An exhibition of one of the world’s most prestigious art competitions was unveiled at Aberdeen Art Gallery yesterday.
After judges whittled down entries from more than 1,980 people from 69 countries around the world who had entered the BP Portrait Award this year, 48 of the best portraits – including the award winners – are on display at the city centre gallery.
Organised by the National Portrait Gallery, an exhibition had been planned in London before having to be moved online due to Covid-19.
The shift means Aberdeen is the only venue in the UK where the pieces can be physically viewed.
Featuring as a centrepiece for the exhibition is Jiab Prachakul’s painting Night Talk, which won the Thai-born, Lyon-based artist this year’s award and a cheque for £35,000.
A catalogue of the exhibition features an essay by Madeline Ward, lead curator at Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, on the art of self-portraiture.
She said: “It is an absolute honour to host the 2020 BP Portrait award.
“It has been brilliant to persevere forwards with the gallery. In this new Covid world, to be able to bring forward and present new and exciting artwork is amazing for the city.
“Even though we have to be socially distant and wearing masks, the exhibit can introduce some degree of normality and allow people to view a bit of creativity.”
Ms Ward says next year’s competition and the art world as a whole will be very different as a result of Covid-19.
She added: “Looking through the world in a Covid lens, the inspiration behind pieces will be very different as will the way in which artists are able to put them together.
“People might not be able to just sit in a bar and pose for a portrait or travel internationally as many of the painters whose work is in this room have.”
Currently residing in the BP Gallery of the venue, the works will be available for viewing until January.
Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokeswoman, added: “The gallery has been open for less than a year so it is amazing to be able to bring such stunning world-class art here to Aberdeen. I feel very privileged to be able to come and see it all.”
In light of the first minister’s announcement on Wednesday that cultural venues will remain open to the public following a tightening on restrictions, councillor Boulton added: “We were all on tenterhooks, but we are all very relieved to say that Aberdeen Art Gallery is open for business with no added Covid restrictions.”
Entry is free but tickets must be booked in advance for entry to the gallery. Visit www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/AAGM for more information