Sunday, December 11, 2011

Call for Entries: BP Portrait Award 2012

Flora MacGregor by Jo Fraser, 2011
© Jo Fraser
The National Portrait Gallery has published the Call for Entries for the BP Portrait Award 2012 - which has a first prize of £25,000.

Before I start, I'd just like to highlight that at least one artist has read this post in the past, then entered a portrait and won a prize.  It was very pleasant surprise to find this out!

As a result I now write this post every year expecting that one of you reading this is going to win a prize!

This year it could be you!
The Portrait Award, now in its thirty-third year at the National Portrait Gallery and twenty-third year of sponsorship by BP, is an annual competition aimed at encouraging artists to focus upon and develop portraiture in their work.
The closing date for this very prestigious competition is Monday 13th February 2012 

You can find out who can enter and how to enter below.

This post provides:
  • an overview of the requirements for all those who would like to enter a portrait
  • links to past exhibitions and reviews on this blog
All quotations are from the BP Portrait Award website.


The BP Portrait Award 2012 Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery will be open to the public from 21 June – Sunday 23 September 2012. 

All exhibiting artists will be invited to the Private View on the evening of Wednesday 20 June 2012.
Last year 2,372 artists submitted their work and the exhibition, which featured fifty-five paintings, was seen by over 341,000 people at the National Portrait Gallery.
This compares to 2009 figures of: over 2,000 artists, 58 paintings selected and seen by over 280,000 people at the National Portrait Gallery. 

The exhibition will then tour to two other locations in the UK in 2012-2013 (dates and venues to be announced). 


The entire competition is judged, on an equal and anonymous basis, from original paintingsThere is no segregated judging by region or country.

The awards are as follows:
  • the first prize is a cash award of £25,000.  Plus, at the judges' discretion, a commission worth £4,000, can be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist.
  • two runner-up prizes (2nd Prize £8,000; 3rd prize £6,000)
  • the BP Young Artist Award of £5,000 for entrants under the age of 30 on the 1st January 2012.  The purpose of this award is to continue the competition's role in showcasing young artistic talent.
  • BP Travel Award 2012: £5,000.
Those short-listed for prizes MUST attend the Awards Ceremony and dinner on the evening of Tuesday 19 June 2012 and are also expected to attend the Press View on the morning of Wednesday 20 June 2012.  (That's when I get to meet them!)

Who can enter

Basically you should study the entry requirements if you are over 18, live anywhere in the world, can paint a portrait of a human figure and enjoy portraiture! 

I've said it before and it's worth saying again.  Winners of this competition tend to enjoy very significant benefits to their careers after winning the BP Portrait Award. 

In fact, just to be selected for the exhibition is a very real and very significant achievement in itself.  Many artists try and few are chosen - about 2%.  Artists list it proudly on their CVs because this is a very major exhibition in a major national portrait gallery in the middle of London.  

After all when else do you get the chance to show your work to nearly 350,000 people?  (It's likely that it will be a lot more this year as 2012 sees the Olympics in London)

Many artists who have had their work exhibited have also gained commissions as a result of the considerable interest in the Portrait Award and the resulting exhibition.

BP Portrait Prize: The competition is open to all artists living anywhere in the world who are aged 18 and over on 1st January 2012. This is in recognition of the outstanding and innovative work currently being produced by artists of all ages working in portraiture.

BP Young Artists Award: All entrants from the 18-30 age group will automatically be considered for both the BP Young Artist Award and the BP Portrait Award, but an individual cannot win both.  Artists must be 30 years of age or under on 1 January 2012 to be eligible for the BP Young Artist Award.

BP Travel Award: All 2012 exhibitors will be eligible to submit a proposal for the BP Travel Award. 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 portraiture which will then be shown as part of the BP Portrait Award 2013 exhibition and tour in 2012-13. 

How to Enter


Last things first - the deadline for your entry forms and entry fees being returned to the National Portrait Gallery is Monday 13 February 2012.

Entry forms and fees

You'll only find out where and when to submit your work if you complete the registration and send the entry fee.
All entry forms for the BP Portrait Award 2012 
  • need to be registered online
  • OR returned to: BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE
You will find out whether or not your work has been selected for exhibition by Wednesday 28 March 2012. 

All correspondence with artists will be via email - and it's up to you to check your email!

The Rules

There is nothing more frustrating than to create a work for a competition and then to realise that it isn't eligible or you can't present it in the right way at the right time!

Note in particular that works can be disqualified - even if selected for exhibition - if they have not adhered to the rules!  I note in italics the changes I've spotted - I suggest you read my notes!

These are The Rules.  There's a lot of them and they're much easier to read on the website this year compared to previous years!  (They are available in tiny print as part of the entry form pdf file)

The rules - about YOU!

In brief:
  • the competition is open to all those aged over 18 on 1.1.12.
  • employees of the National Portrait Gallery, BP, and their agents, and previous first prize-winners of the Portrait Award since 1980 are NOT eligible to enter
The rules about YOUR PORTRAIT

Pay particular attention to these.  I think I detect more careful scrutiny and a tightening of the application of the rules.  Some are being spelt out more clearly - and presumably one must assume they have been ignored in the past!

