Tuesday, December 04, 2012

BP Portrait Award 2013: Call for Entries

The Call for Entries for the BP Portrait Award 2013 was published this morning by the National Portrait Gallery in London. 

This year the first prize has been increased to £30,000. The Second Prize winner will receive £10,000 and the BP Young Artist Award winner £7,000.

It's a real pleasure to review this Call for Entries each year, not least because in the past at least one artist has read this post in the past, then entered a portrait and won a prize.  This year maybe it will be you!

BP Portrait Award 2013 call for entries
BP Portrait Award 2013 - Call for Entries
The Portrait Award, now in its thirty-fourth year at the National Portrait Gallery and twenty-fourth year of sponsorship by BP, is the most prestigious portrait painting competition in the world. With a first prize of £30,000 the Award is aimed at encouraging artists to focus upon and develop portraiture in their work.
Entry is online and the closing date is Monday 11th February 2013. You can also download a postal entry form from the website.

You can find out who can enter and how to enter below.  
This post provides:
  • reasons to enter this art competition
  • how to get selected
  • an overview of the requirements for all those who would like to enter a portrait
  • links to past exhibitions and reviews on this blog
NOTE: All quotations are from the BP Portrait Award website.

Reasons to enter the BP Portrait Award

From past experience I can think of a number of reasons WHY portrait artists should enter this competition - just to be selected for the exhibition.

The reality: In 2012, 2,187 artists from 75 different counties submitted their work.  The exhibition comprised just 55 paintings.  That's a 2.5% chance of being selected.  (see also: BP Portrait Award 2011: People's Favourite & Statistics)

  • it's a very prestigious and truly international competition - and international artists win prizes! e.g. see Aleah Chapin wins £25,000 BP Portrait Award 2012
  • Just to be selected for the exhibition is a very real and very significant achievement in itself.   Many artists try, but the competition has become very intense and few are chosen. Hence being selected for the exhibition can be very beneficial for an artist's career - because this is an important juried exhibition in a major national portrait gallery in the middle of London. 
  • Where else do you get the chance to show your work to over 250,000 people?  If selected your work will be seen in an exhibition which is visited by an absolutely huge number of people. It's the most popular exhibition held at the NPG every year - which means you get your art in front of a lot of people - and some of them will want to commission portraits.
  • You (and the rest of London) may come face to face with your portrait while riding on the Underground. Your portrait may be chosen to be one of the few used to advertise the exhibition widely across London - or on an enormous banner outside the Gallery!
  • Selected artists have gained commissions from the NPG and others as a result of the considerable interest in the Portrait Award and the resulting exhibition.
  • It's a real leveller - there are no perks for who you are. Even the ex President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters thought long and hard about what to submit - because she really wanted to be selected.  (see this YouTube interview with Daphne Todd in which she talks about the painting she chose for the exhibition - and which won her first prize in 2010)
  • there's a People's Choice Prize for the most popular portrait with the visitors to the exhibition and it's always interesting to see what get's chosen.
  • Winners of this competition tend to enjoy very significant benefits to their careers after winning the BP Portrait Award.
To be honest, the real benefits are really focused on portrait artists.  While anybody can enter, those who are likely to get the maximum benefit from being exhibited are those artists who specialise in portraiture.

However you do need to be organised to make the most of being selected (website licked into shape, artist statement ready and available, a good range of other work ready to be seen; press release at the ready).  I'll be doing another post about how to make the most of being selected for a prestigious art competition.

How to get Selected
To get selected you need to produce good artwork and get noticed.  So how does that happen?
Last year I wrote a post, containing my own observations about what it takes to get selected - see Review: BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2012 (Part 1) and my listing of the factors which matter.

For example, did you know that

  • 22 out of 55 artists = 40% of the selected artists have been selected for BP Portrait Exhibitions in previous years
  • most portraits commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and head and torso, while others are full figure.  Relatively few are the head alone.
You have to be really excellent to be selected and win a prize the first time you enter - but it is possible!

Key Changes in 2013

These are the changes I've spotted which are new to 2013.
  • Increases in prize money for all the Awards
  • No Third Prize in 2013 - however if nobody under 30 is shortlisted then the Young Artist prize will NOT be awarded and the funds will be diverted to a third prize.  
  • NPG will in future focus only on organising one central collection point. They will NOT organise a regional collection from across the UK.  (Which is not to say an enterprising courier might not offer to do so).  I suspect this might be connected to the increase in work associated with entries from International Entrants.  The details of how to submit and what is expected are also clearer for international artists.


