BP and the National Portrait Gallery

BP is the most enduring corporate supporter of the National Portrait Gallery. Indeed, the Gallery's annual BP Portrait Award, the world's most prestigious competition of its kind and aimed at encouraging artists to develop portraiture in their work, is now in its 28th year of sponsorship by BP

The BP Portrait Award

Promoting the very best in contemporary portrait painting, the BP Portrait Award offers total prize money of £61,000 and is the unmissable highlight of the annual arts calendar. Over the years it has attracted over 35,300 entries from more than 100 countries, launched the careers of many highly successful portrait artists and been seen for free by over 6 million people. We recently announced a further renewal of our partnership with the National Portrait Gallery until 2022 – ensuring that many more people will have access to the best of the UK's culture well in to the future.

In 2016, Cambridgeshire-based artist Clara Drummond was the winner of the £30,000 first prize – one of the largest for any global arts competitions – for Girl in a Liberty Dress, a striking portrait of her friend and fellow artist, Kirsty Buchanan. 

When Kirsty came to sit for Clara for this portrait, she would wear a vintage Liberty dress inspired by the fact that both artists were working on an exhibition at the time with the William Morris Society Archive. The judges were impressed by the portrait's skilful execution and its subtle and enigmatic qualities.

The second prize of £10,000 went to Chinese artist, Bo Wang for Silence, a portrait depicting his grandmother lying on her hospital bed a month before she died while she was in the terminal stages of cancer and losing her ability to speak.

The third prize of £8,000 went to Grimsby-born artist Benjamin Sullivan for Hugo, a portrait of the poet Hugo Williams which was painted in the study of the poet's Islington home.

The BP Portrait Award 2016 received 2,557 entries from 80 countries. Judged anonymously, 53 portraits were selected for the free exhibition which ran at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2016, where it was seen by over 187,000 visitors.

The exhibition is at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until 26 March. Then, for the first time, it will feature at Firstsite, Colchester where the exhibition will run from 7 April to 18 June.

The BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition featured at the National Portrait Gallery from 22 June to 24 September. After that it moved to Exeter City Art Gallery (4 October to 4 December), Scottish National Portrait Gallery and then Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

Girl in a Liberty Dress by Clara Drummond © Clara Drummond, Silence by Bo Wang © Bo Wang, Hugo by Benjamin Sullivan © Benjamin Sullivan

The BP Young Artist Award

The BP Young Artist Award of £7,000, for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30, went to British artist Jamie Coreth for Dad Sculpting Me. The portrait of his sculptor father, Mark Coreth, was painted entirely from life over the course of a month in his sculpture studio.

The BP Travel Award 

The BP Travel Award of £6,000, an annual prize to enable artists to work in a different environment on a project related to portraiture, went to Lithuanian artist Laura Guoke. Having travelled to one of the refugee camps in Athens in November 2016, she will use sketches, photographs and filmed material to create large-format portraits of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria as well as the volunteers helping them. Her work will be displayed in the BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition.

The work of BP Travel Award 2015 winner Magali Cazo, is on display in this year's exhibition. She won for her proposal to travel to a community of bronze-smelters in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkino Faso, West Africa. There she lived with and represented the artists, apprentices and labourers whose lives revolve around the foundry. Magali was inspired by the vivid colours of the landscape, the architecture and the clothes on a previous visit to Bobo-Dioulasso and has used the sketches made on that trip to develop a series of portraits on wood.

BP Portrait Award: Next Generation

BP Portrait Award: Next Generation is an exciting project, now in its seventh year, creating free opportunities for 14-21 year olds to engage with portraiture through Taster Sessions, three-day Summer Schools, an exhibition private view exclusively for young people, an on-site display showcasing the project, and youth-generated digital content including video interviews with artists and participants. Encouraging young artists of the future, BP Portrait Award: Next Generation links them with other young people interested in portraiture as well as past BP Portrait Award winning artists.

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