National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC

Entry Deadline: 11/30/14

Images – Minimum: 0, Maximum: 2
Audio – Minimum: 0, Maximum: 1
Video – Minimum: 0, Maximum: 6
Total Media – Minimum: 1, Maximum: 6

Entry Fee (Smithsonian Institution Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition): $45.00


Dawoud Bey, Professor of Art and Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College, Chicago

Brandon Brame Fortune, Chief Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator, MOCA, Los Angeles

Dorothy Moss, Associate Curator of Painting and Sculpture; Director, Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Kim Sajet, Director, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution,Washington, D.C

Jerry Saltz, Senior Art Critic for New York Magazine

John Valadez, Artist, Los Angeles


First prize: cash award of $25,000 and a separate commission to portray a remarkable living American for the Portrait Gallery’s collection

Second Prize: $7,500 cash prize

Third prize: $5,000 cash prize

Commended artists: Up to four additional artists may be commended for their work, and they will receive $1,000 each.

The winner of the People’s Choice Award will receive $500.

All finalists’ works will form a major exhibition on view at the National Portrait Gallery from March 12, 2016, to January 8, 2017, with subsequent national tour through August 2018.

Who May Enter?

The competition is open to all professional artists age 18 and over who are living and working in the United States and its territories. Each artist may enter one work depicting anyone—a friend, a stranger, a relative, yourself—but it must be the result of the artist’s direct encounter with that person. While the human form must be the focus of the work, artists are invited to interpret the concept of portraiture broadly; for example, an entry might not include a face. The work must have been completed after January 1, 2013.

What To Enter?

The work entered should be understood as a portrait in the broadest sense. It may be a traditional, representational work or it may be a more experimental portrait, but it must be based on the artist’s direct contact with any living individual(s). Self-portraits will be accepted.

Each artist may enter only one portrait, and it must have been completed after January 1, 2013.

Entries will be accepted in all visual arts media, including but not restricted to painting, drawing and watercolor, sculpture, weaving, ceramics, photography, prints, video, film, and digital or time-based media.

Paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, pastels and watercolors should be framed (strip frames for paintings are acceptable). Paintings should preferably be unglazed. Works on paper should be framed and glazed with UV filtering glass or Plexiglas. All two-dimensional work shall measure no more than 7 feet by 7 feet by 8 inches (including frame), nor should weigh more than 150 pounds. The National Portrait Gallery will provide attachment hardware for works selected for exhibition.

Sculptures may be freestanding or wall-mounted and may be composed of any sculptural medium. This includes, but is not limited to, stone, metal, fiber, clay, wood, paper, or resin. Sculptures should not exceed 7 feet (height) by 7 feet by 4 feet in size, nor should they weigh more than 150 pounds. The National Portrait Gallery will provide platforms, pedestals, or attachment hardware for sculpture selected for exhibition.

Video, film, digital and time-based media will be accepted, and special instructions for entering these works will be available in the online entry form. The online entry form MUST be completed.

How Do I Enter?

Entries will only be accepted electronically, from August 1 until November 30, 2014. DO NOT send original artwork.

Entry to the competition—and submission of JPEG images—is available online for a nonrefundable registration fee of $45. Artists who wish to submit time-based media (video, film, digital animation) will find instructions for entry on the entry form.

Artists may submit a statement about their work, their particular entry, and/or the circumstances of the creation of the portrait. Dimensions and medium information will be required.

The first round of jurying will be done online. Judges will identify the semifinalists, whose works will be transported to Washington, D.C. The final selection will be made from the semifinalist portraits.

All works transported to Washington will be returned to the owners at the Portrait Gallery’s expense.

The public will have an opportunity to vote for its favorite work among the finalists through the People’s Choice Award.

Entry Deadlines

August 1, 2014, 9:00 a.m. MT (Mountain Time): Call for entries opens.

November 30, 2014, midnight MT(Mountain Time): Deadline for submitting entries.

March 20, 2015: Semifinalists are notified.

July 13, 2015: Semifinalist work must be available for shipping to Washington, D.C.

September 18, 2015: Finalists will be notified, and owners of non-selected works are notified when objects will be returned.

March 12, 2016, through January 8, 2017: the 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition exhibition will be on view at the National Portrait Gallery.

February 2017 through August 2018: Exhibition on national tour.

Artworks are returned to lenders after the close of the exhibition at the final venue.

Judging and Notification

The first round of jurying will be done online by a panel of experts chosen by the National Portrait Gallery, who will select approximately 100 semifinalists. On or before March 20, 2015, the National Portrait Gallery will contact artists who have been selected as semifinalists by e-mail. Artists whose work was not selected for further consideration will also be notified at this time. Upon notification of semifinalist status, entrants will be required to sign a loan agreement, which will also include an affidavit confirming their eligibility.

On or before September 18, 2015, approximately 50 finalists whose work has been selected for the exhibition, including those awarded prizes, will be notified by e-mail. Works not selected will be returned to the lenders only to an address within the United States as provided by the artist. The public will have the opportunity to vote for the People’s Choice Award during the run of the exhibition.

The Exhibition

The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2016 is scheduled to be on view at the National Portrait Gallery from March 12, 2016 through January 8, 2017. A national tour with three venues is being planned through August 2018. The exhibition will comprise the jurors’ top 50 selected portraits, including the prizewinning entries.

Up to seven artists who have been shortlisted for an award will be expected to attend the presentation ceremony in Washington, D.C., March 2016. The National Portrait Gallery will reimburse these artists for standard travel and lodging costs, subject to prior approval by the National Portrait Gallery. All artists whose works are exhibited will be invited to attend the opening reception.


Ownership of all portraits submitted for the Portrait Competition, including copyright, will remain the property of the owner, but it is a condition of entry that the artist shall grant to the National Portrait Gallery the irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide right to use and reproduce all exhibited works for the exhibition publications, public programs, publicity, promotion, research, postcards, prints, posters, and other products, in all formats, including but not limited to electronic distribution on websites and social media accounts maintained by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian, in connection with the Portrait Competition and resulting exhibition.

Distribution can occur either through printed or electronic media. The artist is required to secure a written model release from the subject to enable the National Portrait Gallery to use and reproduce the portrait. Semifinalists will be provided with a form for this purpose. The winning artist will be required to transfer ownership of, and assign all rights, including copyright, in the commissioned portrait to the National Portrait Gallery, but the National Portrait Gallery will grant the artist a license to reproduce the portrait for use in his or her portfolio for noncommercial, portfolio purposes.

The commissioned portrait will be submitted to the National Portrait Gallery’s Commission for approval of its inclusion in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. By participating in this contest, artists agree to be bound by these rules, including all eligibility requirements. All interpretations of the rules and decisions by the National Portrait Gallery relating to the rules and the Portrait Competition are final.