The BP Portrait Award 2013 Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery will be open to the public from 20 June to 15 September 2013.  The exhibition will then tour to two other venues in the UK in 2013-14 (dates and venues to be announced).


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

The awards are as follows:
  • the first prize is a cash award of £30,000. Plus, at the judges' discretion, a commission worth £5,000, can be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist. 
  • Second Prize: £10,000
  • BP Young Artist Award: £7,000 All selected artists 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 purpose of this award is to continue the competition's role in showcasing young artistic talent.
  • BP Travel Award 2013: £6,000 (an increase of £1,000 on last year)
Note there is no longer a third prize.  However if there are no exhibitors aged 30 or under then no Young Artist Award will be given and the funds will be used to offer a Third Prize.

Who can enter

Do make sure you study the entry requirements. However in short, you can enter if you are over 18, live anywhere in the world, can paint a portrait of a human figure and enjoy portraiture!
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 competition is judged, on an equal and anonymous basis, from original paintings. An exhibition is then created from a selection of the entries.
BP Portrait Award: The competition is open to all artists living anywhere in the world who are aged 18 and over on 1st January 2013. 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 2013 to be eligible for the BP Young Artist Award.

BP Travel Award: All 2013 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 2014 exhibition and tour in 2013-14.

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 www.npg.org.uk/bp 
  • 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 27 March 2013.

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

The Rules

What you do NOT want to do is create a work for this competition and then realise that it isn't eligible or you can't present it in the right way at the right time!  Which is why you need to read the rules three times now!

These are The 2013 Rules. There's a lot of them, they're white on black (never easy to read) in very tiny print with no spacing - with even smaller print and less accessible colour on the entry form.  In my view that makes them impossible to read easily even if you have excellent eyesight.

If you want to make it easier for yourself follow what I have to do.
  • block the rules
  • copy and paste to a wordprocessing software (I use Google Docs)
  • convert the text to black and the background to white and remove all formatting
  • that should bring the text into a normal font size at normal spacing which is much easier to read
I think I might start lobbying for the rules to be available in a normal size font in a pdf document. Feel free to do the same....... ;)

Here's my effort at making the rules rather more accessible. I've split the rules up into sections relating to
  • you - the artist submitting the work
  • the portrait you are submitting
Note in particular that works can be disqualified - even if selected for exhibition - if they have not adhered to the rules! 

Don't forget to let me know if your entry gets selected!

The rules - about YOU!
In brief:
  • the competition is open to all those aged over 18 on 1 January 2013. 
  • 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.  Last year I detected 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
  • 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 and the tour to two other venues.
  • the portrait must be recent ie it MUST have been completed after 1 January 2012
    • you are asked to confirm the start date.  This needs to pre-date the completion date (latter was new last year.  I think this is 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 still lobbying 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.  Multi-part portraits are considered as one work and also require  clear instructions as to installation.
The rules - submission summary
  • Entry forms and registration fees must be submitted to the NPG by 11 February 2013
  • All entrants will be notified if their work is selected (or not) for exhibition by Wednesday 27 March 2013
  • There are lots of very detailed requirements as to submission and collection of the actual painting - I've summarised some of these below 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  - but this applies to international entrants only)
  • 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.

Regional Collection Points:
The NPG will no longer organise regional collection points within the UK in 2013.  This is rather odd as other competitions have been getting better at organising regional collection points and have seen the number of entries from regional artists increase significantly as a result.  This year I expect entries from UK artists will REDUCE unless some enterprising courier firm decided to organise regional collection.  Particularly given the ruling about packaging for the return journey (see below)
The logistical and administrative implications of making the regional collections are no longer sustainable for us and we feel that our focus needs to be on one central delivery point now that we have increased entries from around the world. The Gallery does recognise the commitment shown by artists from around the UK and internationally and we very much appreciate the effort taken to submit work. The Gallery remains committed to ensuring that artists from all regions of the UK are able to enter the competition so please do get in touch if we can offer any advice on how to deliver/ship your work. The delivery address will be located centrally in London and confirmed via email at the time of entry into the competition.
Delivery Dates - Hand delivery in person to London Collection Point

