The Outwin: American Portraiture Today

November 3, 2023 - January 21, 2024

A woman and three girls look out of a green-painted window.

Launched in 2006 to support the next wave of contemporary portraiture in the United States, the National Portrait Gallery’s celebrated Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is a major survey of the best of American portraiture. Held every three years, and now in its sixth edition, The Outwin: American Portraiture Today presents forty-two works — selected from over 2,700 entries — foregrounding the vibrancy and relevance of portraiture now. In addition to paintings, photographs, drawings, and sculptures, The Outwin includes video, performance art, and textiles, highlighting the seemingly limitless possibilities of contemporary portraiture.

A woman with long dark hair and pale brown skin wearing an orange and blue dress sits in front of a colorful background.Two elders with short gray hair and light brown skin stand in front of a curtain beside a cactus and behind a transistor radio.A person in a tank top and shorts with short dark hair and brown skin stands outside under a bridge cutting the hair of a person with long dark hair wearing a mask

Open to both emerging and established artists, this year’s entrants were encouraged to submit work that moves beyond traditional definitions of portraiture and engages with the social and political landscape of our time.

A woman in a colorful headwrap in the shape of Africa"Cherry" by Narsiso MartinezA woman in a white headscarf, white jacket, and long black skirt stands outside in front of a blue patterned wall with trees and sky behind her

The competition is endowed by and named for Virginia Outwin Boochever (1920 – 2005) who, for nineteen years, volunteered as a docent at the Portrait Gallery.

Click here to learn more about the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

Lockup for The Outwin exhibition

This exhibition has been organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The competition and exhibition are made possible by the Virginia Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Endowment, established by Virginia Outwin Boochever and sustained by her family.

The Ackland’s exhibition is supported in part by Caroline and Arthur Rogers.

Image credits:


Rania Matar (American, born in Lebanon, 1964), Minty, Kayla, Leyah, and Layla, Cambridge, Massachusetts (detail), 2020, inkjet print, image: 28 13/16 x 36 in. (73.2 x 91.4 cm). Collection of the artist, courtesy of Robert Klein Gallery, Boston. © Rania Matar.

Second row of images, Left to Right:

Kira Nam Greene (Brooklyn, New York), Kyung’s Gift in Pojagi (from the series “Women in Possession of Good Fortune”), 2019, oil, gouache, colored pencil, and acrylic ink on canvas, 49 15/16 x 40 3/16 in. (126.8 x 102.1 cm), courtesy of Contemporary Art Matters. © Kira Nam Greene

Vincent Valdez (Houston, Texas), People of the Sun (Grandma and Grandpa Santana), 2019, oil on canvas, 66 1/16 x 48 1/8 in. (167.8 x 122.2 cm), collection of Alexa Brundage. © Vincent Valdez

Alison Elizabeth Taylor (Brooklyn, New York), 2020, marquetry hybrid (wood veneers, oil paint, acrylic paint, inkjet prints, shellac, and sawdust on wood), 73 1/16 x 53 3/8 in. (185.6 x 135.6 cm), collection of the artist. © Alison Elizabeth Taylor

Third row of images, left to right:

Inga Guzyte (Santa Barbara, California), Cutting Edge (from the series “Kindred Spirits”), 2020, wood and used skateboards, 62 x 75 1/2 x 3 in. (157.5 x 191.8 x 7.6 cm), collection of the artist. © Inga Guzyte

Narsiso Martinez (Long Beach, California), Cherry, 2020, ink, gouache, charcoal, metallic paint, and other media on printed cardboard, 35 1/2 x 29 1/2 in. (90.2 x 74.9 cm), collection of Andrew Stearn. © Narsiso Martinez

Khánh H. Lê (Washington, D.C.), She Waited for Her Family from This Point in Place, 2021, acrylic paint, paper, and plastic jewels on canvas, 60 x 84 1/4 in. (152.4 x 214 cm), collection of the artist. © Khánh H. Lê

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