Tuesday, December 03, 2013

BP Portrait Award 2014 - Call for Entries

The Call for Entries for the £30,000 BP Portrait Award 2014 has been published - so it's time to write my very popular annual review of the entry process.

People who win prizes read this blog post! ;)

This post covers
  • what's different this year - because I've spotted a few changes! 
  • why this is a competition worth entering 
  • how to get selected
  • a review of the entry details for those who don't like small white print on a black background! 
  • links to past posts about the BP Portrait Award and exhibition reviews on this blog
BP Portrait Award 2014 website
featuring Self-portrait by Ewan McClure, 2013

NOTE: All quotations are from the BP Portrait Award website. 

What's different in 2014

Paintings will be judged anonymously so should not be signed on the front. 
  • Selection has always been anonymous. However  I think this 'no signature on the front' is a new requirement and it if it is then it's significant.  I have heard artists pass comment in the past about the fact that entries included the artists signature - and asking questions about how the competition could be realistically be considered to be anonymous. Maybe this is the response.
  • The Third Prize has been reinstated and the  prize money has increased from £53,000 to £61,000 - see below for how this is divided up 
  • The deadline to return the completed entry form online and pay the fees is Monday 3 February 2014. That's 10 days earlier than last year, so those who've entered before need to make they've got their 2014 calendars marked up with the date. There's also a reminder that you need to send by recorded delivery of you want proof of delivery.
  • The rules now highlight that Self portraits and group portraits are permitted. Perhaps there has been confusion on this point? I certainly mentioned last year to the NPG that I thought it was a very great pity that there was no award for Group Portraits as it's difficult to pull off a good one and this really ought to be recognised. 

Why enter the BP Portrait Award?

Here are 10 reasons to enter this competition
  1. It's one of the most prestigious art prizes in the world.  
  2. All the prizes are worth winning. You've got five chances to win a significant sum of money!  Broadly speaking that means 10% of those selected are going to win a big cheque!
  3. It's open to international artists. This art competition attracts entries from all over the world.  1,969 artists from 77 different countries entered the BP Portrait Award 2013.
  4. It also regularly has prizewinners from all over the world!
  5. Just being selected for the BP enhances an artists career - after all only 55 portrait artists (2.8% of the entry) had their paintings selected and hung in the BP Portrait Prize Exhibition 2013 .
  6. A HUGE number of people come to see this exhibition. This is a major art prize in a major art gallery right in the centre of London. Last summer, some 285,000 came to see the BP Portrait exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery - and that's before it toured around the UK!  This Prize is one of the main reasons why the National Portrait Gallery in London is in the top 20 art galleries and museums in the world#18 in the top art galleries in the world in 2012)
  7. The Public get to second guess the judges.  There's also a People's Choice Award which goes to the portrait which received the most votes from those who visited the exhibition.
  8. If selected and/or shortlisted you may get a commission from the National Portrait Gallery at some point in the future. You don't have to win First Prize to join the list of artists who receive commissions from the National Portrait Gallery. Artists who have been regularly selected and/or shortlisted in the past have gone on to produce portraits for the Gallery.
  9. This prize has typically had a very positive impact on the careers of artists who win the top prize.  This is "a game changer"!
  10. Even if you don't get shortlisted, you may find that your painting gets massive exposure if chosen to market the exhibition. In the summer of 2014, it may be seen hanging on a banner outside the entrance to the gallery or on adverts on the Underground and all round London.  
BP Portrait Award 2012 - 3rd Prize : Richie Culver by Alan Coulson
Oil on wooden board 850 x 950 mm
Alan Coulson (left) with Richie Culver (right)
Alan's portrait of Alan also hung on the big banner outside the National Portrait Gallery
and was seen on lots of flyers all over London
Recent National Portrait Gallery commissions by BP Portrait Award first-prize-winning artists include:
  • Julia Donaldson by Peter Monkman (BP Portrait Award 2009 winner), 
  • Dame Kelly Holmes by Craig Wylie (BP Portrait Award 2008 winner), 
  • novelist V S Naipaul by Paul Emsley (BP Portrait Award 2007 winner), and
  • Kids Company founder Dame Camila Batmanghelidjh by Dean Marsh (BP Portrait Award 2005 winner). 
Many artists who have had their work exhibited have gained commissions as a result of the considerable interest in the BP Portrait Award and the resulting exhibition.
If you are serious about portraiture and/or want to progress as a portrait artist I definitely recommend you enter.  However, please do recognise that the competition is fierce and at least 97% of the people who enter will be disappointed not to get selected.

Can I suggest that if you do enter, that you make the most of it! Make sure that you lick your website into shape and generally smarten up your presentation of yourself and your artwork to the world before the selected artists are announced and everybody starts looking at your website! It grieves me every year that artists think that they stand and fall by their art alone. It's vital - but it's not the whole story!


BP Portrait Award 2014: 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.
  • First Prize: £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 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 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. 
If there are no exhibitors aged 30 or under then no Young Artist Award will be given and the funds so available shall be used to offer a Fourth Prize.

