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Gallus Gallus with Still Life and Presidents by Stuart Pearson Wright winner in 2001
Gallus Gallus with Still Life and Presidents by Stuart Pearson Wright winner in 2001

The BP Portrait Award is an annual portraiture competition held at the National Portrait Gallery in London, England. It is the successor to the John Player Portrait Award. It is the most important portrait prize in the world,[1][2][3][4] and is reputedly one of the most prestigious competitions in contemporary art.[5][6][7]


British Petroleum took over sponsorship of the competition in 1989 from John Player & Sons, a tobacco company which had sponsored it from its inception in 1980, and has sponsored it since. The presence of both sponsors has triggered protests, with the group Art Not Oil (part of the international Rising Tide network) being responsible for most of those against BP.[citation needed][8] In 2016, The Museums Association conducted a formal investigation into BP's sponsorship when Art Not Oil alleged that the company influenced curatorial decisions and used its association with the National Gallery to further its political interests both domestic and international.

The exhibition opens in June each year and runs until September. First prize is typically £30,000. In the early years of the century, the prize went up from £5,000, and its catchment area was gradually extended from residents of the UK and is now unrestricted. Until 2006, the competition has been open to under-40s only. Since 2007, it is open to anyone over the age of 18 and a separate BP Young Artist Award is granted to the best portrait artist between 18 and 30.[9]

In 1993, Tom Hallifax was used to advertise the awards.[10]

In 2012 the competition received 2,187 entries from 74 countries (including 1,500 from the UK)[11] of which 55 paintings were selected to be exhibited.


John Player Portrait Award

BP Portrait Award

SELF Portrait Prize

Selected works

It has become a BP Portrait Awards convention that a single work is selected to be used prominently on that year's posters and other publicity materials, and for the cover of the year's exhibition catalogue. Recent "showcase" portraits include:

BP Visitor Choice

Each year, the BP Visitor Choice competition offers visitors to the highly popular BP Portrait Award exhibition the opportunity to vote for their favourite portrait in the exhibition.

BP Travel Award

The BP Travel Award is an annual award allowing artists to experience working in a different environment on a project related to portraiture. The successful applicants work is exhibited at the Portrait Gallery the following year. Country of each artists project shown in brackets below.

See also


  1. ^ "Royal Society of Portrait Painters". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  2. ^ "BP and National Portrait Gallery". Arts & Business. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  3. ^ "The Journal – Familial feel at this year's BP Portrait Award Exhibition". Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  4. ^ Ignacio Villarreal. "World's most innovative new portraits go on display in Wolverhampton". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Cent Magazine". 21 June 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  6. ^ "National Portrait Gallery in London". xamou art. 3 January 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  7. ^ "Fine Art Connoisseur – The Best In Contemporary Portraiture At London's National Portrait Gallery". Fine Art Connoisseur. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  8. ^ "BP PORTRAIT AWARD DEMO: GUESTS AND JUDGES FILE PAST FACES OF THE GULF SPILL, 14.6.11". Aart Not Oil. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  9. ^ "BP Portrait Award 2007 Opens At National Portrait Gallery, London". Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Fineart". Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  11. ^ "Naked 'Auntie' wins £25,000 art prize". The Telegraph. London. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  12. ^ "Profile". The Glasgow School of Art. Archived from the original on 25 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  13. ^ "JEFF STULTIENS RP". Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  14. ^ "Biography".
  15. ^ "Artist – Annabel Cullen". ARTUK.ORG. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  16. ^ Maev Kennedy (19 June 2012). "US artist wins £25,000 BP Portrait prize with painting of 'Auntie'". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  17. ^ Michael Glover (18 June 2013). "Art review: The BP Portrait Award 2013 reveals our endless fascination with self-scrutiny and the human face". The Independent. London. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  18. ^ "Homeless man painting wins BP Portrait Award". BBC News. 24 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  19. ^ Bakare, Lanre (10 June 2019). "Charlie Schaffer wins 2019 BP portrait award". The Guardian.
  20. ^ The Royal Society of Portrait Painters: Jan Mikulka: SELF, 2013