Friday, June 22, 2018

Call for Entries: 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition

The 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition has issued a Call for Entries and this post summarises
  • the aim and scope of the exhibition
  • the scope and eligibility criteria for who can enter what
  • how to enter.

The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2019

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery invites artists to submit one portrait in any media for consideration in the fifth triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

Aim and Scope

The aim of the Outwin Boochever Competition is to
showcase excellence and innovation with a strong focus on the variety of portrait media used by artists today.
The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is currently held every three years - 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016 to date. The next one is in 2019.

"The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today" is a major exhibition of portraits selected as finalists and will be on view at the Portrait Gallery from 2nd November 2019 until 7th September 2020.

There are also plans for a nationwide tour between October 2020 and January 2022

Prizes: what's on offer?

The awards on offer total $42,000 (£31,600) and are as follows:
  • First Prize: $25,000 cash prize and a commission to create a portrait of a remarkable living American for the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection
  • Second Prize: $7,500 cash prize
  • Third Prize: $5,000 cash prize
  • Commended Artists (up to four individuals): $1,000 cash prize(s)
  • People’s Choice Award (announced around May 2020): $500 cash prize
Below are the images of the Prizewinners in 2016

Outwin Boochever Prizewinners in 2016

Jurors: Who are the jurors for the 2019 competition?

...and how does the jury process work?

  • Initial selection is based on the online image only using an online jury system. 
  • Jurors only see the tangible portrait in front of them after artists who survive the initial cull are asked to submit their work.
  • 100 semifinalists are selected as a longlist from which to select the finalists
  • between 40 and 50 works will be selected for the exhibition.

The Portrait Gallery selects seven relevant professionals to serve as jurors for each competition
  • three members of its own curatorial staff and 
  • four professionals from outside the museum (critics, art historians, artists).
The independent jurors for 2019 are Harry Gamboa Jr., Lauren Haynes, Byron Kim, and Jefferson Pinder.

The Jurors for the Outwin Boochever Competition 2019

Scope and Eligibility Criteria

How many portraits can you enter?

Each artist may enter only one portrait, and it must have been completed after January 1, 2016.

Eligible artwork

This is emphatically not a competition about whether you can paint a portrait. It's also about the meaning that portraiture can carry and the relevance of portraiture as a social as well as a visual art.

I've reworked the definition of what they are looking for this year (in the Call for Entries) to draw out the key messages in the call for entries

This year, the focus is on 
  • broadening the definition of portraiture and 
  • highlighting the genre’s relevance in contemporary art. 
Artworks may
  • originate from direct encounters between the artist and the sitter, 
  • but they may also be representative of indirect encounters. 
    • For example, judges will consider portraits that employ existing imagery or archival research as a means of responding to history. 
Artists are encouraged to think about portraiture’s potential to engage with the social and political landscape of our time.

Eligible artists: who can enter?

There are two statements which are worded slightly differently.

The Call for Entries states
The competition is open to all professional artists age 18 and over who are living and working in the United States and its territories.
The FAQs state
You may enter if you are an artist at least 18 years old as of May 28, 2018, and are living and working in the United States or its territories at the time of the competition.
Thus unlike the BP Portrait Award, this portraiture competition is limited to adults living and/or working in the USA and its territories

I'm unclear what "the time of the competition" means exactly. I'm assuming it means after 20 May 2018 and before some time in 2019.

Eligible Media: what can you enter?

The 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is open to portraits made in any visual arts media.
By this they mean
Entries will be accepted in all visual arts media including but not restricted to painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, printmaking, textiles, video, performance, and digital or time-based media.
As such, this is a competition which is making a definite statement about its focus on art media being used in contemporary art of the present and future rather than traditional media of the past

There are specific restrictions on what people can enter. These are as follows


  • Paintings should preferably be unglazed unless they are unvarnished. 

Works on Paper

  • Works on paper should be framed and glazed with UV filtering acrylic (i.e. Plexiglas) or UV filtering glass in the case of pastels and charcoals. 

Two-dimensional / wall-mounted work

  • All two-dimensional works shall 
    • NOT measure more than 7 feet x 7 feet x 8 inches (including frame), 
    • NOT weigh more than 150 pounds. 
  • Paintings, drawings, photographs, and other works on paper should be framed (strip frames on paintings are acceptable). 
  • Wall-mounted works should be submitted inclusive of mounting hardware (D-rings, cleats, etc.). In the event that no hardware is included with a submission, the Portrait Gallery will add hardware at our discretion and according to best museum practices. The Portrait Gallery will provide corresponding wall-side hardware when installing works selected for exhibition. 


  • Sculptures may be freestanding or wall-mounted and may be composed of any sculptural media. 
  • Media can include, but is not limited to, stone, metal, fiber, clay, wood, paper, and resin. 
  • Sculptures should not exceed 7 feet (height) x 7 feet x 4 feet in size, nor should they weigh more than 150 pounds. 
  • The Portrait Gallery will provide platforms or pedestals.

How to Enter

Around 2,500 works were submitted in 2016; with artwork submitted covering a variety of visual arts media.

What's the deadline?

Entries can be submitted between May 28, 2018 (Memorial Day) and September 3, 2018 (Labor Day).

What does it cost to enter?

The entry fee is $50 and is nonrefundable, payable via credit card and paid via a secure online entry form on a submission site

What does an entry comprise?

Every entry must be submitted electronically using the online submission form through the online submission site

You also need to
  • Create a CaFÉ™ account
  • Upload work samples into your CaFÉ™ Portfolio.

Artists will be required to provide the following:
  • Basic information about yourself including name, address, and other contact details.
  • Information about the work you are submitting including date, media, and dimensions.
  • One or two JPEG images of the single work you are submitting. 
  • Each image file should be no larger than 1200 pixels on its longest side and should be no larger than 5 megabytes.
Artists entering time-based media (video, film, digital animation) will be given detailed instructions for how to submit their work via the online entry form.

Commentary in relation to the 2016 Exhibition

As indicated in my blog post:
  • those selected exhibit a bias towards people from the East Coast. 29 of the 43 selected artists came from an area between Boston and Washington. Whether this is representative of where portrait artists live and work is debatable.
  • the range of media submitted and selected is much wider than the BP Portrait Award - in part because the scope of the artwork that can be submitted is much wider
  • a number of the portraits lacked a background or had just a flat background
See more finalists here


The competition is named for Virginia Outwin Boochever (1920-2005), a former Portrait Gallery volunteer who endowed this new prize through a generous gift. Her endowment of a portrait competition at the National Portrait Gallery was seen as a way to benefit artists directly and to fill a void in the American art world. National Portrait Gallery - Virginia Outwin Boochever

My past blog posts about this competition include:

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