Herbert Smith Freehills Portrait Award 2024 Replacing BP Portrait Award – Shortlist Announced

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LONDON — The prestigious Herbert Smith Freehills Portrait Award, previously known as the BP Portrait Award, returns to the National Portrait Gallery this year from 11 July until 27 October 2024.

Three artists have been shortlisted from a pool of 1,647 entries spanning 62 countries, with 50 portraits selected for the final display. Entries were submitted anonymously and evaluated by a distinguished panel including Dr Nicholas Cullinan OBE, the Gallery’s Director; acclaimed visual artist Barbara Walker MBE RA; sociologist and bioethicist Sir Tom Shakespeare; actor and Talk Art podcast host Russell Tovey; and the Gallery’s Curator for Contemporary Collections, Tanya Bentley.

The shortlisted portraits for the 2024 award are:

Isabella Watling for Zizi (2023)London-based Isabella Watling, trained at the Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence, is known for her life-sized, naturally lit portraits. Her work has been featured by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Portrait Society of America’s International Portrait Prize. Watling’s Zizi captures her friend during her Master’s degree in Textiles, depicted in a pale pink dress with piercings and tattoos, reflecting her personality through the textures and folds of the fabric. This unique portrayal invites the viewer to delve into the subject’s world, making the portrait come alive.

Antony Williams for Jacqueline with Still Life (2020)Antony Williams, with a background from Farnham College of Art and Portsmouth University, has exhibited widely, including at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and The Smithsonian Institute. His egg tempera portrait Jacqueline with Still Life merges his still Life and portraiture interests. It presents a long-time model amidst a dynamically arranged setting in his studio, crafting an implied narrative through their interaction.

Catherine Chambers for Lying (2020): London-based Catherine Chambers, influenced by her time in Ethiopia, holds a Drawing and Applied Arts degree from the University of the West of England Bristol. Her work Lying portrays a friend at their home in Lalibela, Ethiopia, exploring themes of vulnerability. The sitter is depicted drifting off to sleep in jeans and an Arsenal football shirt, a poignant symbol of aspiration.

Since its inception, the Herbert Smith Freehills Portrait Award has attracted over 40,000 entries from more than 100 countries, with its exhibitions drawing over 6 million visitors. The award, which prizes £35,000, is among the most significant global art competitions. The first prize-winning portrait will be displayed in the Gallery’s History Makers space, highlighting contemporary figures. The second and third prizes are £12,000 and £10,000, respectively. Additionally, a £9,000 Young Artist Award will be presented to a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30, and a new £14,000 commission will be awarded biennially.

The former Director of the esteemed National Portrait Gallery, Dr Nicholas Cullinan, praised the high quality of this year’s submissions, a testament to the competition’s prestige. Justin D’Agostino, CEO of the renowned Herbert Smith Freehills, highlighted the bold, outstanding, and human qualities conveyed by the shortlisted works, further emphasising the significance of the award and the recognition it brings to the artists.

Artists were invited to submit their entries online, with successful entrants delivering their works for a final physical round of judging. The award ceremony, set for 9 July 2024, will announce the prize winners.

Top Photo: L-R: Lying, 2020 by Catherine Chambers © Catherine Chambers.  Zizi, 2023 by Isabella Watling © Isabella Watling; Jacqueline with Still Life, 2020 by Antony Williams © Antony Williams

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