Friday, February 29, 2008

The Archys

I was going to post about how thrilled I was that Clare rang me from somewhere on a salt lake in Bolivia but I was out to lunch and am devastated that I missed her. Then I was going to post about Aussie Pubs because they're an integral part of our culture, pathetically ugly and morphing faster than Michael Jackson in his "Black and White" video, then I thought I'd blog about the fact that my two bosses just don't get on and how I had a 'bonding' llunch with Sgt Bilko which was surprisingly nice but totally weird. Then I thought about blogging about detail oriented people vs broad brush folk like me but nope. . .my mind is a technicolour yawn!

. . . I came up with the Archibald Prize. This is stream of consciousness rubbish after all. Every year, there is an Australian prize for portraiture. This is a wonderful thing - seriously! Well worth the browse at the NSW Art Gallery and yes, I'll pay my 'whatever dollars' to marvel at the skill of fine portrait artists.. (Ooh distracted momentarily by the pong of orange jasmine wafting through the lounge) The winner has not yet been voted upon but they have the 'Packer's Prize' this is a small cash prize and the judges? Those who unpack these amazing portraits, the lackeys, the roadies, the unravellers and unwrappers. This year they have voted for Neil Finn, composer, artist, singer/songwriter and founder of Crowded House, possibly one of the best things to come out of New Zealand. Painted by a NZ artist who is the first to take advantage of the fact that it's an "Australasian" competition and good on him!

The winning entry is judged by the Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and is held at the Art Gallery of NSW every year. For a mere $35,000 grant, portrait painters in Australasia (which includes NZ but no-one until now has dared to enter) is awarded. One of it's great controversies was the award to William Dobelll which was considered a 'caricature' and led to a famous court case in the 40's.

In 1943, Dobell won the prize with a painting of fellow artist Joshua Smith and the case was taken to court because the prize judges felt it was a caricature not a portrait. He won the case but his confidence was destroyed.

First awarded in 1921, the Archibald Prize quickly became a prize eagerly sought by artists, not only because of the money it offered and the publicity and public exposure it generated, but because it also gave portrait artists an opportunity to have their work shown in a major gallery. Previously, portraitists had been largely restricted to public or private commissions and these exhibitions allowed their artwork to be viewed as a serious art form.

For me, the winner is academic and they have been contentious and wonderful but the Packers Prize is the one that hits home. Here are a few recent winners of the 'real' a Archy. . . .I wish I could paint like this. Um .. I wish I could paint more than a bathroom actually!

Lovely aren't they? Poor William, he really had a hard time of it.

So, in deference to my northern friends here's a little Crowded House, which sort of describes our weather patterns at the moment:


Nick said...

I love the one of the huge head with the church on top and all the people crawling all over it - I just adore surrealism in any shape or form. Ordinary portraits leave me a bit cold unless there's something very special about them.

Emperor Ropi said...

Isn't bolivia a dangerous place?

ian said...


The Youtube video at the end should, of course, have been the real Archies!

I loved that song!!

Anonymous said...


How easily the crowd are misled.

Anonymous said...

I love it! The controversy, debate, and scanning the Finalists for friends. Of course the art is THE best politically speaking :) Have a good weekend Baino!

Baino said...

Nick: I'm flexible really. I like the realism that some of them have. That one reminds me of a Breugel painting. Only just scrapes in there as portraiture for me but that's why the Archy's are so contentious.

Ropi: I hope not. I think there are some problems on the border of Ecuador but Bolivia is where the inca temples are and the highest lake in the world Titikaka.

Ian: Haha, I've always questioned your taste in music my friend!

Anonymous: Awww c'mon it's fun and they're clever. Mind you the winner is always a bit suss! It's definitely a crowd pleaser.

Anony: Yep, I'll be trawling through there in the next couple of weeks nodding and disapproving like everyone else. Are you exhibiting? You too . .the sun's shining! Yeay!

Quickroute said...

Trip down memory lane - Crowded House were top of the charts when I was in Oz back in 91-93. They played a small reunion gig in NY in 2005 which I saw too - t'was great! your Clare is in a beautiful place in Bolivia - Uyuni - Salt lakes, pink flamingoes, Jeeps over the desert and it's spectacular and safe!

Baino said...

Quickroute: I'm glad to hear it from a 'native'. She has a friend in Mexico who told her it was the Brasilians she had to look out for and that generally South Americans are lovely. I feel better knowing that people who live there feel that way. She rang me last night and is really travelling and getting in amongst it.

Anonymous said...

Hhahhaa, I'm not a portrait artist and it appears several I know didn't make the Finalists this year; or last year. Sigh, fashion comes and goes but does the circle eventually. Hopefully will make it there to see the art for real! SUN!!! Making the most of THAT :)

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