FAQs

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 completed after January 1, 2016.

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.

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

Semifinalists will be notified on or before November 12, 2018. Please check our calendar for key dates.

Is the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition an annual event?

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

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

The 2019 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 and is now in its fifth iteration. 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 an online submission form (website TBD). Artists will be required to provide the following information:

  • Basic information about yourself including name, address and other contact details.
  • Information about the work you are submitting including media, dimensions, and year created.
  • One or two JPEG images of the work. Each image file should be no larger than 1920 pixels on its longest side 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 $50 entry fee.

Who may enter this competition?

You may enter if you are an artist at least 18 years old as of May 28, 2018, and are living and working in the United States or its territories at the time of the competition.

Who are the jurors?

The Portrait Gallery selects three members of its own 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, Thelma Golden, Sidney Goodman, Hung Liu, Kerry James Marshall, Helen Molesworth, Brian O’Doherty, Richard J. Powell, Jerry Saltz, Peter Schjeldahl. Katy Siegel, Alec Soth, and John Valdez.

The list of jurors for the 2019 Portrait Competition is forthcoming.

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: $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 (announced around May 2020): $500 cash prize

All finalists' work will form a major exhibition on view at the National Portrait Gallery from November 2, 2019, until September 7, 2020, with a subsequent national tour from October 2020 through January 2022.

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. 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 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 former First Lady Michelle Obama.

What is the entry fee?

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

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 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 Portrait Gallery is charging 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, pastels, watercolors, 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 .mp4 or .mov compatible format. If selected for exhibition, artist will be asked to provide the highest resolution / quality 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, 2016.

When and how will I be notified?

. . .that my application has been received?   You will receive an email confirmation.

.…if I am a semifinalist?   Semifinalists will be notified by email on or around November 12, 2018, that their work has been selected for further consideration. At that time, loan paperwork will be processed and arrangements will be made to ship the selected works to Washington, D.C.

…if I am a finalist, or a prizewinner?   Finalists and prize winners will be emailed on or before May 13, 2019. Their entries will be part of The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today, the exhibition resulting from the 2019 Portrait Competition that will be on view in Washington, D.C., from November 2, 2019 through September 6, 2020, and on national tour from October 2020 through January 2022.

How late can I submit my entry?

The deadline for all entries is midnight MT (Mountain Time) on September 3, 2018.

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

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.

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 from May 2018 through January 2022. 

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 exhibition publication, 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.