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.

May I enter more than one portrait?

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.

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

The portrait can represent anyone. Self-portraits and portraits with multiple figures will also be considered.

Is the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition an annual event?

No. The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is held every three years.

What type of artwork does the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition consider?

The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is open to portraits made in any visual arts media.

Do other museums hold national portrait competitions?

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.

What do I have to do to enter?

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

Who may enter this competition?

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.

Who are the jurors?

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.

What are the awards?

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: $10,000 cash prize

Third Prize: $7,500 cash prize

People’s Choice Award: $1,000 cash prize

How will the commission be awarded to the winner?

The winning artist will work with the National Portrait Gallery to select a subject and arrange portrait sittings.

What is the entry fee?

$50 (via credit card), paid through a secure online entry form on a submission site.

Why is there an entry fee?

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.

What are the size and weight restrictions for artworks?

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.

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

Yes, as long as the work was completed after January 1 of the previous competition year.

When and how will I be notified that my application has been received?

You will receive an email confirmation.

When and how will I be notified if I am a semifinalist?

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.

When and how will I be notified if I am a finalist or a prizewinner?

Finalists and prizewinners will be emailed. See Calendar for notification dates.

How late can I submit my entry?

See Calendar for submission deadline. The submission portal will close at 6PM (EST) on the final day.

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

Insurance in the amount of the good-faith estimate of value determined by the lender shall be placed on all loans. 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. Semifinalist works will be packed if necessary and will be shipped, at the Portrait Gallery’s expense, to Washington, D.C., for further judging.

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. Artwork may not be sold during the course of the competition or the exhibition and subsequent tour.

Do I have to relinquish my copyright?

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.