FAQs

When will I be notified if my portrait has been chosen as a semifinalist?

Semifinalists will be notified on or before March 20, 2012. Please check our calendar for upcoming important dates.

Is the OBPC an annual event?

No.  The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is currently scheduled as a triennial event. 

Is the OBPC still open to only painted and sculpted portraits?

No.  OBPC 2016 is open to all visual arts media.

Has anyone ever held a national competition before?

Yes.  Following its inaugural competition in 2006 and now in its fourth iteration, OBPC 2016 is the first national portrait competition to be held in the United States.  OBPC 2016 is similar in some ways to the annual BP Award held at the English National Portrait Gallery in London. 

What do I have to do to enter?

Entries will only be accepted electronically through CaFÉ.org. Artists must provide the following::

  • Basic information about themselves
  • Information about the work they are submitted
  • One or two JPEG images of the work.  Each image should be 1920 x 1920 pixels and no larger than 1.8 megabytes.
  • Artists entering time-based media (video, film, digital animation) will be given further instructions on the online entry form.
  • Credit card information to pay the nonrefundable $45 entry fee

Who may enter this competition?

You may enter if you are a professional artist at least 18 years old as of January 1, 2014, and are living and working in the United States or its territories at the time of the competition.

I am a Smithsonian intern.  Can I enter?

No.  Smithsonian Institution employees, regents, trustees, interns, volunteers, fellows, and research associates are ineligible to enter the competition.

How do you define a professional artist?

A professional artist earns a significant portion of his or her income from their art and regularly shows works in solo and group exhibitions.

How do you define "portrait?"

In the broadest sense of the word!  There are many valid approaches for representing an individual, some of which may not even include a face.  But the work entered must be based on your direct contact with a living individual, and the human figure must predominate.

May I enter more than one portrait?

No.  Each artist may enter only one portrait, and it must have been completed after January 1, 2013.

Does the subject of the portrait matter?  Should the portrait depict a famous person?

The portrait can be of anyone, as long as it is based on the artist's direct contact with that person.  Self-portraits and portraits with multiple figures will also be accepted.

Who are the judges?

The jury is composed of the following persons:

  • Kim Sajet, Director, National Portrait Gallery.
  • Brandon Brame Fortune, Chief Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, National Portrait Gallery
  • Dorothy Moss, Associate Curator of Painting and Sculpture, National Portrait Gallery
  • Dawoud Bey, Photographer, Professor of Art and Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College, Chicago, Illinois
  • Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California
  • Jerry Saltz, Senior Art Critic, New York Magazine, New York City
  • John Valadez, Artist, Los Angeles

What are the awards?

  • First prize: $25,000 cash prize and the opportunity for a commission to create a portrait of a remarkable living American for the National Portrait Gallery's permanent collection
  • Second prize: $7,500 cash prize
  • Third prize: $5,000 cash prize
  • Commended artists: Up to four additional artists may be commended for their work, and they will receive $1,000 each.
  • The winner of the People’s Choice Award, announced in September 2016. will receive $500.

All finalists' work will form a major exhibition on view at the National Portrait Gallery from March 12, 2016, until January 8, 2014, with subsequent national tour through August 2018.

How will the commission be awarded to the winner?

The National Portrait Gallery is commissioning portraits of remarkable Americans for its collection in all media. NPG has created a working list of possible subjects from the worlds of the arts, science, business, entertainment, sports, and public service. The winning artist will work with the Portrait Gallery to select a subject and arrange sittings. The winner of the first OBPC 2006, David Lenz, created a portrait of Eunice Kennedy Shiver, portrayed with five persons who have participated in the Special Olympics and Best Buddies programs that she founded. The winner of the second OBPC 2009, Dave Woody, created a photographic portrait of food pioneer Alice Waters. Bo Gehring, winner of OBPC 2013, created a video portrait of jazz musician Esperanza Spalding.

What is the entry fee?

$45 (via credit card), entered through the OBPC's secure online entry form on CaFÉ.org.  

Why is there an entry fee?

The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is made possible through a generous gift from Virginia Outwin Boochever, a former volunteer at the National Portrait Gallery, who initiated this program to invigorate the art of portraiture in the United States and to offer support to artists. The costs of launching and administering a national competition are great, however. Therefore, the Portrait Gallery is charging a minimal entry fee to offset some of these costs, so that Mrs. Boochever’s gift can continue to support future competitions.

What are the size and weight restrictions for artworks?

Paintings, drawings, pastels, watercolors, photographs, and prints should be framed, and all two-dimensional work should not measure more than 7 feet by 7 feet by 8 inches, including the frame.

Sculptures should not exceed 7 feet (height) by 7 feet by 4 feet in size.

Video, film, and digital animation should be submitted in DVD format.

No work should weigh more than 150 pounds.

Can I enter a portrait that I entered in another competition?

Yes, as long as the work was completed after January 1, 2013.

When and how will I be notified?

...that my application has been received?  You will receive an e-mail confirmation.
…if I am a semifinalist?  Semifinalists will be notified by e-mail or U.S. mail on or around March 20, 2015, that their work has been selected for further consideration. At that time, arrangements will be made to ship the work to Washington, D.C.
…if I am a finalist, or a prizewinner?  Finalists and winners will be e-mailed or notified via U.S. mail on or before September 15, 2015. Their entries will be part of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2016 exhibition, which will be on view in Washington, DC, from March 12, 2016 through January 8, 2017, and then on subsequent national tour through August 2018.

How late can I submit my entry?

The deadline for all entries is 11:59 p.m. MT (Mountain Time) on November 30, 2014. However, the National Portrait Gallery reserves the right to limit the number of entries in any medium; therefore we strongly encourage you to submit your entry as early as possible.

If I am a semifinalist, will my work be insured? Will the NPG cover shipping expenses?

Artists must insure their work in transit, until arrival and condition reporting by NPG is complete, and from the time the work leaves National Portrait Gallery custody. Insurance for the work while it is in the custody of the National Portrait Gallery, including exhibition tour, will be provided by the National Portrait Gallery and will be based on the artist’s good faith estimate of the market value of the work. Semifinalist works will be packed if necessary, and will be shipped, at the National Portrait Gallery’s expense, to Washington, D.C., for further judging from the original portraits. The Gallery will ask the artist to cover any packing and shipping expenses that exceed $3,000.00, one way. The National Portrait Gallery will also cover all packing and shipping expenses for the return of the portrait to the owner.

Can the artwork be offered for sale during the period it is entered in the competition?

No. No work entered in the competition or selected for the exhibition can be removed by the artist or third-party owner before the end of the exhibition and subsequent tour, and may not be sold during the course of the competition or the exhibition and subsequent tour (March 12, 2016 through August 8, 2018). 

Do I have to relinquish my copyright?

No.  The copyright in all works submitted to and exhibited in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and which are exhibited will remain the property of the artist. But it is a condition of entry that the National Portrait Gallery shall have the irrevocable right of free reproduction of all exhibited works for the exhibition publication, postcards, prints, posters, and other products, including electronic distribution on websites and social media accounts maintained by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian, publicity, educational, and reference purposes in connection with the OBPC and the resulting exhibition, and other standard museum uses.