Following a record number of entries, three artists have been short-listed for the BP Portrait Award, one of Britain's most prestigious art prizes. This year the prize received 1,901 entries, an increase of over 10% on last year. For the third year running, the competition has been open to all aged 18 or over. 56 portraits have been selected for the exhibition which will be shown at the National Portrait Gallery
from 18 June to 14 September 2009.
The three artists shortlisted for the 2009 award are: Annalisa Avancini for Manuel; Michael Gaskell for Tom and Peter Monkman for Changeling 2.
In addition to a prize of £25,000, the winner of the BP Portrait Award will receive a commission worth £4,000. The second prize will be £8,000 and third £6,000. For the third year there will also be a BP Young Artist Award of £5,000 for the work of an entrant aged between 18 and 30. This award along with the winners of the prizes will be announced on the evening of Tuesday 16 June.
The Portrait Award, now in its 30th year at the National Portrait Gallery and 20th year of sponsorship by BP, is a highly successful annual event aimed at encouraging artists to focus upon, and develop, the theme of painted portraiture within their work.
The three artists in consideration for the BP Portrait Award 2009 are:
Annalisa Avancini for Manuel. Annalisa, 35, is a painter and design teacher from Italy who studied at the Arts High School of Trento and the Marangoni Institute in Milan. She worked as a fashion designer for several years before turning to teaching in 2003. This was the third time that Avancini had painted Manuel, 31, a friend she met when staying with her brother in the mountains of the Trento province. 'His eclectic personality is what attracts me. His story shines through his face. Despite his young age his life is rich in experience.' Avancini started this most recent portrait last summer, attracted by the contrast between Manuel's expression, the old chair and the sunlight coming in through the window. Avancini's work has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States and she won First Prize in both the 1st Contemporary Art Show 2006 at the Museum of the Americas, Miami and the Painting Prize for Young Artists 2007 at the Verona Fine Art Society.
Michael Gaskell for Tom. Gaskell, 46, studied at St Helen's College of Art and Design and Coventry Polytechnic and has been exhibiting his work for over twenty years. The shortlisted portrait is of his son, Tom, who was 17 at the time of the first sitting. 'He was at the period in adolescence between boy and manhood and fleetingly suspended between both.' Gaskell continued to work on the portrait over the next two years. 'In spirit my painting owes most to Botticelli's Portrait of a Young Man which is its primary inspiration and a painting I've always loved. The pose itself is more reminiscent of a number of portraits by Holbein, an artist I greatly admire.' Gaskell won Second Prize in the BP Portrait Award 2003 and was commended in both 1999 and 2001 and his work has been the subject of five solo exhibitions.
Peter Monkman for Changeling 2. Currently Director of Art at Charterhouse, Surrey, Monkman, 44, studied visual arts at University of Lancaster, John Moores University Liverpool and the University of London. The shortlisted portrait is part of a series of portraits of his daughter, Anna, that explores the concept of the changeling, a child substituted for another by stealth, often with an elf. 'I challenge the fixed notion of an idealised image of childhood and substitute it for a more unsettling, complex, representation that exists in its own right as a painting.' The initial ideas for this portrait came from photographic studies of Anna playing in woods in Brittany where the light had a magical quality. Monkman's work has previously been exhibited in the BP Portrait Award in 1999, 2001 and 2003 and more recently at the Mall Galleries, Cadogan Contemporary, Watts Gallery and at the Science Museum, London.
The competition was judged from original paintings by this year's panel;
Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London (Chair)
James Holloway, Director, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
Gillian Wearing, artist and photographer
Charlotte Mullins, art historian and critic
Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP
Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, says: 'This year's BP competition entry was of a very high quality, with a large number from around the world. The short-listed works show the range of techniques and styles that make portrait painting so exciting.'