Now in its thirty-seventh year, the competition is truly international, attracting 2,557 entries by artists from 80 countries around the world, and offering a £30,000 prize to the winner.
From parents to poseurs, figurative nudes to famous faces and expressive sketches to piercing photo-realism, the variety and vitality in the exhibition continues to make it an unmissable highlight of the annual art calendar.
The 2016 Award was won by 38-year-old Cambridgeshire-based artist Clara Drummond, for Girl in a Liberty Dress, a striking portrait of her friend and fellow artist Kirsty Buchanan. Drummond was selected for the BP Portrait Award in 2013 and 2014 for portraits of the same sitter, having previously been selected with different sitters in 2006 and 2009. When Kirsty sat for Clara for this portrait she wore a vintage Liberty dress inspired by the fact that both artists were working on an exhibition at the time with the William Morris Society Archive.
The judges, including artist Jenny Saville and writer Alan Hollinghurst, were impressed by the portrait’s skillful execution and its subtle and enigmatic qualities. The second prize of £10,000 went to Chinese artist Bo Wang, 34, for Silence, a portrait depicting his grandmother lying on her hospital bed a month before she died. The third prize of £8,000 went to artist Benjamin Sullivan, 39, for Hugo, a portrait of the poet Hugo Williams painted in the study of his Islington home.
The BP Young Artist Award of £7,000 for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30 was been won by British artist Jamie Coreth for Dad Sculpting Me.
Of the show, Firstsite director Sally Shaw says: ‘The BP Portrait Award is a national institution. The quality of the works in 2016 was, as usual, outstanding, and we are delighted to show the shortlisted artists, along with the winner, Clara Drummond, at Firstsite.’