BP Portrait Award 2019

After 30 years of sponsorship the BP Portrait Award still remains the most prestigious portrait painting competition in the world and represents the very best in contemporary practice. With a first prize of £35,000, and a total prize fund of £74,000, the Award is aimed at encouraging artists to focus upon and develop portraiture in their work.

The competition is open to everyone aged 18 and over.

The BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition will run at the National Portrait Gallery from 13 June to 20 October 2019. In its fortieth year at the National Portrait Gallery and thirtieth year of sponsorship by BP it continues to be an unmissable highlight of the annual art calendar.

The competition is open to all artists from around the world.

Artists must be aged 18 years or over as of 1 January 2019.

To be eligible for the BP Young Artist Award, artists must be 30 years of age or under as of 1 January 2019.

The competition is limited to one entry per artist. The work must have been completed after 1 January 2018.

No work previously submitted for the competition is eligible for resubmission.

On receipt of the registration and entry fee, a confirmation email will be sent to the artist.

The digital entry form on the National Portrait Gallery’s website must be completed, including payment, by 23.59 on Monday 21 January 2019.

All correspondence with artists will be via email.

All entrants will be notified if their work has been selected for the second round of judging by 8 February 2019. If the artist is selected they will be required to send their work to the judging venue between the 25 February and 1 March 2019.

Those artists who were selected for the second round of judging will be notified if their work is selected, or not, for exhibition by 11 March 2019. Artists who have not been selected should make arrangements for the collection of their work. It is the artist’s responsibility to contact the National Portrait Gallery if s/he has not received notification by that date.

The exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery will be open to the public from 13 June to 20 October 2019. Those shortlisted for prizes must attend the Awards Ceremony and dinner on the evening of Monday 10 June 2019 and are also expected to attend the Press View on the morning of Tuesday 12 June 2019.

All exhibiting artists will be invited to the Private View on the evening of Wednesday 12 June 2019.

Works selected for exhibition cannot be removed before the end of the exhibition tour. All exhibited works will be available for collection in London at the end of the tour.

The copyright for all works exhibited in the BP Portrait Award and Travel Award will remain the property of the artist, but it is a condition of entry that the artist or their representatives agree unconditionally that the National Portrait Gallery may reproduce any exhibited works, free of charge, for the purposes of marketing, promotion, merchandise, discussion and education in direct connection with the BP Portrait Award and Travel Award exhibition and tour, in all media worldwide including the exhibition catalogue and subsequent publications, posters, prints, postcards, the internet and within television documentaries, and may license these specific, limited rights to others only for the same purposes. The Gallery also reserves the right to reproduce selected images free of charge for core non-commercial purposes, for example in the Past Exhibitions page of the Gallery website, indefinitely, as a public record.

It is also a condition on entering the competition that the artist agrees that visitors to the Gallery are permitted to take photographs without flash of their work for personal, non-commercial use during the run of the exhibition. The Gallery will install notices indicating that photography without flash is permitted provided it is for personal, non-commercial use but will not be liable if any images of the work, taken by visitors, are exploited commercially.

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 judging venue, 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.

In accordance with the GDPR and Data Protection Bill (and any subsequent reiteration of that legislation), the National Portrait Gallery will hold all personal data securely. It will only be used in the process of administering the Portrait Award in the exercise of the Gallery’s official authority and public task, and will not be transferred to any third party. At the close of the Award, personal data relating to the successful entrants will be retained permanently for historical research purposes in the Gallery’s Archive (in accordance with Recital 50 of the GDPR). Information about the processing of personal data and your individual rights under the GDPR can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website.

Those not eligible for entry are employees of the National Portrait Gallery, BP, and their agents, the winner of the Travel Award 2018 and previous first prize-winners of the Portrait Award since 1980.

The commissioned painting will be submitted to the Gallery’s Trustees for approval of its inclusion in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent Collection.

The winning artist will be required to assign the copyright in the commissioned portrait to the National Portrait Gallery.

The judges reserve the right not to award the commission.

The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence can be entered into. 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.

The National Portrait Gallery reserves the right to disqualify any piece of work if the artist has not adhered to the rules, even if the work has been selected for exhibition.


