When and how will I be notified
...that my application has been received?  Your confirmation will be posted at the top of your online entry and will read, "Your submission is complete and cannot be changed."
…if I am a semifinalist?  Semifinalists will be notified by e-mail or U.S. mail on or around November 30, 2008, that their work has been selected for further consideration.  At that time, arrangements will be made to ship the work to Washington, D.C.
…if I am a finalist, or a prizewinner?  Finalists and winners will be e-mailed or notified via U.S. mail on or before June 15, 2009.  Their entries will be part of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2009 exhibition, which will be on view from October 23, 2009 through August 22, 2010.

How do I view my entry?
Please click here to view your entry. You will be prompted to enter your eight-digit registration number that was assigned to you at the beginning of the entry process. If you have misplaced your registration number, please e-mail for assistance.

Is the OBPC an annual event?
No.  The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is currently scheduled as a triennial event.  The call for entries for the OBPC 2009 was from June 2 – July 31, 2008.

Is the OBPC still open to only painted and sculpted portraits?
No.  OBPC 2009 is open to all visual arts media.

Has anyone ever held a national competition before?
Yes.  Following its inaugural competition in 2006 and now in its second iteration, OBPC 2009 is the first national portrait competition to be held in the United States.  OBPC 2009 is similar in some ways to the annual BP Award held at the English National Portrait Gallery in London.  Check out the archived OBPC 2006 Web site at

How do I enter this competition?

The call for entries to the OBPC 2009 is now closed. Please look for the call for entries to the OBPC 2012 in summer, 2011.

Who may enter this competition?
You may enter if you are a professional artist at least 18 years old as of January 1, 2008, and are living and working in the United States at the time of the competition.

I am a Smithsonian intern.  Can I enter?
No.  Smithsonian Institution employees, regents, trustees, interns, volunteers, fellows, and research associates are ineligible to enter the competition.

How do you define a professional artist?
A professional artist earns a significant portion of his or her income from their art and regularly shows works in solo and group exhibitions.

How do you define "portrait?"
In the broadest sense of the word!  There are many valid approached for representing an individual, some of which may not even include a face.  But the work entered must be based on your direct contact with a living individual, and the human figure must predominate.

May I enter more than one portrait?
No.  Each artist may enter only one portrait, and it must have been completed after January 1, 2007.

Does the subject of the portrait matter?  Should the portrait depict a famous person?
The portrait can be of anyone, as long as it is based on the artist's direct contact with that person.  Self-portraits and portraits with multiple figures will also be accepted.

Who are the judges?
The jury is composed of the following persons:

  • Martin E. Sullivan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Carolyn Kinder Carr, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Wanda Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California
  • Brandon Fortune, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • Kerry James Marshall, Artist, Chicago, Illinois
  • Brian O'Doherty, Artist and Critic, New York, New York
  • Peter Schjeldahl, Art Critic, The New Yorker, New York, New York


What are the awards?

  • First prize: $25,000 cash prize and the opportunity for a commission to create a portrait of a remarkable living American for the National Portrait Gallery's permanent 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.

All finalists' work will form a major exhibition on view at the National Portrait Gallery from October 23, 2009 until September 6, 2010.

How will the commission be awarded to the winner?
The National Portrait Gallery is poised to begin to commission portraits of remarkable Americans for its collection in all media.  NPG has created a working list of possible subjects from the worlds of the arts, science, business, entertainment, sports, and public service.  The winning artist will work with the Portrait Gallery to select a subject and arrange sittings.

What do I have to do to enter?
You will be asked for:

  • Basic information about yourself
  • Information about the work you are submitting
  • One or two JPEG images of the work.  Each image should be no larger than 2 megabytes.  Artists entering time-based media (video, film, digital animation) will be given instructions on the online entry form to send a DVD with a five minute sample of the work and the full-length work via U.S. mail.
  • Credit card information to pay your nonrefundable $35 entry fee

Please do not send the work itself at the initial entry stage.  NPG will arrange to do this later if you are a semifinalist.

 What is the entry fee?
$35 (via credit card), entered through the OBPC's secure online entry form.  

 Why is there an entry fee?
The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is made possible through a generous gift from Virginia Outwin Boochever, a former volunteer at the National Portrait Gallery, who initiated this program to invigorate the art of portraiture in the United States and to offer support to artists.  The costs of launching and administering a national competition are great, however.  Therefore, the Portrait Gallery is charging a minimal entry fee to offset some of these costs, so that Mrs. Boochever's gift can continue to support future competitions.

What are the size and weight restrictions for artworks?
Paintings, drawings, pastels, watercolors, photographs, and prints should be framed and all two-dimensional work should not measure more than 7 feet by 7 feet by 8 inches, including the frame.
Sculptures should not exceed 7 feet (height) by 7 feet by 4 feet in size.
Video, film, and digital animation should be submitted in DVD format.
All works should not weigh more than 150 pounds.

Can I enter a portrait that I entered in another competition?
Yes, as long as the work was completed after January 1, 2007.


How late can I submit my entry?
The deadline for all entries is 11:59 p.m. EDT on July 31, 2008.  However, NPG reserves the right to limit the number of entries in any medium; therefore we strongly encourage you to submit your entry as early as possible.  

If I am a semifinalist, will my work be insured?
Yes.  The work will be insured "wall-to-wall," and will be shipped to and from Washington, D.C. at the National Portrait Gallery's expense.

Can the artwork be offered for sale during the period it is entered in the competition?

Do I have to relinquish my copyright?
No.  The copyright in all works submitted for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and which are exhibited will remain the property of the artist.  But it is a condition of entry that the National Portrait Gallery shall have the irrevocable right of free reproduction of all exhibited works for the exhibition publication, postcards, prints, posters, and other products, its Web site (or other electronic outlets), publicity, educational, and reference purposes in connection with the OBPC and the resulting exhibition, and other standard museum uses.

Where can I send questions and feedback?
Please e-mail further questions to

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