Zurich Portrait Prize 2021 at the National Gallery of Ireland

Image Credit: Sarah Doyle (Dublin), Portrait of Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D. Higgins, Photograph © Sarah Doyle

Rachel Healy gives an overview of this year’s Zurich Portrait Prize at the National Gallery of Ireland

The National Gallery of Ireland is now showcasing the shortlisted artworks for both the Zurich Portrait Prize and the Zurich Young Portrait Prize until April 2022. The exhibition includes 24 works of art from the former and 20 from the latter and are displayed in the Portrait Gallery. The prize-giving ceremony will take place on 30 November 2021.

Neil Freshwater, CEO of the competition’s sponsor, Zurich, said that, “after such extraordinary competitions and exhibitions in 2020, Zurich are delighted to see another impressive selection of works in this year’s shortlist. The Zurich Portrait Prize and Zurich Young Portrait Prize exhibitions are a highlight of the cultural calendar and we are very proud to continue to sponsor these competitions and to support Irish talent of all ages, now more than ever.”

The requirements for the Zurich Portrait Prize submissions include being over 19 years of age, a resident on the island of Ireland or an Irish citizen living abroad. Portraits of unidentifiable figures, fictional or imaginary figures were not allowed. Works in any media (including photography, video, sound, print, textiles, ceramics, sculpture etc.) were permitted. Young Portrait rules state that artists must be aged between 5 and 18 years old.

Visitors to the Portrait Prize exhibition will get a wonderful insight into the talent, creativity and motivations of those who are engaged in portraiture today.

The artwork on display has been shortlisted from hundreds of entries and chosen by three judges, including UCD’s own Róisín Kennedy, Assistant Professor of the School of Art History & Cultural Policy, Seán Kissane, Curator at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and artist, Eamonn Doyle. “The winner of the Zurich Portrait Prize will receive a cash prize of €15,000 and will be commissioned to create a work for the national portrait collection, for which they will be awarded a further €5,000. Two additional awards of €1,500 will be given to highly commended works.” 

Sarah McAuliffe, curator of the Zurich Portrait Prize, said that “with nearly 500 entries to the Zurich Portrait Prize this year, we saw a wide range of styles, techniques and methods being employed. Each artist’s style is truly unique and I really enjoy learning about the trends in contemporary portraiture each year. I think visitors to the Portrait Prize exhibition will get a wonderful insight into the talent, creativity and motivations of those who are engaged in portraiture today.”

The Zurich Young Portrait Prize, which started in 2019, will see five winners - one from each age category and an overall winner. Winners will receive an art box and a cash prize. The judges for this section are visual artist Aideen Barry, artist Joe Caslin, and Tadhg Crowley, Senior Curator: Education + Community at the Glucksman.

This year’s selection pushes definitions of portraiture with a strong sense of experimentation with material.

“The Zurich Portrait Prizes at the National Gallery of Ireland continue to go from strength to strength.” says Sean Rainbird, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland. “Our aim is to encourage interest in and excitement about contemporary portraiture, and we’re thrilled to have Zurich partnering with us once again as we do so. A terrific selection of works has been shortlisted this year for both competitions, and we look forward to the exhibitions later this year at the Gallery and next year in Crawford Art Gallery in Cork.”

Jennie Taylor, curator of the Zurich Young Portrait Prize, stated that third level students would benefit greatly from visiting this exhibition. “This year’s selection pushes definitions of portraiture with a strong sense of experimentation with material. There is a diverse representation of identities and it captures several prominent art practices in Ireland today. A range of personal, political and historical narratives feature in these portraits. Students who visit the exhibition will find that their experience of the rest of the Gallery will be enhanced from viewing contemporary portraiture in the context of historic works.”