Each artist is limited one entry per artist.
The work entered
  • must be recent ie it MUST have been completed after 1 January 2011 
    • you are asked to confirm the start date.  This needs to pre-date the completion date (latter is new this year and I suspect represents an area where entries have been caught out in the past)
    • must NOT be a work previously submitted for consideration.   I'm guessing some artists have been reckoning on the jury changing every year.  The reality is (1) records are kept of who enters what (2) some jurors are always on the jury
  • Media and Size:
    • MUST be predominantly painted in oil, tempera or acrylic (No watercolours, works on paper or pastels will be considered - although I am fighting the battle for pastels to be admitted at some point!)
    • MUST be on a stretcher or board, preferably framed and unglazed
    • MUST be bigger than 25 x 20cm (10” x 8”) unframed. Smaller works will not be considered.
    • MUST be smaller than 244 x 244cm (96" x 96") framed (including the frame).  The size limit was presumably generated by one of the shortlisted works in 2011
  • SHOULD be a painting based on a sitting or study from life.  You need to indicate on the form whether or not you have met the sitter.
  • AND the human figure MUST predominate.
  • MUST be available for the period of the exhibition.
The rules - submission summary
  • Entry forms and registration fees must be submitted to the NPG by 13 February 2012
  • All entrants will be notified if their work is selected (or not) for exhibition by Wednesday 28 March 2012
  • There are lots of very detailed requirements as to submission and collection of the actual painting - I've summarised some of these but there is more and my advice is to read it all very carefully!
  • All artists will need to insure their works
  • International artists should also pay particular attention to their financial liabilities (eg import duties etc) and what they are required to do.
  • The Gallery is not responsible for wrapping works or providing wrapping materials to return works - unless agreed and a fee paid
  • All correspondence with artists will be via email!
  • The artist is responsible for checking their email to see whether your artwork has been selected or rejected.
  • The National Portrait Gallery will not arrange courier collections or post works on behalf of the artist.
  • There are detailed conditions relating to copyright and publication which all entrants should read.
Delivery Dates

Paintings delivered to the National Portrait Gallery will NOT be accepted.  The Gallery uses a collection point which is NOT the gallery.

Paintings need to be delivered to a designated collection points on the specific dates listed on the website - at the time specified

Note in particular the very important points in the detailed rules about packaging ie all hand deliveries to collection points have to be unpackaged and packing materials will not be retained by the Gallery.

Regional Collection Points:  Portraits can be picked up in
  • Belfast Wed 7 – Fri 9 March 2012 10.00–16.00
  • Bristol Wed 7 – Fri 9 March 2012 10.00–16.00
  • Coatbridge, near Glasgow Wed 7 – Fri 9 March 2012 10.00–18.00
  • Leeds Wed 7 – Fri 9 March 2012 12.00–17.00
  • London:  For works arriving by post or courier: Mon 5 March –Thurs 15 March 2012, 09.00–17.00 (excluding weekends) 
Delivery Dates - Hand delivery in person to London Collection Point
For works delivered in person, a Gallery representative will provide a receipt on delivery of the work. Dates for deliveries are

  • Mon 12 & Tues 13 March 2012 09.00–17.00 
  • Wed 14 & Thurs 15 March 2012 09.00–20.00 (after which no more entries will be accepted)
  • No entries will be accepted at the London collection point after 20.00 on Thursday 15 March 2012. 
International Artists: There are a number of detailed rules for submissions by international artists. Essentially you are wholly responsible for customs and any duties payable and all costs of shipping, unpacking and packing materials. 

Note also a new rule
The National Portrait Gallery reserves the right to dispose of or destroy any work not collected after one month of the latest date for collection of unexhibited works or exhibited works.
Return of work not selected: All unselected works must be collected from the address to which they were originally delivered on the dates listed in the rules, during the times specified. Works cannot be returned to a different collection point. Works not collected from the following collection points by the dates specified will be charged for at the carrier's usual storage rates.

So you want to know more about the BP Portrait Award ?

For those wanting to find out more about artists who have won this award in the past, my information site Portraiture - Resources for Artists now includes a module which provides a complete listing of all the BP Portrait Award winners - then and now.

This section of the website lists:
  • links to the image which won the first prize in the BP Portrait Awards (if available - for some reason the NPG website seems to failed to archive some of the exhibitions and winners) and
  • the winning artist's current website (if available).You can also find out more about past competitions in my posts from previous years detailed below
Don't forget to let me know if your entry gets selected!

