Archibald Prize finalists touring to Tweed

The annual Archibald Prize is one of the most widely known art prizes in Australia and eagerly anticipated by artists and audiences alike.

First awarded in 1921, it is amongst Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art awards. 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 an artist resident in Australia.” The 2015 prize was announced in July and the prize awarded to Nigel Milsom for his work Judo house pt 6 (the white bird).

Nigel Milsom’s subject is barrister Charles Waterstreet. “I’ve known Charlie indirectly and directly since birth. … My relationship with Charlie took on more significance a few years ago when he represented me and in the pursuit of justice stood up to what seemed an unfair, impenetrable brick wall. He put his head on the chopping block and restored my faith in the legal system.”

Milsom describes the portrait and the man in it. “Charlie is a very complex person. He isn’t just a law man. He’s a writer, a social environmentalist and is involved in film, photography and theatre too. … My portrait is an attempt to depict him as a giant: part-man, part-mythical creature with hands that appear otherworldly, as though the anatomy of his hands has been designed to grasp unnatural disasters, naturally.”

There are altogether 48 finalist pieces in the exhibition including the People’s Choice prize and Packing Room prize winner Bruno Jean Graswill’s portrait of Michael Caton, Juan Ford’s A bungled clairvoyance… and Shaun Gladwell’s Mark Donaldson VC (member of the avant-garde).

Tweed Regional Gallery is delighted to be part of the Archibald Prize Regional Tour. Gallery Director Susi Muddiman said the Gallery was thrilled to host the exhibition. 

”It’s great to see and hear the Gallery buzzing with keen visitors and sharing their opinions on the finalists,” Ms Muddiman said.

“This is a wonderful show to host over the holiday period and start the New Year with; we are definitely expecting crowds.”

This art prize is as intriguing as it is excellent and there is an eclectic yet significant trail of facts and incidents to vouch for it. For example, the Archibald prize is one of the few art prizes in which the artist’s signature is covered up so as not to be seen by the judges during initial selection for the final. Given the small size of Australia’s art community, this is intended to discourage nepotism on the part of judges. The prize is no stranger to controversy either. The prize as well as the organisers have been taken to court, the winning pieces contested on various grounds, numerous protests have been organized and there have been portraits of all sorts entered; Bananas in Pyjamas, artists dressed up as monstrous dictators, prime ministers, sporting heroes, if you can think of it, it has probably been entered.

In my view, this prize is anticipated and loved because of its artistic credentials and the undisputed talent of the entries but also because it does wrap the media around its little finger and capture the interest of the wider audience in a way that only a few art prizes can. This touring exhibition is an opportunity to see all the finalists in the Archibald Prize 2015. In addition to viewing the finalists, the visitors to the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre can enjoy a range of programs associated with the exhibition. Visitors can vote for their People’s Choice, view finalists of the regional Young Archie competition and participate in the Children’s Trail activity. The Art Gallery of New South Wales also provides a host of online resources for visitors, including a mobile exhibition guide and education resources. The exhibition is open in Tweed Regional Gallery in Murwillumbah until 28 February.

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