The free exhibition is currently on display in the Portrait Gallery of the National Gallery of Ireland. The exhibition will then travel to Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery, 23 April - 17 July 2022. Shortlisted entries below. More information can be found at www.nationalgallery.ie 

Shortlisted artists for the Zurich Portrait Prize 2021:

Carey Clarke (Dublin), Portrait of David Somerville, Oil on canvas

Serena Caulfield (Wexford), Dad, 5/10/2020, Oil on wood panel

Mollie Douthit (Cork), Life in lockdown part IV: Laying on my kitchen floor with lavender eye mask to stave off a migraine, Oil on linen panel

Lizzie Downes (Dublin), Inside, Archival photographic print

Sarah Doyle (Dublin), Portrait of Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D. Higgins, Photograph

Gabhann Dunne (Dublin), I love ya boy, Oil on board

Beverley Healy (Belfast), Looking for Gold, Egg tempera on true gesso board

Vanessa Jones (Dublin), Cabbage Baby (self-portrait), Oil on linen

Dragana Juriši? (Wicklow), Daithi sleeps, Archival pigment print

Paul MacCormaic (Dublin), Portrait of Catherine Corless, Historian and Human Rights Activist, Oil and acrylic on canvas

Tom McLean (Galway), Note to Self, Oil on aluminium

Cian McLoughlin (Dublin), Lockdown Three, Oil on canvas

Jonathan Mayhew (Dublin), All I could do was sit and collect dust, Sculpture made from the artist’s hair, dust & detritus.

Poot Mendes (Dublin), Bobby + Isaac, Photograph

Nick Miller (Sligo), Portrait of Patrick Hall – painting, Oil pastel and paint on linen

Julia Mitchell (Tipperary), Knight of Kilcooley Abbey, Oil on canvas

Gráinne Moloney (Clare), Girl with Hen, Oil on canvas

Emily O’Flynn (Cork), Portrait of a Girl Through a Pandemic, Video on plasma screen

Conor O’Leary (Surbiton, England), Fiona and Woody, Evening Light., Photograph

Liz Purtill (Kerry), Paulus, Egg tempera, heavy paper mounted on wood

Emma Roche (Wexford), Shower Painting (Self-portrait), Knitted acrylic paint on wood panel

Salvatore of Lucan (Dublin), Me Ma Healing Me, Oil on canvas

Brian Teeling (Dublin), Declan Flynn in Dublin, Photograph

Riley Waite (Oregan, USA), Ian Was Here, Oil on canvas

Shortlisted artists for the Zurich Young Portrait Prize 2021:

Adam Wiercioch Chinatamunnee (Cavan, aged 5), My Father, Watercolour and ink on paper

Emilie Cowley Lane (Meath, aged 5), My Gaga, I miss you so much, Poster paint on cork board

Liam Kehily (Dublin, aged 5), Mammy, Coloured pencils and graphite pencil

Marianna Krolik (Dublin, aged 6), Mia, Watercolour and pencil on paper

Rebecca Sheahan (Dublin, aged 5), E E … Evie, Acrylic on canvas

Aliana Aherne (Dublin, aged 9), Mixed Up Me, Oil paint on paper

Rita Ruitong Chen (Wicklow, aged 8), My Mum, Watercolour and pencil on paper

Ellie Giblin (Dublin, aged 10), My Glamorous Grand-Aunt, Chalk pastels and charcoal on sugar paper

Úna and Braden McDonnell (Louth, aged 6 & 8), Úna with the dancing curls, Polystyrene base, papier mache, acrylic paint, papers, markers and plasticine

Eleanor Margey (Donegal, aged 11), Magnifying Glasses, Drawing pencils and white pen on paper

Della Cowper-Gray (Kildare, aged 14), Painting in a different world now (My Father The Artist), Pencil and pastel on paper

Cora Lee (Dublin, aged 13), Working from Home, Pencil, marker and pen on paper

Joanna Lipska (Kildare, aged 14), Chip-Chop, Colouring pencil on paper

Lijun Ma (Dublin, aged 15), Self Portrait, Paint on canvas

Ayesha Siddique (Laois, aged 14), Ayesha’s portrait, Acrylic and pencil on canvas

Niamh Brady (Cork, aged 18), Unmasked, Pencil and paint marker on paper

Mia Buckley (Cork, aged 17), Tudor, Acrylic paint on canvas

Ross McHale (Kildare, aged 16), Life’s Loop, Relentless Rebirth, Acrylic on cardboard animation

Loren McKenna (Tyrone, aged 17), Deliberation, Oil on cardboard

James Moonan (Louth, aged 16), Grandad, Pencil, acrylic, corrugated card on paper