The work entered must be predominantly painted in oil, tempera or acrylic and must be on a stretcher or board, preferably framed and unglazed. No watercolours, works on paper or pastels will be considered.

The work entered should be a painting based on a sitting or study from life and the human figure must predominate.

Self-portraits and group portraits are permitted.

Paintings will be judged anonymously so should not be signed on the front.

Minimum size: 25cm x 20cm unframed. Any works smaller than this will not be considered.

Maximum size: 244cm x 244cm framed. Please note that we cannot accept any works larger than this.

Multi part works (up to three parts) will be accepted and regarded as one work. Please bear in mind the above size restrictions and include full instructions for installation of the work.


It is a requirement that each artist should upload an image of their work when registering for the competition.

It is compulsory that the artist uploads one image of the entire work (including all the parts of a diptych or triptych).

It is then up to the artist whether they wish to upload a second detail (of their choice) of the same work.

Please note that the first round of judging is completed digitally. It is therefore important that the photograph uploaded by the artist is of a high quality.


Only if the artist’s work has been selected for the second round of judging will they need to organise the delivery of their artwork to the judging venue between 25 February and 1 March 2019.

Paintings should not be delivered to the National Portrait Gallery as they will not be accepted.

Please note that the London judging venue address will be provided once the artist has been selected for the second round of judging.


For works arriving by post, courier or in person:

Monday 25 Feb, 09.00 – 17.00

Tuesday 26 Feb, 09.00 – 17.00

Wednesday 27 Feb, 09.00 – 17.00

Thursday 28 March, 09.00 – 17.00

Friday 1 March, 09.00 – 17.00

No entries will be accepted at the London judging venue after 17.00 on Friday 1 March 2019. A Gallery representative will provide a receipt on delivery of the work for those delivered in person. Please note that the Gallery cannot acknowledge receipt of paintings sent by post. Applicants requiring proof of delivery are advised to use a recorded delivery service.


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 judging venue 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. When sending works from abroad the artist should not tick the box advising the courier company to bill the recipient. Equally on the return of any work from the UK the artist should not tick the box indicating that the transport will be paid by the sender. The Gallery will not cover these costs and will instruct the shipper to contact the artist directly for payment.

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.

Please note that the Gallery cannot acknowledge receipt of paintings sent by post. Applicants requiring proof of delivery are advised to use a recorded delivery service.

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.


All unselected works must be collected from the London judging venue on the dates listed below, during the times specified.

Note that for works being collected by a courier the artist must provide 48 hours advanced notification to the Exhibitions Department to ensure work is prepared for collection.

For works being collected by courier or in person:

Monday 11 March, 09.00 – 17.00

Tuesday 12 March, 09.00 – 17.00

Wednesday 13 March, 09.00 – 17.00

Thursday 14 March, 09.00 – 17.00

Friday 15 March, 09.00 – 17.00

For works being returned by post:

Any works sent with correct postage will be returned by Friday 3 May 2019.

Any paintings uncollected from London after Friday 15 March 2019 will be stored at a separate location for one month and the artist will be charged a storage fee. In order to release paintings from storage, all charges must be paid in full and the artist must give 72 working hours notice prior to collection. The National Portrait Gallery will not arrange courier collections or post works on behalf of the artist.

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 un-exhibited works or exhibited works, without prior notice.

The instructions and information detailed here form part of the rules.

For further information please contact:

BP Portrait Award 2019
National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
London WC2H 0HE
020 7321 6699


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

BP Young Artist Award: £9,000

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 2019: £8,000

All selected artists 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 2020 exhibition and tour in 2020 – 21.


The prize winners and exhibition will be selected by a judging panel chaired by the Director of the National Portrait Gallery. The winners and selected entries will be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from 13 June to 20 October 2019 and subsequently will tour to two further venues. The exhibition tour is organised by the National Portrait Gallery.

All entrants have the unique opportunity to buy a special edition of the exhibition catalogue (RRP £9.99 + £3.01 p+p), featuring all the selected artists, an essay by a leading author, and a note of thanks and facsimile signature of the Director of the National Portrait Gallery. The special edition is only available to entrants and will not be available through the Gallery shops or online.

Submission Deadline: 21st January 2019

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