BP Portrait Award 2009 (4 stars)

BP Portrait Award 2009

The popular annual exhibition arrives at the Dean Gallery following its first outing in London, featuring a host of familiar names as well as some new international entrants since the competition expanded its reach beyond the British Isles.

Of the 56 portraits, there is the usual plethora of photorealistic representations and covertly stylised pieces, but, somewhat tellingly, little room for out-and-out abstract works. It’s possible that the presence of photographer Gillian Wearing on the judging panel influenced this, though previous years’ exhibitions have been similarly dominated by photorealism, suggesting that abstract portraiture is not in vogue.

Still, there is an awed joy at viewing the minutely detailed faces, walking up and conversing at close distance with these figures who have been stolen and preserved on canvas.

The winning entry is ‘Changeling 2’ by Peter Monkman. The slight blurring and ethereal light lends this image a quality that crisper contemporaries miss. A stand-out among the also-rans is ‘Imagine’ by Jose Luis Corella in which his daughter Paloma is artfully pegged to a washing line by her hair – the context to this portrait attempts a humour that is missing from some of the more traditional works.

Dean Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 21 Feb

BP Portrait Award 2009

  • 4 stars

The popular exhibition of works by shortlisted contemporary portrait painters - a selection of 56, whittled down from one of the competition's largest selection of entries - returns to Edinburgh.

BP Portrait Award: Curator's Tour

  • 4 stars

Nicola Kalinsky, Chief Curator at the Portrait Gallery, gives a tour of the 2009 'BP Portrait Award' exhibition.

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