The National Portrait Gallery has announced the return of its annual painting competition, the Portrait Award, with support from new headline sponsor, Herbert Smith Freehills.

L-R: Night Talk by Jiab Prachakul © Jiab Prachakul; Portrait of Fatima by Jamie Coreth © Jamie Coreth

Celebrating the 42nd edition of the competition, the first Herbert Smith Freehills Portrait Award will represent the very best in contemporary portraiture, with entries accepted until 16 January 2024, to all artists aged eighteen and over.

This inaugural year of sponsorship builds on 20 years of support from Herbert Smith Freehills, longstanding partner of the National Portrait Gallery. Since 2004, the international law firm has supported exhibitions, seasons and the Gallery’s 150th anniversary, as well as the Gallery’s major transformation project, Inspiring People, as Reopening Partner.

The Herbert Smith Freehills Portrait Award is one of the most important platforms for portrait painters.

The highly competition aims to encourage artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work. Since its inception, the competition has attracted over 40,000 entries from more than 100 countries and over 6 million people have seen the exhibition.

It has a first prize of £35,000, making it one of the largest for any global arts competition. The second prize winner receives £12,000 and a third prize of £10,000 is also awarded. The Herbert Smith Freehills Portrait Award will also include a Young Artist Award, which will see a prize of £9,000 awarded to a selected entrant, aged between 18 and 30, profiling their talent and supporting career development.

Artists can submit their painted portraits here before 16 January 2024.

Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery commented “Our prestigious painting competition and associated exhibition have always held a special place at the National Portrait Gallery, so I am delighted to see their return, thanks to the generous support of new headline sponsor, Herbert Smith Freehills. The new Herbert Smith Freehills Portrait Award will continue to showcase the best in contemporary portrait painting, and provide opportunities for a new generation of talented portraitists. I look forward to seeing the shortlisted works on the walls of our newly renovated galleries.”


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