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.
No. Each artist may enter only one portrait, and it must have been created after January 1 of the previous competition year. Details will be listed in each Call for Entries.
The portrait can represent anyone. Self-portraits and portraits with multiple figures will also be considered.
Please check our Calendar for key dates.
No. The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is held every three years.
The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is open to portraits made in any visual arts media.
As the first national portrait competition organized by a major museum in the United States, the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition held its inaugural competition in 2006. The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is similar in some ways to the annual BP Award that is organized by the British National Portrait Gallery in London.
Entries will be accepted electronically through the online submission form on the Competition page. You will be required to provide the following information:
• Basic information, including your name, address, and other contact details
• Information about the work you are submitting, such as title, date, media, and dimensions (Note: Artists entering time-based media (video, film, digital animation) will be given further instructions on the online entry form.)
• One or two JPEG images of your work. Each image file should be no larger than 1200 pixels on its longest side and no larger than 5 megabytes
• Credit card information to pay the nonrefundable $50 entry fee
You may enter if you are an artist who is at least 18 years old at the time of submission and are living and working in the United States or its territories.
The Portrait Gallery selects three members of its staff and four professionals from outside the museum (critics, art historians, artists) to serve as jurors for each competition. Since 2006, the year of the first competition, guest jurors have included Dawoud Bey, Wanda M. Corn, Trevor Fairbrother, Peter Frank, Harry Gamboa Jr., Thelma Golden, Sidney Goodman, Lauren Haynes, Byron Kim, Hung Liu, Kerry James Marshall, Helen Molesworth, Brian O’Doherty, Jefferson Pinder, Richard J. Powell, Jerry Saltz, Peter Schjeldahl, Katy Siegel, Alec Soth, and John Valdez. See Jurors for current list.
First Prize: $25,000 cash prize and 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 individuals): $1,000 cash prize(s)
People’s Choice Award: $500 cash prize
The winning artist will work with the National Portrait Gallery to select a subject and arrange portrait sittings. The winner of the first OBPC 2006, David Lenz, created a portrait of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, portrayed with five individuals who participated in the Special Olympics or the 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. The OBPC 2016 winner, Amy Sherald, the first woman to win the competition, was selected to create a portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama.
$50 (via credit card), paid through a secure online entry form on a submission site (TBD).
The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is made possible through a generous gift from Virginia Outwin Boochever, a former National Portrait Gallery docent, who endowed the program to invigorate the art of portraiture in the United States and to offer support to artists. Because the costs of organizing a national competition and producing the Portrait Competition exhibition are so high, the museum charges a minimal entry fee to ensure that Mrs. Boochever’s gift can continue to support future competitions.
Paintings, drawings, photographs, and prints should be framed, and all two-dimensional work should measure no more than 7 ft. x 7 ft. x 8 in., including the frame.
Sculptures should not exceed 7 ft. (height) x 7 ft. x 4 ft.
Video, film, and digital animation should be submitted in an .mp4 or .mov compatible format. If selected, artists will be asked to provide the highest-resolution format of the work for display.
No work should weigh more than 150 pounds.
Yes, as long as the work was completed after January 1 of the previous competition year.
You will receive an email confirmation.
Semifinalists will be notified by email that their work has been selected for further consideration. See Calendar for notification dates. At that time, loan paperwork will be processed, and arrangements will be made to ship the selected works to Washington, D.C.
Finalists and prizewinners will be emailed. See Calendar for notification dates.
See Calendar for submission deadlines.
Artists must insure their work in transit, until arrival and condition reporting by National Portrait Gallery staff is complete, and from the time the work leaves the Portrait Gallery custody. Insurance for the work while it is in the custody of the Portrait Gallery, including exhibition tour, will be provided by the 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 Portrait Gallery’s expense, to Washington, D.C., for further judging from the original portraits. The Portrait Gallery will ask the artist or owner to cover any packing and shipping expenses that exceed $3,000 one way. The Portrait Gallery will also cover all packing and shipping expenses up to $3,000 for the return of the portrait to the artist or owner.
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. Artwork may not be sold during the course of the competition or the exhibition and subsequent tour.
No. The copyright in all works submitted to and exhibited in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and that 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 museum’s publications, postcards, prints, posters, and other products, including electronic distribution on websites and social media accounts maintained by the Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian, publicity, educational, and reference purposes in connection with the OBPC and the resulting exhibition and subsequent tour, and other standard museum uses.