PORTRAIT AWARD 2023 Rust-en-Vrede Gallery, Durbanville


1st place, Serfontein, André, The Prince and Princess of Prince Street, 79 x 59 cm, Oil on Canvas, 2023

Portraiture exists not only to portray a physical likeness of the sitter, but naturally conveys a sense of who the sitter is – capturing an essence of the subject’s identity or life story – be it photorealistic, illustrative, painterly, or even abstract.

It is a common misconception that portraiture should always be of a photorealistic nature. Although the final selection of this year’s Portrait Award competition contains several strong portraits in this style, the overall winning piece ultimately captured the judges’ attention through the masterful application of various painting techniques and visual storytelling. The unusual and highly successful distortion and elongation of the face and figure placed the painting in a category of its own. These distortions, almost reminiscent (albeit stylistically different) of artworks by Egon Schiele and Modigliani, are rendered anatomically believable, showing that the painter has a deep understanding of the human form. ‘The Prince and Princess of Prince Street (Johan & Bongi)’ showed more than enough skill and charm to earn its creator – André Serfontein – the coveted first prize.

Serfontein’s portrait was one of 850 digital entries received from all over South Africa this year – each attempting to capture the human form in various ways. From these entries, 250 were selected to come to the gallery for on-site adjudication.

The panel, consisting of well-respected artists and educators, Elizabeth Gunter, Paul Emsley and Rose Kirumira, made their final selection of 100 portraits via an anonymous adjudication process and after much deliberation, the winning portraits were selected.  These inspiring artworks were created by Themba Mkhangeli (Ryno Swarts Drawing Medal), Juria le Roux (Fifth Place), Marié Stander (Fourth Place), Leanne Olivier (Third Prize), Willem Pretorius (Second Prize) and André Serfontein (First Prize).

2nd place, Pretorius, Willem, Kewpie, 78 x 63 cm, Oil on Canvas, 2023


3d place, Olivier, Leanne Ann, 131 x 100 cm, Oil on Canvas, 2023


The Top 100 portraits can currently be viewed at two exhibition spaces: The Top 40 (including the winning portraits) at the Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville and the remaining 60 at the Spier Arts Trust Union House in Cape Town (in an exhibition titled PORTRAIT 100). Art lovers residing outside of the Western Cape can look forward to seeing the Top 40 ‘in the flesh’, as these works will also be exhibited at the Pretoria Art Museum in November, and at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban from January 2024 (final dates to be determined).

Organizing for the 2025 rendition of the Portrait Award competition has already begun, and artists can start planning their future winning portrait. With so much creative potential in South Africa, the next competition year promises to be another rousing display of talent.


The winning works, along with the other Top 40 portraits, will be on display at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville, Cape Town, from 2 September until 2 November 2023 during gallery hours. www.rust-en-vrede.com / 068 457 8589 / gallery@rust-en-vrede.com / Rust-en-Vrede Gallery + Clay Museum, 10 Wellington Road, Durbanville, 7550.

See 60 more of the Top 100 selected portraits at the Spier Arts Trust Union House Exhibition Space in Cape Town CBD, in an exhibition titled PORTRAIT 100. This exhibition will run from 4 September until 13 October 2023. www.spierartstrust.co.za / info@spierartstrust.co.za / 021 461 2679 / Union House, 25 Commercial Street, Cape Town, 800

To view the digital catalogue, go to:


4th – Marié Stander, Afwagtend, 81 x 114.5 cm, Charcoal on Cotton Paper, 2023


TOP LEFT: 5th – Le Roux, Juria, Onherroeplik, 61 x 76cm, Oil on Canvas, 2023
CENTRE LEFT Albertyn, Maricel, My Mother
BOTTOM RIGHT: Venter, Annelie, The Donor
TOP RIGHT: Ryno Swart Drawing Medal – Mkhangeli, Themba, Nozazi, 74 x 55 cm, Ballpoint Pen on Paper, 2023
BOTTOM RIGHT: Beukes, Eben, Detached


TOP LEFT: Maarschalk, Mariette, Ma 2023
BOTTOM LEFT: Beukes, Kayla, In Touch with Boas
TOP RIGHT: Blackburn, Matthew, Plastic
BOTTOM RIGHT:  Feldman, Lara, Josie