2020 BP Portrait Award winner announced and BP judge denounced

Written by Adam Bryce

A self-taught Thai artist has won the BP Portrait Award but it’s the decision to remove the oil company’s representation from the judging panel that’s become the main focal point.

Self-taught artist Jiab Prachakul has been announced the winner of the prestigious 2020 BP Portrait Award at London’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG). The award, widely regarded as one of the most important in the art world, has been overshadowed in recent years by its association with naming sponsor, oil industry company, BP.

There has been a slight ‘clean up’ with the exclusion of a BP representative on the judging panel but, to many, the move wasn’t bold enough. Cries for the NPG to completely cut ties with BP have been getting louder and louder in recent years, with former Turner Prize winners and members of the art elite, such as Anish Kapoor, Sarah Lucas and Christian Marclay penning open letters encouraging the NPG to sever the relationship entirely. Additional pressure has been mounting by the organisation ‘BP OR NOT BP’ who protested the 2019 exhibition asking “why does the British Museum continue to work with this corporate criminal?”

And so, Prachakul’s win of this year’s award may have been slightly overshadowed by the heated discussion, but the appreciation of his talent has not gone a miss. In fact, the judging panel was percieved to be more independent, giving an increased amount of credibility to this year’s decision.

Which brings us to the artwork itself. Entitled Night Talk, the portrait is a moody depiction of two friends in a Berlin bar, gained first prize out of 1,981 entries from 69 countries.


Night Talk by Jiab Prachakul. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Night Talk by Jiab Prachakul. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

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