1. Home
  2. Community
  3. Connecting through arts and culture
  4. BP and the National Portrait Gallery

BP and the National Portrait Gallery

BP is the most enduring corporate supporter of the National Portrait Gallery and 2019 is a very special year. It marks the 30th year of BP's sponsorship of the Gallery's annual BP Portrait Award – the world's most prestigious competition of its kind aimed at encouraging artists to develop portraiture in their work

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. In 2016 we 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.


The total prize money increased to £74,000 in 2018. This makes the first prize worth £35,000 – one of the largest for any global arts competition. The winner also receives, at the Gallery's discretion, a commission worth £7,000 (agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist). The second prize winner receives £12,000 and a third prize of £10,000 is also awarded. The BP Young Artist Award, with a prize of £9,000 goes to one selected artist aged between 18 and 30. The BP Travel Award, which allows an artist to experience working in a different environment on a project related to portraiture, is £8,000.


BP Portrait Award 2019 shortlist  

In 2019 the four artists in the running for first prize are Emma Hopkins with her portrait of her friend Sophie along with her pet dog Carla: Sophie and Carla; Massimiliano Pironti with Quo Vardis? showing the artist's 95 year old grandmother Vincenza Pesoli in her kitchen; Carl-Martin Sandvold and his self-portrait, The Crown, and Charlie Schaffer with his portrait of his close friend, Imara in her Winter Coat.

This is the first time any of the artists have been shortlisted for the first prize in the BP Portrait Award and is the first time Emma Hopkins, Carl-Martin Sandvold and Charlie Schaffer have entered the competition. Massimiliano Pironti was selected in 2018 where he exhibited a painting of a fellow dancer.


The prize winners will be announced on the evening of Monday 10 June 2019.

Sophie and Carla © Emma Hopkins; Quo Vardis? © Massimiliano Pironti; The Crown © Carl-Martin Sandvold; Imara in her Winter Coat © Charlie Schaffer

The BP Portrait Award 2019 received 2,538 entries from 84 countries. Judged anonymously, 44 portraits were then selected for the free exhibition which will run at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from Thursday 13 June to Sunday 20 October 2019. After that the exhibition moves to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh from 7 December 2019 to 22 March 2020, and Ulster Museum, Belfast from March to June 2020.

BP Portrait Award 2018

In 2018 the prestigious first prize went to London-based artist, Miriam Escofet for An Angel at my Table, a portrait of her mother drinking tea.


The judges were particularly struck by the constraint and intimacy of Escofet's composition, evoking both the inner stillness of her subject and the idea of the Universal Mother. Commenting on the portrait, Rosie Millard, Award judge, journalist and broadcaster, commented, 'The crisp tablecloth and china are rendered so beautifully – and then you see that one of the plates and a winged sculpture on the table appear to be moving which adds a surreal quality to the portrait. It is also a very sensitive depiction of an elderly sitter.'


Escofet, who was born in Barcelona and moved to the UK in 1979 when she was twelve, has been previously selected four times for the BP Portrait Award exhibition. Actress, model and entrepreneur Lily Cole presented Escofet with the first prize of £35,000.


The second prize of £12,000 went to American painter, Felicia Forte, for Time Traveller, Matthew Napping depicting her boyfriend Matthew asleep in bed. The judges were particularly impressed by Forte's bold use of colour, creating a painting that exudes atmosphere while also being distinctly intimate and personal.


The third prize of £10,000 went to Chinese artist Zhu Tongyao for Simone, a portrait of his neighbours' child from his time staying in Florence. The judges appreciated how the work combined the tradition of Renaissance portraiture with the sitter's modern style which together conveyed a compelling portrayal of a youth on the cusp of adulthood.

The BP Young Artist Award

The BP Young Artist Award of £9,000 for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30 was won by 28 year old Suffolk based artist Ania Hobson for A Portrait of two Female Painters, a portrait of the artist with her sister-in-law. The judges liked the handling of paint and directness in this work, capturing an interesting air of mystery around the relationship of the two young women.


The BP Travel Award 2018

Robert Seidel won the BP Travel Award 2018 for his proposal to travel along the route of the river Danube by train, boat and bike to connect with people and make portraits in the regions through which the river passes. The resulting work will be displayed alongside the BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition. 


The BP Travel Award 2017

The BP Travel Award 2017 was won by Casper White for his proposal 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. His work is displayed in the BP Portrait Award 2018 on view at Winchester Discovery Centre until 26 June 2019.


BP Portrait Award: Next Generation

This exciting project offers free opportunities for young people to learn from BP Portrait Award artists and develop their creative skills around portraiture. For the tenth year, young people will take inspiration from the exhibition and create their own portraits, working from life. The Gallery offers one and three day art workshops culminating in the Young People’s Private View – an after-hours event exclusively for young people to meet and enjoy the exhibition, listen to DJs and take part in art workshops. The event is co-curated and hosted by the Gallery’s Youth Forum. 


BP Portrait Award: Next Generation also features a Gallery display showcasing the portraits created by talented young people from the previous year’s project together with a film highlighting the project. The project also includes regional art workshops for young people to meet and work with BP Portrait Award artists. BP Portrait Award: Next Generation has so far engaged over 3,700 young people in art projects.