The premier prize for portraiture in Australia is The Archibald Prize – which has a first prize of $100,000.
Interestingly it’s not the one which has always had the biggest prize pot (the Doug Moran Portrait Prize has been bigger in the past) but it’s certainly the one which attracts international comment.
The Archibald Prize for portrait painting is the country’s favourite and most significant art award. Since 1921, it has highlighted figures from all walks of life, from famous faces to local heroes, reflecting back to us the stories of our times.
Portraits have to be submitted with a signed statement from the sitter confirming that they have done at least one sitting with the artist. A rule which seems a very sensible one to me and one which could be introduced into some other portrait competitions to relieve us of the “I only paint from photos” cadre of portrait painters.
I like to keep an eye on it as every year (see list of previous posts below) it produces ground-breaking interpretations of what contemporary portraiture should look like. I can’t quite work out whether this is because
- EITHER all the finalists are people living in Australia
- OR the Judges of major Portrait Prizes elsewhere in the world have a much more conventional idea of what contemporary portraiture should look like
If the (bound to have a new sponsor) Portrait Prize which will presumably at some stage exhibit again at the National Portrait Gallery in London wants a “refresh” then it could do a lot better than import the Judges of the Archibald Prize to settle the question…..
That said I’m a little underwhelmed by the finalists in this year’s exhibition – and while there are a significant number that are “different”, there’s very few which stand out as being a cut above.
Here’s a couple which do.
Portrait of Peter Wegner by Hong Fu
oil on canvas, 152.7 x 152.7 cm
Wegner and Fu have known each other for 20 years. ‘We both live in Nillumbik Shire in Victoria and Peter’s wife works in an art supply shop near my home. They sometimes come to my studio and exhibitions, so he trusts me and was happy to be my sitter,’ says Fu.
I selected this one on the basis it was one which made me want to look closer. How was I to know it was OF last year’s winner – but I’m pleased to know that my “I can spot a winner” eye still works. 😉
The Archibald Prize 2022
The Archibald Prize is awarded annually to the best portrait, ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’.
In effect, it’s like saying here’s someone who should be memorialised via portraiture as a distinguished Australia who doesn’t play sport.
This one caught my eye – and I liked the concept used for this portrayal – based in both relevant culture and art history of both sitter and artist.
Yumi Stynes as onna-musha (female samurai) by Yoshio Honjo
natural earth pigments on handmade washi paper
97 x 66 cm
Yumi Stynes is a second-generation Japanese–Australian. She is an author, broadcaster, television presenter, food fanatic, fitness enthusiast and mother of four. Her podcast Ladies, we need to talk, a focus on women’s health and social issues, airs on ABC Radio.
There were 816 entries from Australian artists for this prize – worth
- 20 entries were from Aboriginal artists
- 52 portraits were selected for the exhibition
The winner will be announced tomorrow (13th May). You can even watch
Watch the livestream of the winners announcement from 12 noon on Friday 13 May.
Just bear in mind that’s 3am on Friday morning in London!
The Packing Room Prize
The Packing Room Prize is a $3000 cash prize awarded to the best entry in the Archibald Prize as judged by the Art Gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries, including head packer Brett Cuthbertson, who holds 52 percent of the vote.
The Packing Room Prize has already been selected and you can see the quasi 3D winner below
Taika Waititi by Claus Stangl
acrylic on canvas
245 x 195.1 cm