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What makes portraiture so compelling?

When an artist represents someone else, he or she brings a set of cultural influences to bear that is as much about them as it is about the sitter. When that private exchange results in a portrait, both people learn more about themselves. And when the portrait becomes public by being on exhibition in a museum, the exchange is open to a range of conversations brought forward by visitors.

What stories do these portraits share?

These works are particularly exciting because they represent a timely snapshot of artistic practices across the country, and reflect themes of social debate within the last three years. The portraits tell stories of gender and LGBTQ activism; at-risk youth and teenage vulnerability; refugees, migration, and displacement; ethnicity and the Black Lives Matter movement; poverty, illness, and health care; and the power of families. The artworks toggle between a sense of profound isolation and personal determination.

Who was Virginia Outwin Boochever?

Virginia Outwin Boochever (1920–2005) endowed the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. For nearly two decades, Virginia was a docent at the National Portrait Gallery. Passionate about art and about people, she believed in the transformational power of portraiture. Virginia saw the endowment of a portrait competition as a way to benefit artists directly and as a
unique opportunity to fill a void in the American art world.

Who are the Jurors?

The noted guest jurors for this competition considered this exhibition a synopisis of historical and cultural events that have unfolded in the past three years (since the previous competition.)

  • Dawoud Bey, professor of art and Distinguished College Artist, Columbia College, Chicago.
  • Brandon Brame Fortune, chief curator, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • Helen Molesworth, chief curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
  • Dorothy Moss, associate curator of painting and sculpture, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • Kim Sajet, director,  National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • Jerry Saltz, senior art critic, New York Magazine, New York City, NY
  • John Valdez, artist, Los Angeles, CA