Winners announced of Zurich Portrait Prize and Zurich Young Portrait Prize at National Gallery of Ireland

Details from Salvatore of Lucan, Me Ma Healing Me, and Della Cowper-Gray, Painting in a different world now (My Father The Artist). Images © the artists.Credit

Salvatore of Lucan wins Zurich Portrait Prize; Della Cowper-Gray wins Zurich Young Portrait Prize.

A portrait of a mother practicing healing methods on her son has been revealed as the winner of the National Gallery of Ireland’s Zurich Portrait Prize. Me Ma Healing Me by Salvatore of Lucan 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.

Vanessa Jones and Tom McLean received highly commended prizes to the sum of €1,500 for their respective portraits, Cabbage Baby (self-portrait) and Note to Self.

Salvatore of Lucan (b. 1994) creates large-scale works in an attempt to communicate a sense of the world he inhabits. Exploring home, identity and relationships, he creates expansive domestic scenes where the familiar approaches the magical. This is his third inclusion in the Zurich Portrait Prize. 

Regarding his double portrait Salvatore of Lucan said, “My mother practices sound healing and Reiki, and anytime I’m at home and feeling unwell, she offers to practice on me. I am a distant son and can be sceptical about some of the hippy stuff, but when her hands hover above me, I do feel my mother’s love, and am aware that she is trying to heal me. In making the painting I was inspired by the kind of uncanny, suspended feeling one finds in the alchemist paintings of Leonora Carrington.”

Judges for the Zurich Portrait Prize were artist Eamonn Doyle; Róisín Kennedy, art critic and Lecturer/Assistant Professor in the School of Art History & Cultural Policy, UCD; and Seán Kissane, Curator at IMMA. Commenting on their selection, Seán Kissane said, “We were delighted to be introduced to so many new artists through this process. The broad spectrum of artistic enquiry encountered here was truly impressive.” 

Earlier this evening at a virtual ceremony, the winners were also announced for the Zurich Young Portrait Prize. Judges for the Zurich Young Portrait Prize were visual artist Aideen Barry; artist, art teacher and activist Joe Caslin; and Tadhg Crowley, Senior Curator: Education + Community at the Glucksman. Upon selecting a winner from each age category (ages 6 and under, ages 7-11, ages 12-15, ages 16-18), in addition to an overall winner, Joe Caslin said, “It was great to get into the Gallery space again. The stories in the Zurich Young Portrait Prize are beautiful, hard and carefully executed. These portraits are a snapshot of a difficult year. Congratulations to all of the artists.”

Painting in a different world now (My Father the Artist) by Della Cowper-Gray (age 14) was selected as the overall winner of the Zurich Young Portrait Prize. As well as a personalised wooden box of high quality art materials, the prize includes a €500 cash prize. In her artist’s statement, Della Cowper-Gray said, “This is a portrait of my father the artist, observing the world around him. It is a different world now since COVID-19 and artists have been greatly affected. I wanted to convey that struggle through his expression. The world has changed and so too has the world of the artist.”

Marianna Krolik, aged 6, won the youngest category with Mia, a portrait of her best friend who she can’t see so often since Mia moved to County Cavan. In the second category, 10-year old Ellie Giblin won with her portrait of her grand-aunt Dolores – My Glamorous Grand-Aunt – which she created in lockdown when she could not visit. Self-Portrait, a paint on canvas work of an ordinary afternoon by 15-year old Lijun Ma was the winner of the category for ages 12-15. Mia Buckley, aged 17, won the final category with Tudor, a portrait investigating the colour, light and shadow that was portrayed across the skin of her model. 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, “The Zurich Portrait Prize and Zurich Young Portrait Prize continue to go from strength to strength. Since the exhibitions opened earlier this month, it has been wonderful to see our visitors engage with this impressive selection of contemporary portraiture by artists of all ages at the Gallery. We’d like to thank every artist who applied to the competitions this year, and our terrific judging panels. Our partnership with Zurich also continues to grow, and we’re delighted to be working with them once again in 2021.”

Neil Freshwater, CEO of Zurich, said, “Zurich is immensely proud to support the National Gallery of Ireland with the Zurich Portrait Prize and the Zurich Young Portrait Prize. These prizes showcase an impressive wealth of talent in contemporary portraiture, in all its varied forms. We congratulate this year’s winners Salvatore of Lucan and Della Cowper-Gray on their remarkable achievements. We also recognise all the shortlisted artists who continue to astound us with their skill and creativity. We look forward to seeing the exhibitions open in Cork in 2022.” 

The Zurich Portrait Prize exhibition, featuring the winning portrait alongside 23 other shortlisted works, is now open at the National Gallery of Ireland. It will run until 3 April 2022 alongside the Zurich Young Portrait Prize exhibition of 20 shortlisted portraits. Both exhibitions will travel to Crawford Art Gallery in Cork in 2022.

Find out more at 

Media contact:
Kate O’Leary, Communications, National Gallery of Ireland [email protected] / 087 334 1587

Notes to Editor:

  • Images are available on request. 
  • Artists, judges and Gallery representatives are available for interview.

Exhibition listing:
Zurich Portrait Prize & Zurich Young Portrait Prize | Until 3 April 2022
Room 23 | Free admission

About the National Gallery of Ireland:
The National Gallery of Ireland is one of the country’s most popular visitor attractions housing the nation’s collection of European and Irish art from about 1300 to the present day, and an extensive Library & Archive. Entry to the collection is free for all to enjoy, learn and be inspired.

About Zurich:
Ireland is Zurich’s location of choice for its pan-European company Zurich Insurance plc (ZIP). Since the beginning of 2009, ZIP has been headquartered in Dublin and it is the main risk carrier for Zurich’s general insurance business in the EU. Neil Freshwater is the CEO of Zurich Insurance plc. In terms of domestic business, Zurich focuses on two key business areas in Ireland – General Insurance and Life. In Ireland, Zurich employs over 1,250 people.