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 29th year of sponsorship by BP
The BP Portrait Award
Promoting the very best in contemporary portrait painting, the BP Portrait Award is the unmissable highlight of the annual arts calendar. Over the years it has attracted over 40,000 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 2018 the total prize money is increasing to £74,000 – up by £13,000. This will make the first prize worth £35,000 – one of the largest for any global arts competition. The second prize is £12,000, the third prize £10,000, the Young Artist's Award £9,000 and the Travel Award £8,000.
In 2017 the first prize went to Suffolk-based artist, Benjamin Sullivan for Breech! a portrait of his wife Virginia breastfeeding their eight-month old daughter.
Sullivan has been selected a record thirteen times for the BP Portrait Award exhibition and was awarded third prize for his portrait of the poet Hugo Williams in 2016. Sullivan's paintings often show family members reflecting his belief that, 'the emotional connection between sitter and artist is at the root of all successful portraits.' The judges were struck by the tenderness and intimacy of the composition which aims to convey the power of love and the bond between mother and child.
The second prize went to French painter and illustrator, Thomas Ehretsmann, for Double Portrait, depicting his pregnant wife Caroline.
The third prize went to Antony Williams for Emma, his portrait of model turned friend, Emma Bruce which was completed in his studio in Chertsey.
Double Portrait by Thomas Ehretsmann © Thomas Ehretsmann; Breech! by Benjamin Sullivan © Benjamin Sullivan; Emma by Antony Williams © Anthony Williams
The BP Portrait Award 2017 received 2,580 entries from 87 countries. Judged anonymously, 53 portraits were selected for the free exhibition which ran at the National Portrait Gallery in London from 22 June to 24 September 2017.
The exhibition is currently on tour at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh until 11 March, after which it can be viewed at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens from 24 March to 10 June.
The BP Young Artist Award
The BP Young Artist Award for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30, went to 26 year old New Zealand artist Henry Christian-Slane for Gabi, a portrait of his partner Gabi Lardies.
The BP Travel Award
The BP Travel Award 2017 an annual prize to enable artists to work in a different environment on a project related to portraiture, went to Casper White. He proposes to create works about music fans in clubs and concert venues in Berlin and Mallorca, representing an often youth-related subculture that is not traditionally recorded in portrait paintings. This work will be displayed in the BP Portrait Award 2018 exhibition.
The BP Travel Award 2016 was won by Lithuanian artist Laura Guoke. She travelled to refugee camps in Ritsona Greece where she made sketches, took photographs and filmed in order to create large-format portraits of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria and the volunteers helping them. Her aim is to show migrants as people with names, faces and individual stories. The resulting work is on display in this year's exhibition.
BP Portrait Award: Next Generation
BP Portrait Award: Next Generation is an exciting project offering free opportunities for 14-21 year olds to engage creatively with painted portraiture through the BP Portrait Award. For the ninth year, young people will be able to connect with past BP Portrait Award-winning artists, meet other young people interested in portraiture and create their own portraits through a series of programmes including Taster Sessions, Drop-in Drawing, three-day Summer Schools, the fifth after-hours Young People's Private View, an onsite display showcasing the project, and youth-generated digital content. BP Portrait Award: Next Generation has engaged over 3000 young people in London and regionally.