 BP Travel Award

All 2014 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 2015 exhibition and tour in 2015–16.

  • BP Travel Award 2014: £6,000

How to get Selected

To get selected you need to produce good artwork and get noticed.  So how does that happen?
In 2012 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!  You can even win first prize as American artist and recent graduate Aleah Chapin discovered!
Paintings will be judged anonymously so should not be signed on the front.
Artists should be aware that all works are judged on an equal and anonymous basis and that there is no segregated judging by region or country.
This year’s judging panel are:
  • Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery (Chair)
  • Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery
  • Dr Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Holburne Museum, Bath
  • Joanna Trollope, Author
  • Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP
  • Jonathan Yeo, Artist


The BP Portrait Award 2014 Exhibition opens to the public at the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday 26 June and runs until Sunday 21 September 2014.

There is an Awards Ceremony on the evening of Tuesday 24 June 2014 for those shortlisted for prizes - which is when I get to photograph you if you've been shortlisted. Then next morning I get to interview you!

The exhibition will then tour to two other venues in the UK in 2014-15
  • the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and 
  • Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens 

How to enter the BP Portrait award

Full competition rules, collection/delivery points and details of the exhibition tour can be found online at www.npg.org.uk/bp.  However these are not so easy to read in the 'white on black' format used by the NPG so I've broken up the main points and reiterated them below.

Who can enter 

Do make sure you study the entry requirements. 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
Bottom line, you can enter if: you are over 18, live anywhere in the world, can paint a portrait of a human figure of yourself or a person or persons you have met 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. 

How to Enter 

Entry is online and the closing date is Monday 3 February 2014. You can find out who can enter and how to enter below.

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.
    You will find out whether or not your work has been selected for exhibition by Wednesday 26 March 2014

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

    The Rules

    The worst mistake anybody can make when entering art competitions is to create a work for a 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 2014 Rules three times now!

    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 word-processing software 
    • 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
    Below is my effort at making the rules rather more accessible. I review and revise it each year. 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 YOUR PORTRAIT

    Pay particular attention to these.  I've detected more careful scrutiny and a tightening of the application of the rules in recent years.  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 AND the human figure MUST predominate.  You need to indicate on the form whether or not you have met the sitter.
    • can be a self portrait
    • can be a group portraits
    • MUST be available for the entire period of the exhibition and the tour to two other venues.
    • the portrait must be recent i.e. it MUST have been completed after 1 January 2013
      • you are asked to confirm the start date.  This needs to pre-date the completion date (latter was new in 2012.  I think this is an area where entries have been caught out in the past)
      • must NOT be a work previously submitted for consideration. 
    • should NOT be signed on the front.  All entries should be anonymous. (If I'm right and this is a new requirement, I bet this will catch quite a few people out this year)
    • Media and Size:
      • MUST be predominantly painted in oil, tempera or acrylic (No watercolours, works on paper or pastels will be considered )
      • 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).  Multi-part portraits - up to three parts - are considered as one work, must comply with the size constraints and also require  clear instructions as to installation.

    The rules - submission summary

    • Entry forms and registration fees must be submitted to the NPG by Monday 3 February 2014. 
    • All entrants will be notified if their work is selected (or not) for exhibition by Wednesday 26 March 2014
    • 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 are responsible for the insurance of their works. In other words submit at your own risk.
    • 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 stopped organising regional collection points in the UK in 2013. 

    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 3 March – Thursday 13 March 2014, 09.00–17.00 (excluding weekends) 
      • you need to send by recorded delivery of you want proof of delivery.
      • Deliveries by post will be accepted in suitable packaging BUT this will not be retained for return of the work
    • For works delivered in person:
      • Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 March, 09.00–17.00
      • Wednesday 12 March and Thursday 13 March, 09.00–20.00
      • No entries will be accepted at the London collection point after 20.00 on Thursday 13 March 2014.
    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
    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 2012
    These are my posts about the 2011 BP Portrait Award
    BP Portrait Award 2010
    BP Portrait Award 2009


    1. Great post- you cover every aspect of the submission, but I'm curious to know who the artist is whose portrait is on the poster. Is it the same guy who was on the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, I think in Glasgow?

    2. It's a Self-portrait by Ewan McClure, 2013. I should have added that into the image and I'll go and do that now.

      This is his blog http://ewanmcclure.wordpress.com/

    3. Hi This is Richard Twose- I'm one of the BP shortlisted artists this year. I like your blog and the advice you offer but didn't see it before today. I just thought it would be interesting to say what happened with me. This is the first time I've entered the BP. I'd met Jean and we did a few sittings, I paint every day, even when I still had a full time teaching job, it was going well so I though 'why not, give it a try'. I did read the rules carefully - I only had about a week to get it framed, and only met the deadline by one day! but hey - my advice paint because you love it, love what you paint and then show anyone who you can get to see it - it's easy as an artist to be 'shy', - with the work if not in person, so get your work out there, it seems to have worked for me! good luck !

    4. Great to hear about your experience Richard.

      Don't forget to have a website ready for the big day.....


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