The Outwin: American Portraiture Today

The Outwin: American Portraiture Today

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis

September 9, 2021
The Outwin: American Portraiture Today
September 10, 2021–January 23, 2022
Screening & talk: September 11, 11am–12pm, Hugo Crosthwaite speaks with Taína Caragol
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis
1 Brookings Dr
St. Louis, MO 63130
Hours: Wednesday–Monday 11am–5pm

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The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis is pleased to present The Outwin: American Portraiture Today, a major exhibition organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery featuring the finalists of the Portrait Gallery’s fifth triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. 

Every three years, artists living and working in the United States are invited to submit a recent portrait to a panel of experts chosen by the Portrait Gallery. In 2019 forty-six works were selected from over 2,600 entries in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, time-based media, and performance art. Artists were asked explicitly to submit works that respond to the current political and social context; the resulting presentation offers perspectives on a range of themes of sociopolitical relevance, including immigration, the status of American workers, mass incarceration, gun violence, and LGBTQ+ rights. 

Finalists come from fourteen states; Washington, DC; and Puerto Rico. While some portraits reflect a direct encounter between artist and sitter, others depict historical figures such as the author and activist James Baldwin, the civil rights worker Lottie Green Varner, and George Stinney Jr., a fourteen-year-old boy executed for a crime he did not commit. The majority of the works represent people who are vulnerable, including immigrants crossing the border, unaccompanied minors seeking shelter, and LGBTQ+ refugees, as well as those figures who are known for supporting social justice. All of the final selections reflect a keen awareness of portraiture’s potential to insist on the presence, and importance, of every human being, evoking a strong sense of activism rooted in empathy.

Competition winners and finalists 
Hugo Crosthwaite, the 2019 competition’s first-prize winner, is a resident of San Diego and 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 across the border from Tijuana, Mexico, to the United States in pursuit of a better life. His sensitive portrayal of her struggles amplifies the role of portraiture in this critical time of border politics. Crosthwaite received a cash award of 25,000 USD and a commission to create a portrait of a living individual for the Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. Previous first-prize winners are David Lenz (2006), Dave Woody (2009), Bo Gehring (2013), and Amy Sherald (2016). The complete list of 2019 finalists can be found at

Jurors and curators
The jurors for the 2019 competition were Harry Gamboa Jr., artist, writer and co-director of the program in photography and media at the California Institute of the Arts; Lauren Haynes, curator of contemporary art at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Byron Kim, artist and senior critic at the Yale School of Art; and Jefferson Pinder, artist and professor of sculpture and contemporary practices at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Three Portrait Gallery curators also served on the committee: Taína Caragol, curator of painting and sculpture and Latinx art and history; Dorothy Moss, curator of painting and sculpture and performance art; and Brandon Brame Fortune, chief curator emerita. 

Dorothy Moss served as director of the 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and co-curated the exhibition with Taína Caragol. The exhibition’s presentation at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is curated by Meredith Malone, curator.

Exhibition support
Organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, the competition and exhibition are made possible through generous support from the Virginia Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Endowment, established by Virginia Outwin Boochever and continued by her children. The presentation at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is made possible by a generous grant from the William T. Kemper Foundation.

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Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis
September 9, 2021

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