Thursday, April 23, 2020

BP Portrait Award 2020: Shortlist and Exhibition announcements

BP Portrait Award 2020 - Shortlisted portraits

An Online Exhibition

The BP Portrait Award Exhibition is to be online
. It will open as a virtual exhibition on Tuesday 5 May on the National Portrait Gallery website.

Key features are:
  • The prize winners will be announced on Tuesday 5 May via the National Portrait Gallery’s social media channels. (I'll see if I can find out what time they're planning to make the announcement)
  • All 48 works selected for the BP Portrait Award 2020 exhibition will be shown in a virtual gallery space that replicates the rooms of the National Portrait Gallery. 
  • This will enable online visitors to 
    • view the portraits collectively, 
    • read the labels and get insights from the artists, 
    • explore each individual work in more detail. 
  • The Visitor’s Choice Award - which enables the public to vote for their favourite portrait - will also run online.
I must confess I'm not surprised and have been fully expecting this to happen. The National Portrait Gallery is of course, like every other art gallery and museum, closed at the moment due to the Pandemic Lockdown.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery London says:
‘I am pleased we have been able to find a way to share the BP Portrait Award 2020 exhibition with our visitors at home, during this uncertain time and hope that staging a virtual exhibition will provide us with the opportunity to bring the very best in contemporary portrait painting to an even wider audience. The BP Portrait Award is tasked with finding and recognising portrait paintings that combine technical accomplishment and a demonstration of insight and empathy for the subject and sitter. It is a tough challenge, but, this year, one that has been responded to with great prowess and I would like to congratulate all the shortlisted artists and those selected for exhibition.’
It is not yet known if the exhibition will be able to be shown at the National Portrait Gallery before building works begin on Inspiring People, the Gallery’s major redevelopment project, at the end of June.

However, the BP Portrait exhibition is set to tour to Aberdeen Art Gallery towards the end of the year and details and dates will be confirmed in due course - so it's entirely possible that the only place people will be able to see the portraits in person is in the north of Scotland during winter!

I'll be writing more tomorrow about
  • the artists selected for the exhibition
  • the numbers who applied and where they were from
  • the Travel Award

Shortlisted Artists

Three artists have been shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2020. 

The three portraits in the running for the £35,000 First Prize are
  • Night Talk by Jiab Prachakul; 
  • Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model by Sergey Svetlakov and 
  • Labour of Love by Michael Youds. 
You can read more about them and see larger images of their portraits below.

However I can tell you that it's the first time that 
  • any of the three shortlisted artists have been shortlisted for the Award or selected for exhibition.
  • the competition has shortlisted artists from Russia or Thailand (at least in my memory!)

The prize winners and exhibition were selected anonymously by a judging panel chaired by Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery.

The full panel included
  • Rosie Broadley, Head of Collections Display (Victorian - Contemporary), National Portrait Gallery; 
  • Ekow Eshun, writer and curator; 
  • Justine Picardie, writer and 
  • Benjamin Sullivan, artist and former BP Portrait Award winner.
The artists are in the running for one of three prizes
  • First Prize: A cash award of £35,000, plus, at the judges’ discretion, a commission worth £7,000, to be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist.
  • Second Prize: £12,000
  • Third Prize: £10,000
In addition, the BP Young Artist Award, with a prize of £9,000 goes to one selected artist aged between 18 and 30. None of the shortlisted artists are eligible and consequently the prize will go to one of the other selected artists.

Jiab Prachakul for Night Talk

Jiab Prachakul for Night Talk
(1000 × 1000mm, acrylic on canvas)
  • Age: 41 (born 1979) in Nakhon Phanom, a small town on the Mekong River in northeast Thailand
  • Nationality:  Thai
  • Occupation: a contemporary figurative artist who also runs Runs an online fashion brand
  • Current home: Lyon, France
  • Art education: studied filmography at Thammasat University. Entirely self-taught as an artist
  • Previous appearances in this award: none - first time he has entered
  • Website:
  • Facebook Page:
  • Instagram:
  • Memberships: 
  • Previous Awards:
  • Title / Media:
  • Subject: Prachakul’s close friends Jeonga Choi, a designer from Korea, and Makoto Sakamoto, a music composer from Japan, who are pictured in a Berlin bar on an autumn evening. 
The portrait explores notions of individual identity and how perceptions of selfhood can change over time.
‘Our identity is dictated to us from the moment we are born, but as we grow up, identity is what we actually choose to be. I do believe that our circle of friends is what makes us who we are. Jeonga and Makoto are like family to me. We are all outsiders, Asian artists living abroad, and their deep friendship has helped me to understand who I am.’
In 2006, Prachakul relocated to London where she visited a David Hockney retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery.  She immediately realised that she wanted to be an artist after viewing the exhibition and began teaching herself to paint.

