The Outwin: American Portraiture Today premiered at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in the fall of 2019. Every three years, artists living and working in the United States are invited to submit one of their recent portraits to a panel of experts chosen by the museum in the call for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. The works of nearly 50 finalists were selected from over 2,600 entries. For the first time in the triennial’s history, the museum specifically asked that submissions respond “to the current political and social context,” and this resulting presentation offers perspectives on some of today’s most pressing issues.
The selected finalists create portraits in a wide range of media—painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, time-based media art, installation, and performance—but all are keenly aware of portraiture’s potential to insist on the presence, and importance, of every human being. The Outwin aims to advance the art of portraiture for future generations while encouraging visitors to empathize and locate meaningful connections.
The Outwin first-prize winner is artist Hugo Crosthwaite, who is the first Latinx artist to receive this prestigious award since the national competition was founded in 2006. His prize-winning stop-motion drawing animation, A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez (2018), recounts a woman’s journey from Tijuana, Mexico, to the United States in pursuit of the American dream.
This exhibition has been organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. The competition and exhibition are made possible through generous support from the Virginia Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Endowment.