BP Portrait Award 2009

Apparently it should have been a photo.

Germaine Greer‘s comment on the winning entry in this year’s BP Portrait Award, now showing at the National Portrait Gallery, is that it should have been a photo. And she’s right.

It even has in abundance what would be described on flickr as good bokeh.

The odd thing is that the second placed portrait, with its greater attention to detail and finer clarity, looks both more like an actual photographic reproduction on the one hand and on the other like an image no camera could achieve. It’s still not the best thing in this exhibition (this might be) but it would have been a more worthy winner.

And of course the odder thing is that last year’s winner of the Photographic Portrait Prize – and the runner up as well incidentally – wanted to be painters.

It’d be enough to make your head spin if you cared about such things.

We could play a silly game of supposing there was only one portrait prize open to anybody creating any work that represented somebody else — in which form would most of the winners come. But I’m above such stuff and nonsese (mostly) and besides the judges would never allow a straight representational photograph to win. Or indeed a straight painting – hence Ms Greer‘s comments.

But away from all this sulk and nonsense I always look forward to the Portrait Prize exhibitions – and am always humbled by the sheer number of works that rate above the merely ordinary. There are only a couple in this year’s collection whose appearance I’d question and a number I want to go back and see again. And this is mainly done by people well off the art world’s radar, and in some cases yer actual amateurs.

This year’s winner has previous though – and is indeed off to Venice.

I’d call the exhibition life affirming but I’m using that phrase a lot at the moment. However, it’s also free – another good reason to go.


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