The BP Portrait Award, organised by the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London, is among the most prestigious prizes that can be awarded to a work of portraiture. During this unusual time, the NPG took to their social media platforms this morning to digitally announce that Jiab Prachakul has won the 2020 edition of the prize for her work Night Talk. For winning the Portrait Award, Prachakul will take home £35,000 and could receive a commission of up to $7,000 from the NPG.
Prachakul’s work was shortlisted alongside Sergey Svetlakov’s Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model (second prize winner, receiving £12,000) and Michael Youds’ Labour of Love (third prize winner, receiving £10,000). In addition to top prize winners, Egbert Modderman’s portrait titled Restless won the 2020 BP Young Artist Award, a £9,000 prize that is given each year to an entrant who is between 18 and 30.
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⭐We are delighted to announce the #BPPortrait Award 2020 first prize goes to Jiab Prachakul⭐⠀ ⠀ The judges thought the work was ‘an evocative portrait of a fleeting moment in time, giving us a glimpse into someone else’s life that is beautiful, mysterious and alive. It is loosely painted and the bold composition makes clever use of contrasting shapes.’⠀ ⠀ ⭐The second prize has been awarded to Sergey Svetlakov for ‘Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model’. ⠀ ⠀ ⭐The third prize went to Michael Youds for his portrait ‘Labour of Love’ depicting Tommy Robertson, the owner of an independent music store in Edinburgh. ⠀ ⠀ ⭐The BP Young Artist Award, given to an entrant aged between 18 and 30 has been won by Dutch artist Egbert Modderman for ‘Restless.’⠀ ⠀ Find the winning works in our online virtual exhibition – link in bio.⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #NationalPortraitGallery #Portraiture #BPPortrait⠀ ⠀ 🎨: Night Talk by Jiab Prachakul, 2019 © Jiab Prachakul; Portrait of Denis: Actor, Juggler and Fashion Model by Sergey Svetlakov © Sergey Svetlakov; Labour of Love by Michael Youds © Michael Youds; Restless by Egbert Modderman © Egbert Modderman⠀ ⠀
Typically, each of the top-placing works would be shown at the NPG in an exhibition of selected works from the entries received. Given current circumstances, the NPG has created a virtual exhibition, which opens today, of the 48 selected works in lieu of their usual show. The works were chosen out of 1,981 submissions from 69 countries. Additionally, this was the first time that any of the top prize winning artists had entered the competition.
Born in Thailand in 1979, Prachakul is an entirely self-taught artist. She studied film at Thammasat University before working as a talent agent for a Bangkok production company. Nearly 15 years ago, she moved to London where she first realised her want to be an artist. In 2008, she moved to Berlin and began selling her works which inspired her to create an online fashion brand centred around her art, that she still operates today. Her award-winning work is a portrait of Jeonga Choi, a Korean designer, and Makoto Sakamoto, a Japanese composer. Both close friends of Prachakul’s, Night Talk finds the pair in a Berlin bar.
“Our identity is dictated to us from the moment we are born, but as we grow up, identity is what we actually choose to be,” said Prachakul in an April press release announcing her as a shortlisted candidate for the prize. “I do believe that our circle of friends is what makes us who we are. Jeonga and Makoto are like family to me. We are all outsiders, Asian artists living abroad, and their deep friendship has offered me a ground on where I can stand and embrace my own identity.”
According to the announcement, the judges for the 2020 award found Night Talk to be “an evocative portrait of a fleeting moment in time, giving us a glimpse into someone else’s life that is beautiful, mysterious and alive. It is loosely painted and the bold composition makes clever use of contrasting shapes.”
The panel of judges, this year, included NPG director Dr Nicholas Cullinan, NPG head of collections (Victorian – Contemporary) Rosie Broadley, writer and curator Ekow Eshun, writer Justine Picardie, and artist and former winner of the BP Portrait Award Benjamin Sullivan.
The 2020 Portrait Award is notably the first edition since 1997 in which a representative for BP, the oil conglomerate that sponsors the award, has not sat on the judging panel; therefore, the company had no say in who won the competition. This absence comes after the NPG has received more and more pressure to cut ties with the oil company. Although in a statement to The Guardian, the NPG denied that this was the case saying: “The judging panel is refreshed each year to ensure new perspectives are brought to judge the entries. The gallery and BP jointly agreed not to have a sponsor representative on the judging panel this year.”
Last year, the NPG received two letters, one of which was signed by 78 artists, including five Turner Prize winners, and the other was a letter from Gary Hume, who previously sat as a judge for the BP Portrait Award, urging the NPG to end their affiliation with BP, a move that the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company made in October of last year. While this could signal a step in that direction for the NPG it is only a “minor victory,” according to Hume.