). 19 June 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Maev Kennedy (19 June 2012). "US artist wins £25,000 BP Portrait prize with painting of 'Auntie'". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Michael Glover (18 June 2013). "Art review: The BP Portrait Award 2013 reveals our endless fascination with self-scrutiny and the human face". The Independent (London). Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  13. ^ "Homeless man painting wins BP Portrait Award". BBC News. 24 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 

External links[edit]