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

A Gallery representative will provide a receipt on delivery of the work. Dates for deliveries are
  • For works arriving by post or courier:
    • Monday 4 March – Thursday 14 March, 09.00–17.00 (excluding weekends)
  • For works delivered in person:
    • Monday 11 and Tuesday 12 March, 09.00–17.00
    • Wednesday 13 March and Thursday 14 March, 09.00–20.00
    • No entries will be accepted at the London collection point after 20.00 on Thursday 14 March 2012.
Interestingly the Gallery are making a very clear distinction between different entrants as to what happens re the packaging for entries

  • UK entrants - works that are hand-delivered MUST be free of packaging / packing for works delivered by post or courier will NOT be retained 
  • International Entrants - can be delivered by courier / packaging will be retained and reused / charge will be made if packaging cannot be reused
  • Entries that are hand delivered should be left without any protective packaging as this cannot be retained.
  • Deliveries by post will be accepted in suitable packaging.
  • The Gallery will not be responsible for wrapping works or providing wrapping materials for any works being returned.
  • Artists not residing in the UK must arrange and pay for delivery of their work to the London collection point on the allocated dates.If works are being shipped by courier, artists must take full responsibility for all costs, including any import customs charges and duties. It is the artist’s responsibility to check with their courier company that their paintings have cleared customs and have been delivered on the allocated dates.
  • International entries will be re-packaged in the original packaging. It is the artist’s responsibility to arrange and pay for collection of their works from the London collection point on the allocated dates.
  • If the original packaging is no longer suitable for use, we can provide packaging materials but there will be an additional charge for this service.
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 collection points by the dates specified will be charged for at the carrier's usual storage rates.

Note also
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.
Damage and Artist's Insurance

Read this one carefully.  Basically it means even if somebody other than the artist damages the entry then they are NOT liable to you for any loss or damage.  If it's a portrait of value to you, you must arrange insurance at your own cost.
The responsibility for damage or loss, however caused, is the responsibility of the artist. Artists are therefore advised to arrange adequate insurance cover against such risks. The sponsor, the carriers, the collection point, the touring venues, any other subcontractor or the National Portrait Gallery shall not be liable for any loss or damage, whether or not caused by their negligence.
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 
More about the BP Portrait Award 2012

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:
  • a reminder about the deadline for entries 
  • the list of artists selected for the exhibition 
  • the list of shortlisted artists 
  • the awards ceremony 
  • a video of the exhibition 
These are all posts for earlier exhibitions on Making A Mark. You can find links to all posts on Portraiture - Resources for Artists

BP Portrait Award 2011
BP Portrait Award 2010
BP Portrait Award 2009


  1. Thank you thank you thank you!
    This is so very helpful. This year I really do hope to actually enter the BP Show. I know this is the holy grail of portrait shows and I'm so excited about it.

    I really really wish though that we didn't have to ship the artwork just to be judged. But, this is such a great show, I'm going to do it.

  2. sounds great! thanks for the entire breakdown!

  3. I love doing portraits but admit doing them from life isn't my preference. I'm lucky to do them from photos which does the "flattening" for me! A wonderful competition this sounds to be though!

  4. Thanks for a really comprehensive introduction! I have applied over many years as have many of my friends, but I don't know anyone who succeeded ! Maybe it's sour grapes but one quibble we find ourselves agreeing on is that so often the paintings look like photographs and there seems to be a bias towards detailed, accurate and realistic studies: sometimes I go round the whole show and get bored and angry because I feel it's a narrower definition of what a painted portrait can be than i think is possible-- but still each year I keep my fingers crossed to be wowed !

    1. This is a comment I've heard in the past. However I took a look at your website and I have to say having viewed your work I can think of a few reasons why your paintings have not been chosen. It's a 'horses for courses' decision is it not?

      I do agree with you that there are maybe too many portraits of the hyper/photorealistic variety. IMO a few more up and coming Velaquez would be nice!

      If you compare your paintings to those of the painters I listed in this post as having been selected more than once, you will probably notice a few differences - as I did.

      IMO the reason your work has not been selected has got absolutely nothing to do with the proportion of paintings selected which are photorealistic. It does however have everything to do with whether or not your portraits bear a likeness to the person they are portraying - ie whether or not your portraits look like paintings of people which could hang in the NPG.

      Bottom line - This is not a competition which has EVER had any sort of leaning towards expressionism. I'm personally unsurprised by the judges past decisions re. your work if your past submissions are like your current portfolio. You've chosen a personal style of painting and portraiture which seems to be more about distortion rather than likeness. That's your choice - and that's absolutely fine - as a style of painting.

