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 – up by £13,000. This makes 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 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 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.
Robert Seidel won the BP Travel Award 2018, an annual prize to enable artists to work in a different environment on a project related to portraiture. He intends to travel along the route of the river Danube by train, boat and bike to meet people and make portraits in the regions through which the river passes. This work will be displayed in the BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition.
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 current exhibition.
The BP Portrait Award 2018 received 2,667 entries from 88 countries. Judged anonymously, 48 portraits were selected for the free exhibition which runs at the National Portrait Gallery in London from 14 June to 23 September 2018.
The exhibition then tours to Wolverhampton Art Gallery (13 October to 2 December 2018), Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (15 December 2018 to 10 March 2019) and Winchester Discovery Centre (March to June 2019).
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. Since 2011 the BP Portrait Award: Next Generation has engaged over 3000 young people in London and regionally.