News - BP Portrait Award 2018


The winner of the BP Portrait Award 2018 was announced this week at the National Portrait Gallery, London...

The prestigious first prize - in the 29th year of BP’s sponsorship of the competition - was won by London based artist, Miriam Escofet for An Angel at my Table.

Miriam Escofet was born in Barcelona and moved to the UK in 1979. Escofet graduated from Brighton School of Art in 1990, where she studied 3D Design, and began painting soon after. This is the fifth time Escofet has been selected for the BP Portrait Award exhibition. She has also been regularly selected for The Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ annual exhibitions and was awarded the Burke’s Peerage Foundation Prize for Classically Inspired Portraiture in 2015.

An Angel at my Table shows Escofet’s elderly mother sat at her kitchen table surrounded by tea crockery. The painting suggests a sense of space, perspective and time which conveys the sitter’s inner stillness and calm. Escofet says she was also conscious whilst painting that she wanted to ‘transmit an idea of the Universal Mother, who is at the centre of our psyche and emotional world.’

The winning portrait was selected from 2,667 entries from 88 countries, submitted for judging anonymously by a panel which included journalist Rosie Millard and artist Glenn Brown. The judges were particularly struck by the constraint and intimacy of Escofet's composition, evoking both the inner stillness of her subject and the idea of the Universal Mother. Commenting on the portrait, Rosie Millard said ‘The crisp tablecloth and china are rendered so beautifully – and then you see that one of the plates and a winged sculpture on the table appear to be moving which adds a surreal quality to the portrait. It is also a very sensitive depiction of an elderly sitter.’



The second prize of £12,000 went to American painter, Felicia Forte, for Time Traveller, Matthew Napping.

Felicia Forte studied at the California Art Institute and The Art Students League of New York. Her work has been seen in numerous exhibitions in the USA. Forte was Artist-in-Residence at de Young Museum of Fine Art, San Francisco and her work Self-Portrait, Melting Point was selected for the BP Portrait Award 2015 exhibition.

Time Traveller, Matthew Napping finds Forte’s sweetheart Matthew DeJong asleep on a sweltering summer’s day in Detroit. Forte says she was struck by the beautiful contrasts in the scene - the ‘cool light from the window meeting intense red light from the bedside lamp and the loneliness of the sleeper amidst the festive colours.’ The portrait was the culmination of a body of new work made in summer 2017 in residence at Redbull House of Art in Detroit.

The judges were particularly impressed by the artist’s bold use of colour, creating a painting that exudes atmosphere while also being distinctly intimate and personal.



The third prize of £10,000 went to Chinese artist, Zhu Tongyao for Simone.

Zhu Tongyao was born in Jinan, Shandong and attended China Central Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence. Tongyao has exhibited in Italy and China and in 2015 was awarded first prize in the Florence Biennale - International exhibition of contemporary art. This is the first time Tongyao has entered the BP Portrait Award.

Simone was painted while Tongyao was studying in Italy. The portrait depicts Simone, the child of the artist’s neighbours who took care of Tongyao during his stay. The painting shows Simone with a joyful expression on his face reflecting the peace that his family brought to him. The work captures a moment when the boy sat down and the sunlight fell on his face, which Tongyao says ‘recalled my cherished memory of happy time spent with his family.’

The judges appreciated how the work combined the tradition of Renaissance portraiture with the sitter’s modern style that conveyed a compelling portrayal of a youth on the cusp of adulthood.



The BP Young Artist Award of £9,000 for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30 has been won by 28 year-old Suffolk based artist Ania Hobson for A Portrait of two Female Painters.

Ania Hobson undertook a degree in fine art at the University of Suffolk followed by short courses at the Prince’s Drawing School and Florence Academy of Art. Her work has been seen in group exhibitions in the UK and the annual exhibitions of the Society of Women Artists and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Her self-portrait, Ania, was selected for the BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition.

A Portrait of two Female Painters, depicts the artist with her sister in law Stevie Dix and explores the relationship between the two of them as painters working in the studio together. Hobson used an upward perspective to allow the viewer’s eye to map the portrait and convey a feeling of confidence and creative energy which celebrates female painters today.

The judges liked the handling of paint and directness in this work, capturing an interesting air of mystery around the relationship of the two young women.


The winner of the BP Travel Award 2018,an annual prize to enable artists to work in a different environment on a project related to portraiture, was Robert Seidelfor his proposal to travel along the route of the river Danube by train, boat and bike to connect with people and make portraits in the regions through which the river passes. The prize of £8,000 is open to applications from any of this year’s BP Portrait Award-exhibited artists, except the prize-winners.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Chair of the Judges and Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Many congratulations to all the artists in the exhibition and in particular to the prize winners. This has been another year of outstanding entries to the BP Portrait Award, representing the very best of contemporary portrait painting. It is a privilege to chair the judging process and I would like to thank all the artists who decided to enter the 2018 competition. I hope visitors will enjoy this year’s selection of works.’

Ms Des Violaris, Director UK Arts and Culture BP, added “The BP Portrait Award has established itself as one of the most important platforms for portraiture in the world, and with the value of the prizes increasing across all categories this year it is also one of the largest of any global arts competition. Congratulations to Miriam Escofet and all of this year’s prize-winning artists. BP is a major supporter of UK arts and culture, and we are extremely proud of the continued success of this award programme and we look forward to seeing the exhibition in London, Wolverhampton, Edinburgh and Winchester throughout the year.”

The exhibition will also include the work that resulted from The BP Travel Award 2017 which was won by Casper White for his proposal to create works about music fans in clubs and concert venues in Berlin and Mallorca, representing an often youth-related subculture that is not traditionally recorded in portrait paintings.

A fully illustrated catalogue featuring all forty-eight selected works will accompany the exhibition. The catalogue also includes an essay by curator and judge Rosie Broadley, an illustrated interview with the BP Travel Award 2017 winner and interviews with the prize winners. The catalogue, priced at £9.99, is out now.

You can see the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London until 23rd September, after which it goes on tour to:

Wolverhampton Art Gallery (13 October – 2 December 2018)

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (15 Dec 2018 - 10 March 2019)

Winchester Discovery Centre (March – June 2019).

Find out more on the National Portrait Gallery website


 Images: 
An Angel At My Table by Miriam Escofet,   Copyright: © Miriam Escofet
Time Traveller, Matthew Napping by Felicia Forte   Copyright: © Felicia Forte
Simone by Zhu Tongyao,     Copyright: © Zhu Tongyao
A Portrait of two Female Painters by Ania Hobson     Copyright: © Ania Hobson