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BP Portrait Award @ NPG – London

16/06/2011 - 18/09/2011


Johan Andersson was last year’s winner, and for 2011….?

Wim Heldens got the always helpful £25k award from the BP funds for his “Distracted”!

Wim Heldens is a self-taught, professional artist who lives in Amsterdam and whose work has been seen in numerous group and solo exhibitions in Europe and the US. He was a BP Portrait award exhibitor in 2008 and 2010. His sitter is Jeroen, a 25-year-old philosophy student to whom the artist has been a father figure since he was four. He has sat for him over 20 times, and is pictured here leaning on a section of wall with a pencil in his hand wearing the black and grey of which Heldens says, ‘he only seems to be wearing these days’.

Distracted by Wim Heldens

For the past few weeks everyone has been speculating around this year’s winner… a few voices hoped Louis Smith’s provocative  “Holly” would get BP’s generous sum. But his painting of a model chained to a rock that is 8ft-high as a canvas didn’t get the prize, the jury went for a rather more conservative piece… for a change.

The “Kitsch resurrection of 19th-century academic art” which mixes a nerd’s WOW erotic fantasies with a Pre-Raphaelite style wasn’t enough attractive for this year’s jury. At least not for all of them.

Ian Cumberland, 28, took third prize for his portrait of a friend.

Holly, by Louis Smith, photo by Louis Smith/PA

Our personal favorite “Mrs Cerna by Sertan Saltan” got the young artist award…. maybe the jury members felt threatened by Mrs Cerna’s hair rollers and latex gloves while sharpening a large knife? Who knows.

Mrs Cerna by Sertan Saltan

So until mid-September you’ll have the opportunity for some good portrait canvases @ The National Portrait Gallery. Pop-in, have a look, come out, and tell us about your favorite.

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.

This year’s exhibition, featuring fifty-five works selected from a record 2,372 international entries, includes the four shortlisted artists – four shortlisted artists – Ian Cumberland for Just to Feel Normal, Wim Heldens for Distracted, Sertan Saltan for Mrs Cerna and Louis Smith for Holly – as well as the BP Travel Award 2010 winner, Florence-based American artist Paul Beel.

For the second year the exhibition will be complemented by the BP Portrait Award: Next Generation project. Inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, BP Portrait Award: Next Generation gives opportunities for young people aged 14-19 to engage with portraiture. This year, young people can meet BP Portrait Award artists in short Taster Sessions over the London 2012 Open Weekend in July and in three-day Summer Schools in August, and upload their own portraits on the new project website.


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National Portrait Gallery
Saint Martin's Place City of London, Greater London
London, WC2H 0HE United Kingdom
020 7306 0055