Exhibition identity

BP Portrait Award 2002, National Portrait Gallery, London: Pentagram

As portraiture hots up – even Kate Moss has commissioned Lucien Freud to paint her – the high profile BP Portrait Award, now in its 22nd year, has introduced a redesigned graphic system and identity by Pentagram.

Previously, exhibition posters, invites, brochures, books, banners and catalogues have featured the same look – a poster of one of the shortlisted paintings, details of the awards and the BP logo.

The portrait used on promotional material however, often not the winning painting, usually became better known than the eventual winner Рa real drawback. Furthermore, it meant the award had no fixed look, says Pentagram partner Fernando Guti̩rrez.

Gutiérrez has formalised the exhibition’s entire graphic approach. He has introduced a two-way colour scheme, this year in orange and yellow, designed to lend the exhibition a more ‘branded’ feel. The colours will change annually to define each show.

BP’s logo is less prominent. ‘We discussed the logo at length with the client, but felt [BP] was well established as the sponsor,’ says National Portrait Gallery head of design Jude Simmons.

To capture the ‘spirit of the [prize’s] selection process’, Gutiérrez worked with photographer Phil Mayer, who created black and white ‘reportage’ shots of curators setting up the show. The press invitation, for example, shows a man carrying a framed portrait.

‘I wanted to capture the human dialogue around each painting and the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into the exhibition,’ Gutiérrez says.

The portraits speak for themselves within the exhibition, so it is purposefully information-light with just unobtrusive captions by each painting, says Simmons.

Her in-house team has applied the fundamentals of Gutiérrez’s designs across both 2D and 3D environments, from the show catalogue to the shop.

The BP Portrait Award runs until 15 September at the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2

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