Zurich Portrait Prize 2020: Winners announced by National Gallery of Ireland

Coronavirus-themed works win both main prizes in national portrait competition

A portrait capturing an eight-year-old boy and his time at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, which became the inspiration for a painting by his father, has been named the winner of the National Gallery of Ireland's Zurich Portrait Prize. Portrait of a Boy, Morning by Aidan Crotty was announced as the winning portrait this evening at a virtual ceremony. As well as a prize of €15,000, the artist will receive a commission worth €5,000 to produce a new work for the National Portrait Collection.

Born in Waterford, Aidan Crotty currently lives and works in west Sligo. Portrait of a Boy, Morning depicts the artist’s eldest son Rían at eight years of age. The painting began when schools were closed and movement was restricted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In his statement about the portrait, Aidan Crotty said, “Absorbed in the notable quiet, Rían turns to feel the morning light warm his face. As we moved from Spring into Summer this painting gave a basic structure to start the day and is a record of our time in confinement.”

Judges for this year's Zurich Portrait Prize were Rita Duffy, Dr Philip Cottrell and Aoife Ruane. Commenting on their selection, they said, "We have thoroughly enjoyed participating as judges in this year's Zurich Portrait Prize and were particularly struck by the overwhelming response to the competition. In these challenging times it is great to see those making time for art and experimenting with their practice in new and exciting ways. We were delighted to have the opportunity to see the artworks 'in the flesh', which was very important when making our collective selection. We extend our congratulations to the winner, Aidan Crotty, and to the two highly commended artists, Sarah Bracken Soper and Sathishaa Mohan. "

The winners were also announced for the Zurich Young Portrait Prize. Judges Maria Cagney, Colin Davidson and Aoife Dooley selected a winner from each age category (ages 6 and under, ages 7-11, ages 12-15, ages 16-18).


Is this Normal? by Eva McParland (aged 14) was selected as the overall winner of the prize. As well as a personalised wooden box of high quality art materials, the prize includes a €500 prize. In her artist’s statement, Eva McParland said, “This portrait is of my younger sister Ellen. The mask she is putting on is central to the piece. It seems nearly normal now; but not long ago it would seem strange. I think this provokes deeper questions about the concept of normality.”

Conor McPolin (aged six) won the youngest category with Conor, a self-portrait. In the second category, 10-year-old Jiayi Sun won with a self-portrait set in Beijing, Myself Eating Ice Cream. A girl in silence, a portrait about freeing imagination by 12-year old Zili Yang, was the winner of the category for ages 12-15. JohnLuka Doherty, aged 17, won the final category with Joey, a portrait of the artist's school basketball coach. Each category winner is awarded a personalised box of art materials alongside a prize of €250.

Sean Rainbird, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, said, "In a challenging year for artists and all those who are part of Ireland's vibrant cultural ecosystem, we were delighted to receive over 1,000 entries across our two competitions. We were thrilled to reopen the gallery doors just last week, and it's a joy to watch our visitors explore new work at these exhibitions in our Portrait Gallery. Heartfelt thanks to every artist who submitted a portrait, as well as to our judges and our sponsor Zurich."

An exhibition featuring the winning portrait alongside 25 other shortlisted works, is now open at the National Gallery of Ireland. It will run until March 21st 2021 alongside the Zurich Young Portrait Prize. Both exhibitions will travel to Crawford Art Gallery in Cork in 2021.