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

Add to your experience of the art on view with guided tours, art classes for kids, F.A.M. Fun in the Galleries, paired portrait drawing at a local brewery, an artist talk, an ekphrastic poetry and portraiture event, and more.

Curator-Led Tour
Friday, November 3, 2023 | 3:30 p.m.

A Closer Look Tours
Fridays November 3, 10 & 17, 2023; December 1, 8, 15 & 17, 2023; and January 19, 2024 | 1-1:30 p.m. Free.

Art Adventures
Saturdays November 18, 2023 & January 13, 2024 | Morning and afternoon sessions. $0-5. RSVP.

F.A.M. Fun in the Galleries: Picturing Portraiture in The Outwin
Sunday, November 19, 2023 | 1-5 p.m. Free.

Crafty Hour: Paired Portraits at Craftboro Brewing
Thursday, November 30, 2023 | 6-8 p.m. Craftboro Brewing. $0-30 per portrait pair.

Artist Talk: Alison Elizabeth Taylor
Thursday, January 11, 2024 | 6 p.m. Free. RSVP.

2nd Friday ArtWalk: Student Edition!
Friday, January 12, 2024 | 5-9 p.m. Free.

Defining a “We”: Parsing the Potentialities of Poetry and Portraiture
Sunday, January 21, 2024 | 1 p.m. Free. RSVP.

Last Look Tour
Sunday, January 21, 2024 | 3:30 p.m. Free.

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 presentation 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, 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), Anthony Cuts under the Williamsburg Bridge, Morning, 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

Your Responses

  1. I saw the original mounting of the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It is simply magnificent. I’m so happy the show will be coming to the Ackland. I will be revisiting some of my favorite works when they arrive in Chapel Hill.

  2. extremely exciting to see the world class portraiture that is being done today. Everything says, “Now! Today! Truth and beauty.”

  3. Yes! I’ve been to the exhibit up at the Smithsonian 3 times in years past. And then once since at the Ackland. So glad it’s coming back this year.❤️

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this eclectic portraiture exhibit.
    The docent tour/talk was well-worth taking. Details shared from behind the scenes and beyond the artists’ statements always enhance the appreciation of any work.
    It’s always fun to be surprised by a piece and learn something unexpected!
    Thank you.

Comments are closed.