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The National Portrait Gallery is putting the BP Portrait Award online

Written by
Katie McCabe

The BP Portrait Award is the most reliable art event in London. Its exhibition opens at the beginning of every summer at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s always full and always free. And you can guarantee it will include at least one photorealistic painting you won’t like. But for 2020, in what would have been its forty-first year, the NPG has had to move the show online. 

Three artists have just been shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award, and the show (which was due to open on May 21) will now be available to view from May 5, using a virtual gallery space which will mimic the rooms at the National Portrait Gallery. The portraits shortlisted for the £35,000 first prize are ‘Night Talk’ by Jiab Prachakul, ‘Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model’ by Sergey Svetlakov and ‘Labour of Love’ by Michael Youds. The public will still be able to vote for their favourite through a ‘visitor’s choice’ feature. 

As the National Portrait Gallery is due to close for a £35.5million refurb that is scheduled to take three years, it seems unlikely that the BP Portrait Award will be able to go on display in real life before the building works begin in June.  

As it’s so popular, the BP show is notorious for art lingerers. So, on the plus side, viewers using the online gallery will be able to see the display of 48 paintings in more detail, instead of peering over the top of a tourist’s head. 

Find the virtual exhibition on the National Portrait Gallery site from May 5.

Try more virtual gallery and museum tours here

National Gallery staff have been recreating paintings from its collection and the results are pretty impressive

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