Enter the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition

The call for entries for the 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is closed


The competition is open to all professional artists age 18 and over who are living and working in the United States and its territories.


Each artist may enter one work. The work must have been completed on or after January 1, 2016. Artists are invited to interpret the concept of portraiture broadly.

Entries will be accepted in all visual arts media including but not restricted to painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, printmaking, textiles, video, performance, and digital or time-based media.

Paintings, drawings, photographs, and other works on paper should be framed (strip frames on paintings are acceptable). Paintings should preferably be unglazed unless they are unvarnished. Works on paper should be framed and glazed with UV filtering acrylic (i.e. Plexiglas) or UV filtering glass in the case of pastels and charcoals. All two-dimensional works shall measure no more than 7 feet x 7 feet x 8 inches (including frame), nor should they weigh more than 150 pounds. Wall-mounted works should be submitted inclusive of mounting hardware (D-rings, cleats, etc.). In the event that no hardware is included with a submission, the Portrait Gallery will add hardware at our discretion and according to best museum practices. The Portrait Gallery will provide corresponding wall-side hardware when installing works selected for exhibition. Sculptures may be freestanding or wall-mounted and may be composed of any sculptural media. This includes, but is not limited to, stone, metal, fiber, clay, wood, paper, and resin. Sculptures should not exceed 7 feet (height) x 7 feet x 4 feet in size, nor should they weigh more than 150 pounds. The Portrait Gallery will provide platforms or pedestals.

Analog and digital time-based media will be accepted, and special instructions for entering these works will be available in the online entry form. The online entry form MUST be completed.

How Do I Enter?

Entries will be accepted electronically from May 28, 2018 (Memorial Day) through September 7, 2018 (Labor Day)

All entries must be submitted electronically through the online submission site. Artists will be required to provide the following:

  • Basic information about yourself including name, address, and other contact details.
  • Information about the work you are submitting including date, media, and dimensions.
  • One or two JPEG images of the work. Each image file should be no larger than 1200 pixels on its longest side and should be no larger than 5 megabytes.
  • Artists entering time-based media (video, film, digital animation) will be given detailed instructions for how to submit their work via the online entry form.
  • Credit card information to pay the nonrefundable $50 entry fee.

Entry Deadlines and Schedule

Entries may be submitted from May 28, 2018, 9:00 a.m. MT (Mountain Time) through September 7, 2018, midnight MT (Mountain Time).

Semifinalists will be notified of their standing on or before November 21, 2018. Semifinalist work must be available for shipping to Washington, D.C., by early February 2019.

Early May 2019, finalists will be notified of their selection and non-finalists will be contacted to arrange for the return of their works.

The 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition exhibition will be on view at the National Portrait Gallery from October 26, 2019, through August 30, 2020. The Portrait Gallery is planning a national tour of the exhibition to additional venues that will take place from October 2020 through January 2022. Artworks will be returned to lenders after the conclusion of the national tour. All entries must be available for loan from late February, 2019, through early March, 2022, to be included in the on-site jury day if selected as a semifinalist, and for the duration of the exhibition and tour if selected as a finalist.

Judging and Notification

The first round of judging will be conducted online by a panel of experts chosen by the National Portrait Gallery. The jury will select approximately 80 semifinalists. On or before November 21, 2018, the Portrait Gallery will contact artists who have been selected as semifinalists by email. Artists whose work is not selected for further consideration will also be notified at this time. Upon notification of semifinalist status, the artists and/or owners of the artworks will be required to sign loan agreements. Artists will be required to sign an affidavit confirming their eligibility.

In early May 2019, approximately 40 to 50 finalists will be selected for the exhibition (including those awarded prizes) and will be notified by email. The works that are not selected for the exhibition will be returned to their owners. The public will have the opportunity to vote for the People’s Choice Award during the run of the exhibition.


The National Portrait Gallery reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any artist it finds to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Portrait Competition, including its website. It also reserves the right to disqualify any artist who does not adhere to the Rules of Entry.

Artists who are chosen as semifinalists may not alter the artwork that they have entered in any way. This includes printing photographs in different sizes and adding varnish. Work entered into the competition may not be sold at any time during the competition, its subsequent exhibition, or the national tour.

Artists must have written approval to submit any work that is owned by a third party and must provide the owner’s guarantee that (1) the owner will be bound by these rules and (2) if required, the work may be placed on loan to the Portrait Gallery for the competition, duration of the exhibition, and subsequent tour.

All exhibiting artists and owners of artwork will be required to sign a loan agreement for the duration of the exhibition and subsequent tour. Artists will sign a consent form for the use of their name, image, and artwork in connection with the Portrait Competition exhibition, publication, and all related marketing, publicity, public programs, and promotion for the exhibition.

