Culture, Events

Exhibition: BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery

Holly by Louis Smith, BP Portrait Award 2011

Holly by Louis Smith, BP Portrait Award 2011

BP Portrait Award 2011, now until 18 September 2011
National Portrait Gallery,
St Martin’s Place, London.

“The annual BP Portrait Award is the most prestigious portrait competition in the world, promoting the very best in contemporary portrait painting. Over the past thirty-two years the Award has proved the launch pad for the careers of many successful portrait artists.

From intimate and personal images of friends and family, to revealing paintings of celebrity sitters, the exhibition presents a variety of styles and approaches that together illustrate the outstanding and innovative work currently…”

Perhaps you can tell from previous posts that the National Portrait Gallery is one of my favourite spots in London, for its permanent and visiting exhibits. This year’s exhibition, features fifty-five works selected from a record 2,372 international entries, produced by artists of all ages and nationalities.

The prize winners for the BP Portrait Award 2011 were announced at the Awards Ceremony on 14 June 2011.

The four shortlisted artists:
– Ian Cumberland for Just to Feel Normal,
– Wim Heldens for Distracted (first prize winner)
– Sertan Saltan for Mrs Cerna and
– Louis Smith for Holly
– BP Travel Award 2010 winner, Florence-based American artist Paul Beel.

The selected works are of an enormous variety of styles and subjects; celebrity, domestic, personal and publicly provocative. Some are sensitive and dare we say, conventional portraits, others exotic, flamboyant and outrageous. Some are painted with almost photo-realistic results, the answer back to the dominance of modern photography for portraiture.

One you can’t miss – literally, the frame is a good 2.5 meters tall – is Holly by Louis Smith, ‘with help from Carmel Said’. The spectacular portrait of Holly, an artists’ model, is heavily influenced by Renaissance paintings of historical subjects that include portraits of contemporary figures. Holly’s pose is based on the classical myth of Prometheus who was chained to a rock as punishment by Zeus. Smith built a set of the rocky surround in his studio. The massively ornate frame is based on nineteenth-century examples.

Jade (The Rehearsal) by David Eichenberg

Jade (The Rehearsal) by David Eichenberg

Another favourite of mine is Jade (The Rehearsal) by David Eichenberg, a study of Jade, member of the performance group the Detroit Fire Guild.

Other favourites of mine include the modernist, multiple aspects of actor Peter Capaldi, by Daniel Fooks;  musician Courtney Pine (with Mondrian inspired jazz background), by Daniel van Doorn; and a Self Portrait by Fiona Scott.

The BP Award gallery was somewhat crowded when I visited on a warm and sunny weekday lunchtime, so patience may be a virtue when waiting for the crowd to thin down a little for a better view of the paintings. The patrons are, for the most part, well behaved, the gallery space a little eccentrically laid out in a ground-floor corner of the NPG and could have benefitted from some extra space – but then, couldn’t most galleries? I found it yet another eye-opener onto the world of contemporary portraiture from up-coming artists. Take the time to see the established contemporary painters on your way around the ground floor. RC

  • Open daily 10:00-18:00
  • Open until 21:00 Thursday and Friday
  • Admission free

About Robin Catling

Writer; performer; project manager; sports coach; all-round eccentric.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Exhibition: BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery

  1. Remarkable.

    Posted by Townsend | May 16, 2012, 7:44 am
  2. I want to to thank you for this good read! Must be time for this year’s contest. How is it?

    Posted by beverly | July 9, 2012, 12:23 am

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