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BP Portrait Award 2010: The Public & Judges Are In Disagreement

BY Boon Koh
Published 9 September 2010

Earlier this June, Daphne Todd won the BP Portrait Award 2010 for the best portrait, beating over 2,177 applicants around the world. Since then, a longlist of portraits have been available to view by the public at the National Portrait Gallery.

As “the people’s vote” seems to be in vogue nowadays, led by shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor, the National Portrait Gallery hosted a public vote, where visitors to the BP Portrait Award 2010 exhibition got the chance to vote for their favourite portrait in the exhibition. Interestingly, none of the top three portraits chosen by the professional judges in June were in the top three chosen by the public, reigniting the debate of if professional judges are getting more out of touch with the popular public.

The professional judges had chosen Last Portrait of Mother by Daphne Todd as the winner, which is a somewhat shocking and sombre portrait of her mother lying on her death bed. Second prize went to Harry by Michael Gaskell, and Tim II by David Eichenberg took third prize.

The public, however, voted Michal Ozibko’s iDeath as the best portrait by a far margin. The portrait is a photograph of a girl wearing earphones focusing on her iPod and her music, with head facing downwards and a distant non-emotional look on her face.

So on the one hand we have professional portrait judges raving about a painted portrait with a very sad and gloomy image, painted by an artist who can only be described as a portrait professional, having served as a former president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Michal Ozibko, on the other hand, is no amateur either, working as an artist and art director in Prague, but who clearly is not someone who specialises in portraits and decided to capture a poignant everyday moment in photography.

So are professionals really getting more disconnected from the real world and existing in their own secluded bubbles? It seems like this debate keeps rearing its head more and more frequently most often with classical music where there has been declining public interest over the years, but also extends to the art world, and to extent even the financial industry, where professional bankers got so caught up in their synthetic financial instruments and disconnected from the economics of the real world.

Sill, I think there needs to be a good balance between professional judgement and the people’s judgement, as you do need the feedback and advice from those who are experts in the field, while still balancing it with making sure that art, music, and everything else in the world for this matter is still highly relevant to the general public.

Perhaps next year, the BP Portrait Award should be run on a Britain’s Got Talent format, with the initial public having input into the whole choosing-the-winner process, but with key input from the judges, and more importantly, for the judges to connect with the masses to share their knowledge of art.

The BP Portrait Award 2010 will be at the National Portrait Gallery until the 18th September 2010. Admission is free. The National Portrait Gallery is also open late on Friday evenings.


  • http://www.cerity.co.uk Barry Green

    I certainly agree Ozibko’s iDeath painting to be the winner, although the title confuses me a little.

    With its 230 cms height this portrait, being located in the far corner of a long gallery, grabs attention from the moment it is first sighted. The brilliant forehead and uncommon cross like composition of hair, forehead and nose makes the viewer wonder why the frame is boldly and unusually divided into equal quarters. At close quarters the eyeline is right on the forehead and gives a very itimate feeling. After reading the title I first wondered if the subject was alive or dead? Not at all! Is the sitter wearing makeup? Not at all! The artist has magnificently captured pure beauty in every detail. This is a must to see and to ponder time and time again.

    Barry G

  • http://www.cerity.co.uk Barry Green

    I certainly agree Ozibko’s iDeath painting to be the winner, although the title confuses me a little.

    With its 230 cms height this portrait, being located in the far corner of a long gallery, grabs attention from the moment it is first sighted. The brilliant forehead and uncommon cross like composition of hair, forehead and nose makes the viewer wonder why the frame is boldly and unusually divided into equal quarters. Close up the viewers eyes are level with the forehead which gives a strong feeling of itimacy. After reading the title I first wondered if the subject was alive or dead? Not at all! Is the sitter wearing makeup? Not at all! The artist has magnificently captured pure beauty in every detail. This is a must to see and to ponder time and time again.

    Barry G

    PS – correection to some wording.

  • Emma

    iDeath is not a photograph, it is a very realistic painting (oil with acrylic background on canvas)