Saturday, September 17, 2011

BP Portrait Award 2011: People's Favourite & Statistics

This post covers:
  • the top three portraits in the BP Visitor Choice Competition - as voted for by the people visiting the people visiting the BP Portrait Award 2011 
  • the tour of the BP Portrait Award following the close of the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery at the end of this weekend
  • the BP Portrait Award Statistics relating to both entries and selected artists
BP Visitor Choice Competition

Jakub by Jan Mikulka
(Oil on canvas, 1000 x 700 mm)
© Jan Mikulka
Each year, the BP Visitor Choice competition offers visitors to the BP Portrait Award the opportunity to vote for their favourite portrait in the exhibition.

This year, a record 28,532 votes were cast between 16 June and 4 September 2011 - nearly 10 per cent of all 298,114 people who had visited by close of votes cast their vote.

The public have continued to display their enthusiasm for very realistic "big head" portraits - although in this instance I think they've been very impressed by the skill of the painter.

Jan Mikulka won the BP Visitor Choice with his portrait of his friend Jakub Wagner, whom he has known since childhood.  With the portrait Jan aimed to: ‘capture his sensitive nature at a short distance.’ The portrait also offered the opportunity to experiment with a range of light effects in Jakub’s hair and skin tones.  Jan gained a master’s degree from the Academy of Fine Arts, Prague and now works as a documentary film maker.  He has exhibited his art in exhibitions in the Czech and Slovak Republics.

I have to say I do well understand why people were so very impressed by Jakub by Czech artist.  As I commented in my review of the exhibition
I spent a long time looking at Jakub by Czech artist Jan Mikulka.  Although it's photo-realistic - which I'm not a huge fan of - I was very impressed by his handling of the very subtle and subdued limited tonal range in the large area of the face which is in the shade.  I'd love to know how he works.  If he submits again next year this one will be remembered.
There's no actual prize as such - just the kudos from having won - hence this post aims to amplify that a bit!

This is what the National Portrait Gallery had to say about Jan's portrait
(He) received 2, 280 votes, and caught the public’s imagination for its minutely detailed and skilful rendering of hair and skin tones and effective lighting.National Portrait Gallery
I make that very nearly 10% of all those voting so that's some win!  Apparently Jan's painting was at the top of the list by some distance since voting started, while the competition was close between the next four contenders.  He will undoubtedly now be remembered by selectors if he submits work again.

I also picked out the second favourite in my review - it's a very small painting by Nathan Ford who got 1,610 votes
I'm a big fan of unfinished paintings and consequently rather liked this portrait of Abi executed in a single sitting by Nathan Ford earlier this year.  It's very small but the treatment of the face is absorbing.
Abi by Nathan Ford
oil on canvas, 280 x 200 mm
© Nathan Ford
Nathan Ford took a BA (Honours) degree in fine art at Byam Shaw School of Art. His work has been seen in solo exhibitions in Bath and group exhibitions including those of the Royal Society of British Artists (2001, 2002) and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (1999–2006).  He also won the Winsor and Newton Young Artist of the Year Award in 2001.  He's previously has work included in the BP Portrait Award in 2000 and 2010.

The third favourite was Despertar – Awakening by Manuel Ferrer Perea which got 1,453 votes. He  is a self-taught artist who lives and works in Spain where his paintings have been seen in group exhibitions and competitions. The portrait is of Perea’s daughter, Neus, as she wakes up.  I found it an arresting portrait - the pose makes you look at it, much as young children do when they look at you directly.

Despertar – Awakening by Manuel Ferrer Perea
(oil on canvas, 81 x 61 mm)
© Manuel Ferrer Perea
BP Portrait Award goes on tour

When it closes at the end of Sunday afternoon, the BP Portrait Award 2011 is expected to have been seen by approximately 325, 000 visitors.  That's a 9% increase on the next highest Gallery exhibition figure – also for a BP Portrait Award exhibition – of 298, 000 in 2009.

The prizewinners and selected entries will soon begin a tour to Wolverhampton and Aberdeen.

BP Portrait Award 2011 - Statistics

Here are the overall statistics for the BP Portrait Award. 55 portraits were selected for the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

BP Portrait Award: ENTRIES

This year the prize received 2,372 entries, an increase of 196 on last year.  Of these the UK accounted for 1,644 (69%) and there were 728 international entries (31%)


This is how the selected artists break down by age group and country of origin.  For the fifth year, the competition has been open to all aged 18 or over.

Selected artists by age group
statistics supplied by National Portrait Gallery / chart by Katherine Tyrrell

Since the change to the rules about the age of the artist, nearly 40% are now aged 41 or over.  Young artists aged 30 and under account for just under 20% of the selected artists.

Percentage of selected artists by country of origin on application
statistics supplied by National Portrait Gallery / chart by Katherine Tyrrell

  • the UK provided 70% of selected artists.  
  • Europe provided 91% of selected artists
  • North America continued its strong tradition of providing a presence - with 9% of the selected artists in 2011.
England generated two thirds of selected artists in 2011.  Spain had a very successful year providing 9% of all selected artists.  One can only imagine there had been a bit of marketing somewhere which proved to be very successful!


This is the 32nd year of The Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery.  It aims to encourage artists to focus upon, and develop, the theme of painted portraiture within their work. It's also the 22nd year of its sponsorship by BP.


1 comment:

  1. My favourite was the picture of Abi, thanks for featuring it here, it's great that it's the second favourite. I also really liked the Despertar a haunting piece. It's nice to be with the majority for once...


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