6 September 2010

NPG / BP Portrait Award 2010

Every year I make sure to go and see the paintings at the BP Award. I used to love it and it made me feel inspired. But it seems to me that year on year I am leave more disappointed than the last.
I'd estimate that half of the paintings on show this year were of the photo-realism variety. As I wrote on my (pointless) voting slip, "where's the art in copying things?".
The end results of this kind of 'art' seem, to me, to be too perfect and lacking in humanity; reproducing a snapshot of a moment in time leaves no scope for interpretation either by the artist or the viewer... an artist recreates a photo in paint and the end result itself looks like a photograph. Why not just take a decent photograph in the first place?!
I chatted to a couple of other people there who agreed with me.
Anyway, judge for yourself... see them all here, but be aware that the size/scale online does not really do them justice and, if you haven't seen this year's show already, try to go an see it before it finishes on September 19th.
I got me thinking that there are better portraits on pub signs...

Clockwise from top left: NPG doorway mosaic; my voting slip; my choice: 'I went to a marvellous party' by Dairmund Kelly*; Lord Lyndhurst pub (now residential), SE15; Prince William Henry pub (note tree sprouting from his head!), Blackfriars Road, SE1; Samuel Beckett in Notting Hill; Hoxton paper graffiti; The Duke of Sussex (now Frederick's restaurant), N1.
*just googled him and I don't like anything else he's done!!!


  1. I've been making the same comment at the BP Portrait Awards every year for the past three years. I can't understand the preponderance of photo-realistic work that gets selected for this show.
    I have exactly the same reservations about photo-realistic work as you - it's lack of soul or human spirit. Why are there so few expressive pieces? Where are the painters who follow in the footsteps of Matisse, or Auerbach for instance?

  2. Exactly Prof... though there were plenty of Matisse and Picasso pretenders at the RA Summer Exhibition this year.... but hardly any photo-realist paintings.
    And i am not so sure that I'd want to hang out with the kind of people who obsessively copy things either!!

  3. Actually, looking at the website, there are some excellent paintings there, and it looks as if this year's selection has a slightly lower proportion of photorealistic work then the last couple of years - perhaps the NPG is taking some account of visitors' views. I'll be seeing the show itself this week.

  4. Please be sure to let me know what you think...

  5. Thanks for the link - I saw all the exhibition without leaving my chair! I thought the Alan Rickman portrait was good - but I'm not quite sure the artist has centred it properly on the canvas.

  6. I agree on the whole with these sentiments - although I cannot get there this year i do usually take a look andhave felt increasingly that the contest is a bit fashion dominated.

    thanks for sharing anyway!


  7. Shame the Samuel Beckett mural by Alex Martinez is in such a sad state... Far better than some of the portraits at the BP Award. I believe the paste up to the left of 'Sam' was by Prefab77. While in world of graffiti, some portraits by C215 of immigrants and homeless people are absolutely amazing. Maybe for a next post...


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Thanks, Jane