Semifinalist works will be packed, if necessary, and shipped to Washington, D.C., for further judging of the original portraits. Work brought to and from Washington, D.C., for the Portrait Competition will be handled by professional art handlers and installers. Work will be retrieved only from an address in the United States and its territories, and the Portrait Gallery will return work only to the address from which it was picked up, unless the artist notifies the Portrait Gallery in writing of a change of address in the United States. All packing and shipping arrangements and costs will be handled by the Portrait Gallery up to $3,000 one way; the artist or owner must cover any costs exceeding that amount.

The artist shall carry insurance for the work while in transit to and from Washington, D.C. Insurance in the amount of the good-faith estimate of value determined by the artist shall be placed on all loans and carried in force from the time the work enters the custody of the Portrait Gallery and is condition-reported until the work leaves the Portrait Gallery at the conclusion of the exhibition, including any subsequent tour. This shall be an all-risk policy, subject to standard policy exclusions carried by the Smithsonian Institution, and all costs shall be borne by the Portrait Gallery.

In the event of loss or damage to the work while in the custody of the Portrait Gallery, the artist will be required to accept insurance proceeds as its sole form of remedy against the Portrait Gallery. Works that cannot be repaired if damaged due to the nature of the materials will not be insured, and the Portrait Gallery bears no responsibility for damage or loss to such works. The Portrait Gallery bears no responsibility for loss or damage caused by normal wear and tear or inherent deterioration of the works. Works selected for exhibition cannot be removed by the artist or owner before the end of the exhibition and subsequent tour and may not be sold during the course of the competition from submission through the Portrait Gallery exhibition period and the subsequent tour (late February 2019 through early March 2022).

The Portrait Gallery is not responsible for any problems or technical malfunctions of the internet or any website, including injury or damage to artists or to any other person’s computer related to or resulting from participating or downloading materials in this Portrait Competition. If, for any reason, the Portrait Competition is not capable of running as planned, the Portrait Gallery reserves the right at its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend the Portrait Competition. Collection of personally identifiable information from artists will be done in accordance with the Smithsonian Institution Privacy Policy as posted on http://www.si.edu/privacy .


The winner of the Portrait Competition will receive a cash award of $25,000 and will be awarded a separate commission to portray a remarkable living American for the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. The winning artist and the Portrait Gallery will collaborate to select the subject for the commissioned portrait. The second-prize winner will receive $7,500, and the third-prize winner will receive $5,000. Up to four additional artists may be commended for their work and those artists will receive $1,000 each. The winner of the People’s Choice Award during the exhibition at the Portrait Gallery will receive $500. All finalists’ works will form a major exhibition on view at the Portrait Gallery from October 26, 2019, through August 30, 2020 and the subsequent national tour from October 2020 through January 2022.  

The Exhibition

The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today, the exhibition resulting from the Portrait Competition, is scheduled to be on view at the National Portrait Gallery from October 26, 2019, through August 30, 2020. A national tour is being planned in collaboration with four venues that will host the exhibition from October 2020 through January 2022. The exhibition will comprise approximately 50 finalist portraits, including the prizewinning entries.

The up to seven artists who have been shortlisted for an award will be expected to attend the presentation ceremony on or around October 25, 2019 (final date to be confirmed). The Portrait Gallery will reimburse these artists for standard travel and lodging costs, subject to prior approval by the Portrait Gallery. All remaining artists whose works are included in the exhibition will be invited to attend the opening reception at their own expense.


Ownership of all portraits submitted to the Portrait Competition, including copyright, will remain the property of the artist, but it is a condition of entry that the artist shall grant to the National Portrait Gallery the irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide right to use and reproduce all exhibited works for the exhibition publications, research, public programs, publicity, any promotional print materials, and electronic distribution on websites and social media platforms maintained by the Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian, in connection with the Portrait Competition and resulting exhibition.

Distribution can occur either through printed or electronic media. The winning artist will be required to transfer ownership of, and assign all rights, including copyright, in the commissioned portrait to the Portrait Gallery, but the Portrait Gallery will grant the artist a license to reproduce the portrait for use in his or her portfolio for noncommercial, portfolio purposes.

The commissioned portrait will be submitted for approval by the Portrait Gallery’s Commission to be included in the Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. By participating in this contest, artists agree to be bound by these rules, including all eligibility requirements. All interpretations of the rules and decisions by the Portrait Gallery relating to the rules and the Portrait Competition, exhibition, and subsequent tour are final.