More about the BP Portrait Award 2011

These are my posts about the 2011 BP Portrait Award

Bookmark this blog if you want to see future blog posts about the BP Portrait Award 

In the future I will publish:
These are all posts for earlier exhibitions on Making A Mark. You can find all posts on Portraiture - Resources for Artists

BP Portrait Award 2009

BP Portrait Award 2008 and 2007



  1. Thank you for this very exhaustive post.
    I have recently been sent this link

    and I am seeing the call for entry popping up everywhere recently.
    What I wonder is if the NPG is also making changes to their selection process. It seems to me that they are encouraging entries from all over the world without a pre-screening ( as the Mall Galleries do) and without substantial changes to the show itself.
    In a few years the entries have been growing exponentially while the works selected have stayed the same. Which means that if in 2005 the chances of getting in for an artist were 53/1081, about 1 every 20 entries, they were 55/2372, so less than 1 in about 40 works is ever chosen.
    This numbers are disheartening for artists, wouldn't it be great if the gallery would add a further room to the show and guarantee a fairer chance at being selected in return for the hefty fee and shipping expenses they impose particularly for foreign artists ?

  2. Thanks for all this Katherine, I am considering it. Besides the entry fee I’d love to know the other costs. They do not state who the courier is or much it will cost to submit regionally. Anyone knows how much it was last year?

  3. Thanks Ilaria - good point.

    I'm guessing this exhibition, like others, may well move to digital submission in order to reduce shipping costs for those that get eliminated through a first screening.

    Looking at it from an alternative perspective is that the wider the entry and the larger the number of entries the greater the competition and the more prestigious the prize.

    Also - the current odds are that the vast majority of submissions will not be selected.

    Is there much a difference between 2% and 1%?

  4. Sophie - I've been highlighting the issue of shipping and courier costs recently in this post Review of Specialist Art Couriers in the UK.

    It's beyond me quite why firms which provide specialist courier services for artwork on behalf of artists are quite so reluctant to reveal prices. They need to compete on quality of service as well as price - and they'll get a lot less custom if they are unclear about prices!

    I'll see if I can find out more about the shipping costs

  5. Thanks Kath, yes I’ve seen the post on couriers. You found some interesting (strange?) things about their lack of websites and prices. I’ve used Art Moves of Chelsea a lot this past year and am very happy with them but they are not the chosen courier of the BP so all I can do is hope that after submitting to the BP the courier fee is reasonable....since there is no info on who the courier will be and how much they’ll charge! But I suppose in the great scheme of things it is not that important. Just thought that info should have been provided...

  6. Hello Katherine!Do you no if I can enter with a colored pencil portrait? No on paper,my portrait are on Ampersand pastelbord or claybord. ''Anastasia'' is one of them for example.

  7. Maria - read the post and the rules - they clearly state that all portraits MUST be predominantly painted in oil, tempera or acrylic

    Thus no portraits painted in watercolours, works on paper or pastels will be considered. I've tried fighting the battle for pastels to be admitted given their illustrious history as a portrait medium - and the fact the NPG displays them regularly in exhibitions.

    The problem is the support ie paper becomes very fragile over time. However according to the rules, media used on surfaces other than paper still can't be submitted as entries - consequently they will automatically ruled as ineligible

  8. Thank you Katherine.Just because the paper is not durable, I chose to paint on pastelbords which are wooden and are capable of varnish. Maybe in the future to include this technique and I join with my colored pencils.

  9. Maria - it's certainly not up to me.

    They might one day relax the rules - but with an ever increasing number of entries for the rules as they are (ie oils, acrylics and tempera only) I'm not optimistic that it will be soon.

    I expect the number of entries will top 2,500 this year and that less than 60 will be selected for exhibition.

  10. It's a shame that they choose London as the central England collection point, as I wouldn't want to drive into London, and would feel vunerable and awkward going on my own on public transport carrying a large painting. I assume we can arrange for couriers to pickup from our home, and we can ask for a quote so that we can calculate total entry costs before applying?
    It also mentions about delivering by post, but I can't think how we could do that as it has to be unpacked also?

  11. Debra - Can you get it to one of the regional collection points?

    You should also be able to find a courier who will unpack and deliver and then repack and send back to you. Have you seen my recent post about art couriers?

  12. Hi - thanks for the info! After reading this blog, I have decided to enter a painting. It is not quite clear to me about the dates of submissions. I understand that the entry form and fee is due by Feb 13. Don't they want a jpeg at all??? I am still working on the painting and would love to have more time, so it would be great to have another week or two to work on it. I understand that if I am sending it to London, they would need it by March 15 at the latest.

    I emailed them but have still not received a response.
    Does it HAVE to be framed? I am using a contemporary 'gallery wrap' canvas. I noticed one of the paintings in the exhibition also had a canvas like this. Would that minimize my chances of being chosen? Thanks!

  13. All I can advise you to do is to sit down and read very slowly through all the terms and conditions. You need to be happy that you can satisfy them all - and they have provided all the information you need. This post is just a summary of the key bits of information.

    Yes - they really do want the painting delivered to them and not a jpeg

    Yes - they would prefer for it to be framed.

  14. If a painting in acrylic is on compressed board (very thick card) and mounted on a wooden board and framed, is this acceptable?

  15. acrylic is fine as a medium

    the painting "MUST be on a stretcher or board, preferably framed and unglazed."


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