THE AWARD / A brief History

Inspired by the long-standing, UK-based annual international portrait competition, the BP Portrait Award, Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville, Cape Town launched the Sanlam Portrait Award in 2013 – with generous sponsorship from Sanlam Private Wealth.

The competition is similar to its UK counterpart, but at a reduced scale, with a single prize of R100 000 for the best portrait. This biennial competition is open to all resident South African artists, 18 years and older, and aims to increase public awareness and appreciation for the art of portraiture, as well as give South African artists an opportunity for further exposure.

With an overwhelming 1 783 entries by 1 205 artists in its first year, the competition has grown by leaps and bounds. With the launch of a digital entry system for the 2019 competition, it is sure to elevate the standard of South African portraiture for years to come.

The competition is based on anonymous judging: all the works entered are unsigned, thereby levelling the playing field and ensuring that the three judges select the top 100 portraits purely on technicality, narrative and emotional appeal.

Each year, a panel of three judges, consisting of one international and two local judges, select what they deem the best 100 portraits from the entries received. From these, the Top 40, Top 5 and winning portrait are selected.

In addition to the Top 40 works exhibited at the Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville, the remaining 60 portraits will be exhibited at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town, under the title PORTRAIT 100, giving the public the opportunity to view 100 of the country’s best portraits in one City. Collectable catalogues are printed to commemorate the Top 40 Portraits.


  • The winner will receive a cash prize of R100 000 presented by Sanlam Private Wealth.
  • Sanlam Private Wealth will on application assist the winner in entering the next UK Portrait Award competition held by the National Portrait Gallery in London, covering the entry fee and contributing up to R10 000 for shipping where applicable.
  • The winning artwork will feature on the cover of the 2021 portrait award catalogue.
  • The winner will be invited to present a solo exhibition at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in 2021.


  • The Top 40 artworks will be exhibited at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery from 23 August until 23 October 2019 and the artists will be invited to the gala event at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery for the award ceremony.
  • The Top 40 works will be published in the 2019 Sanlam Portrait Award catalogue.
  • The artists of the Top 40 selected works will be invited to participate in a group exhibition curated by Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in 2021.


  • The 60 remaining artworks will be displayed as PORTRAIT 100 at AVA Gallery in Cape Town from Saturday 24 August 2019.





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