      I suspect you'd like the judges to embrace different approaches to portraiture. However given the track record of this competition to date as to the range of styles of portraiture which get selected, I'm unclear as to why you should be disappointed NOT to be selected. I don't think the selection process is suddenly going to change - and moreover I suspect there'd be howls of outrage if it did!

      Sorry to be a bit "Simon Cowell" about this - but I'm not sure this competition is really "you".

  5. CrimsonLeaves, I wouldn't worry too much about the photo thing....as said above a lot of the selected portraits are hyper realistic and could never have been done without the aide of photographs. Using photos is not forbidden, as long as you've worked with and from the model too. Well, at least that's my interpretation of the rules.
    I feel the refusal of the BP to keep packaging and post back UK entries (something they do seem to offer for foreign entries) is a problem as UK entrants are left no choice but to personally collect their entries (and hand in). Hopefully a courier service will pick up this issue.

  6. It now appears that the question of packaging is just misleading. I've tackled the issue of what appears to be differential treatment for UK and International artists and the NPG is saying that there is no intention for artists to be treated differently re couriers and packaging.

    The problem appears to be with the wording which is misleading.

    I'd recommend an email direct to the NPG specifically asking whether the packaging for any portrait sent BY COURIER WITHIN THE UK will be kept by the NPG (or its agent) and supplied to the courier for the return journey. You need to identify who does the packing also.

  7. Dear Katherine Tyrell,
    as the Rules say human figure MUST predominate, I have a question in this regard. If the human figure consists of the arms without the hands, does it make a difference and to what extent?

    1. That's a question which you really need to address to the organisers. However a lot of the portraits which are entered are head and upper torso (ie minus lower arms and hands). Take a look at my reviews of past exhibitions to see images

  8. Thanks Katherine Tyrrell for your reply.
    Another point what I noticed is that "Paintings will be judged anonymously so preferably should not be signed on the front".
    Then, where an Artist can sign or put an identification mark, is it at the back on the wooden stretcher?

  9. Personally I would always sign the support for the work - but outside the picture area. If you sign the stretcher then that assumes it will always remain on the stretcher.

    I think what they're trying to do here is avoid large signatures that announce who the artist is. That's not an anonymous entry. However lots of artists use discreet initials.

    Frankly I think loud signatures are all about the artist and do not have a lot to do with the subject of the painting

  10. Thanks Katherine Tyrrell for your reply. I am going through your writing since a long time and I must say a big thank you to you for providing so many information.
    Art Insurance is quite a complex area for the International Entrants and information on practical approach is not sufficient on the web.

    1. In the UK and USA and Canada there are various organisations which can provide Insurance for Artists

      Try my website Insurance for Art and Artists

  11. Thanks Katherine Tyrrell. I will go through your article on Art Insurance.

  12. Dear Katherine Tyrrell,

    I have gone through your article on Art Insurance and as per my understanding , I list out the following in reference to
    International Entrants in BP Portrait Award Contest:

    1. Insurance for the Artwork

    2. Insurance for the Artwork for transporting it to overseas exhibition venues to cover any damages to the Artwork by any means.

    3. Does the Artwork need to have a Public Liability Insurance cover also in addition to the above?

    1. I don't see why you should need Public Liability - that's normally something which galleries need.

      However some artists might - but only if their artwork was a potential danger to the public. If it was thrown in for free I wouldn't decline it!

  13. Thanks Katherine Tyrrell for your view points.

  14. I'm confused about whether it is compulsory to have insurance or not- one part says the work has to be insured, another part says it is recommended?

    1. It is not mandatory to insure paintings after being delivered to Collection point of NPG. But NPG does not take any responsibility.
      It is Artist's choice to arrange storage and transit insurance for the painting from a local operator in UK region.
      This is what I understood after communication with NPG Officials.

      Affordable storage and transit insurance in UK region for International Artists has always been a big challenge.

  15. Great post!

    I find it absolutely ridiculous that pastel nor paper works be allowed.
    It is as valid a medium as any paint.


  16. Being a pastel artist myself I'm like to agree with you! Pastels are NOT intrinsically fragile - but the supports used by some and the method of application and transportation can make them so. I'm inclined to think that it's probably the amount of handling needed for a competition which probably rules them out.


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