Entirely self-taught, she moved to Berlin in 2008 and began selling her pictures at a local flea market. She has also set up an online fashion brand, designing merchandise based on her artworks, which she continues to run from her current home in Lyon.

Sergey Svetlakov for Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model 

This is the smallest painting of the three.

Sergey Svetlakov for Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model
(508 × 407mm, Oil on canvas)
  • Age: age 58 (59?). born in 1961 in Kazan, the capital city of what is now the Republic of Tatarstan in the Russian Federation. 
  • Nationality: Russian (I think I'm right in saying this is the first Russian artist who has been shortlisted for the BP)
  • Occupation: His early career was spent designing sets and costumes for operas and stage productions. In the early 1990s, he gave up working in theatre to devote all his energies to his portraiture, nude studies and still life, and he has since exhibited widely across Europe, the US and Japan.
  • Current home: St. Petersburg
  • Art education: graduated from the Kazan Art School, one of the oldest in Russia; Studied set design at the Theatre Academy in St Petersburg
  • Previous appearances in this award: none - first time he has entered
  • Website:
  • Facebook Page: no Page - but
  • Instagram:
  • Memberships: ?
  • Previous Awards: ?
  • Title / Media: Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model (508 × 407mm, Oil on canvas)
  • Subject: An aspiring actor, Denis had recently arrived in St Petersburg and placed an advertisement on a social network site offering his services as a model in order to earn extra money. 
Svetlakov finds many of his sitters on the internet, including Denis, the subject of his entry in the 2020 BP Portrait Award. 
‘My sitters are usually ordinary people with various types of social backgrounds. Because Denis is an actor, he is very emotional and his face constantly changes depending on his mood. When I painted him he was desperately searching for work and I found it interesting to convey his intense ambitions and doubts. His face is an explosive fusion of his Ukrainian, Russian, Greek and Tatar genes.’

Michael Youds for Labour of Love

This was the one that jumped out at me as being a BP Portrait "natural". It reminds me of all the portraits I've ever seen - both past and present - of people in a context, with their work. I'm a big fan of them whichever century they are painted in.

It's also the largest painting of the three.

Michael Youds for Labour of Love
(1400 × 1000mm, Oil on canvas)
  • Age: 38 (b. 1982) in Blackburn, Lancashire
  • Nationality: British
  • Occupation: award-winning artist / gallery attendant at the National Galleries of Scotland
  • Current home: Edinburgh (since 2006)
  • Art education: first-class degree in Fine Art from Lancaster University 
  • Previous appearances in this award: none - first time he has entered
  • Website:
  • Facebook Page:
  • Instagram:
  • Memberships:
  • Previous Awards: In 2019, he won first prize in the Scottish Portrait Awards for a painting of him and his twin brother David, who is also an artist.
  • Title / Media: Labour of Love (1400 × 1000mm, Oil on canvas)
  • Subject: Tommy Robertson, the owner of an independent music store in Edinburgh.
Youds wanted to celebrate its eclectic individuality of Tommy Robertson. He is the owner of an independent music store in Edinburgh which has been in business for more than three decades, selling second-hand records, instruments and video games. I'm sure an awful lot of u can remember shops like this from our youth and in some cases from our present!
‘It’s a very detailed painting. I wanted the viewer to feel like they are inside the shop and maybe a little overwhelmed, not knowing what to focus their attention on. Visually, Tommy is engaging and the background is equally interesting. You could probably find something different in the painting each time you looked at it.’ 
The title Labour of Love refers to the UB40 album cover in the bottom left hand corner of the painting. It also reflects Tommy’s passion for music and the time Youds spent working on the painting.

Michael devotes most of his free time to painting portraits and still life at his studio in the city. His artwork has

  • won first prize in the Scottish Portrait Awards
  • been selected for exhibition at 
    • the Royal Scottish Academy and 
    • the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. 

Astute eagle eyed readers of Making A Mark will have thought "Youds" - I know that name!

Could it be that Michael is creating a trend? He follows in the footsteps of Laura Nardo, who works a Gallery Attendant at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and who was selected for the BP Portrait Award Exhibition in 2018

BELOW are links to previous posts about the BP Portrait Award 

- AND I've been writing about it since 2007!  

Past prizewinners read my posts before they entered!


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My Blog Posts about Previous BP Portrait Exhibitions

The exhibition review blog posts below contains lots of views of the exhibition in the galleries where they were held plus images of portraits (and the artist who had painted them) in the exhibitions.

BP Portrait Award 2020

BP Portrait Award 2019

BP Portrait Award 2018

BP Portrait Award 2017

BP Portrait Award 2016

BP Portrait Award 2015

BP Portrait Award 2014

BP Portrait Award 2013

BP Portrait Award 2012

BP Portrait Award 2011

BP Portrait Award 2010

BP Portrait Award 2009

BP Portrait Award 2008

BP Portrait Award 2007

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