Press Release: BP Portrait Award 2016 call for entries now open

Tuesday 1 December 2015

The National Portrait Gallery invites entries for the BP Portrait Award. To enter, artists are invited to upload a photograph of their finished painting to the BP Portrait Award website, which will be considered by the judges in the first round of the competition. The entrants who are successful in this round will then be invited to hand-deliver or courier their work to a venue in London for the second round of judging and final exhibition selection.

Artists can enter at between now and Tuesday 2 February 2016. Full competition rules and guidance for digital submission can be found online. The BP Portrait Award 2016 exhibition will run at the National Portrait Gallery from Thursday 23 June to Monday 18 September 2016.

The prize winners and exhibition will be selected by a judging panel chaired by Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery. The full panel will include Christopher Baker, Director, Scottish National Portrait Gallery; Alan Hollinghurst, Writer; Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery; Jenny Saville, Artist and Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts & Culture, BP.

2016 will mark the BP Portrait Award’s 37th year at the National Portrait Gallery and 27th year of sponsorship by BP. This highly successful annual event is aimed at encouraging artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work. The increasingly popular competition has a huge international reach, with the BP Portrait Award 2015 receiving a record 2,748 entries. The exhibition, which featured 55 paintings, was seen by nearly 330,000 people at the National Portrait Gallery.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Last year we received our highest number of entries from a record 92 countries across the world. This was the first year of digital submission of works for judging the BP Portrait Award andI very much look forward to building on this achievement in 2016. I would also like to thank BP for their continuing support.’

Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP, says: ‘I look forward to seeing how artists from around the world continue to be encouraged to submit their work digitally.  Creation of this platform attracts artists from around the world, enabling far greater international representation in this important global competition.’

The BP Portrait Award, one of the most important platforms for portrait painters, has a first prize of £30,000, making it one of the largest for any global arts competition. The winner also receives, at the Gallery’s discretion, a commission worth £5,000 (agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist). The second prize winner receives £10,000 and a third prize of £8,000 is also awarded. The BP Young Artist Award, with a prize of £7,000, goes to one selected artist aged between 18 and 30.

All 2016 exhibitors will be eligible to submit a proposal for the BP Travel Award 2016. The aim of the award is to provide the opportunity for an artist to experience working in a different environment, in Britain or abroad, on a project related to portraits. The artist chosen as the winner of the travel award will receive £6,000.

The current BP Portrait Award 2015 exhibition is now at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery until 28 February 2016, and will then visit Ulster Museum, Belfast (11 March-12 June 2016).

The first prize was awarded to Israeli artist Matan Ben Cnaan for AnnabelleandGuy. The portrait contemplates the tragic fate of the allegory they represent while depicting them in the blinding sunlight of Israel’s Jezreel Valley. The second prize went to Leicester-based artist Michael Gaskell, 51,for Eliza. His portraitdepicted his niece Eliza, who agreed to sit for him in early 2014 at the age of 14, having first sat for a portrait for her uncle when she was a very small child. The third prize went to Spanish artist Borja Buces Renard, 36,for My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening, a portraitof his mother Paloma and his brother Jaime in the living room of his parents’ house. His father who had been ill for some time passed away a few weeks after the painting was finished. The BP Young Artist Award for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30 was won by New York based artist Eleana Antonaki for J.


Entrants can order a special edition of the exhibition catalogue, featuring all the selected artists, an essay by Ali Smith, and a note of thanks from the Director of the National Portrait Gallery. The special edition is only available to entrants and will not be available through the Gallery shops or online.


BP support for UK Arts & Culture: In the UK, BP is a major supporter of the arts with a programme that spans some 40 years. In that time over 50 million people have engaged and connected with cultural experiences supported by the company.  BP’s investment in long term partnerships with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Opera House, and Tate Britain represent one of the most significant long-term corporate investments in UK arts and culture

  • This international competition is open to everyone aged 18 and over in recognition of the outstanding and innovative work currently being produced by artists of all ages working in portraiture.
  • The best way to register your entry for the BP Portrait Award 2016 is online at   
  •  Full competition rules, collection/delivery points and details of the exhibition tour can be found online at  
  • Closing date for registration: Tuesday 2 February 2016
  • First Prize: A cash award of £30,000, plus, at the judges’ discretion, a commission worth £5,000, to be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist.
    Second Prize: £10,000
    Third Prize: £8,000
    BP Young Artist Award: £7,000
    BP Travel Award 2014: £6,000
    All entrants aged between 18 and 30 will automatically be considered for both the BP Young Artist Award and the BP Portrait Award, but an individual cannot win both.
    The entry fee is £40.

For further Press information and image requests please contact: Neil Evans, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery Tel: 020 7312 2452 (not for publication) Email: [email protected]

To download Press images:

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE. Opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am – 9pm  (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross Recorded information: 020 7312 2463  General information: 020 7306 0055  Website: