Archibald Prize

A Retrospective of Chinese Archibald Finalists

August 1, 2015
Song Ling, 'My name is Fartunate – self-portrait', (2011), acrylic on canvas, 198 x 198cm

When the Archibald Prize was first awarded in 1921 it was a strictly Caucasian affair. There was not much colour to the artists or their paintings – mostly brown pictures of men in suits. The riotous creations currently lining the walls at the Art Gallery of NSW would have seemed like bad jokes to the … More

The Archibald Prize 2015

July 18, 2015
Winner: Archibald Prize 2015, Nigel Milsom, Judo house pt 6 (the white bird), oil on linen, 232 x 190 cm.

There was such a hullaballoo about the Packing Room Prize this year one might have thought that former Frenchman, Bruno Grasswill, had won both the Archibald and several versions of the Nobel Prize. In fact, he had won the kiss-of-death award, traditionally given to a picture of a good bloke or a good sort, as … More

Salon des Refusés 2014

August 9, 2014
Nick Stathopoulo, Ugly, Portrait of Robert Hoge, acrylic and oil on linen

So much has already been written about Sydney’s $9.3 million public sculpture proposals that I’m in two minds whether to comment or leave it alone. Nevertheless, it’s an issue that won’t go away. It’s depressing that the very idea of a city council spending money on art brings out the philistine in a large proportion … More

Archibald Prize 2014

July 19, 2014
Fiona Lowry, 'Penelope Seidler', acrylic on canvas,
225 x 185 cm

Imagine if the Archibald Prize banned all portraits that relied on photographs. The number of entries would drop from 884 to something less than 100, while the exhibition would be dominated by amateurs and unknown artists. Even the subjects would be strangers to most viewers because it’s unlikely that anyone mildly famous could spare the … More

Salon de Refusés 2013 & Jenny Sages

April 20, 2013
Jenny Sages, Irina Baranova (handing on the baton), 2007, oil and encaustic on board

This year’s Archibald Prize was one of the most even contests in decades, but also one of the least memorable. There have been pictures in previous competitions that would have romped home in this year’s field, but the luck and timing was with Del Kathryn Barton, not with the ghosts of Archibalds past. If there … More

The Archibald Prize 2013: A Review

March 23, 2013
Alexander McKenzie, Toni Collette, oil on linen, 244 x 197 cm

This column comes from Japan, where like a character in a horror story pursued by an implacable nemesis, I’m writing about… the Archibald Prize! This venerable portrait competition is an Australian institution that is simply incomprehensible to the rest of the world. To outsiders the popularity of the prize, and of portraiture in general, is … More

The Archibald Prize 2013: A Comment

March 22, 2013
Del Kathryn Barton, hugo, watercolour, gouache and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 180 cm

This year’s Archibald throws up one nagging question: “What’s that animal Hugo Weaving is holding?” Perhaps it’s something the special effects crew from the Matrix movies dreamt up. According to the news reports, Del Kathryn Barton, says the indefinable creature “demonstrates facets of the actor’s personality” – an explanation that raises more questions than it … More

Archibald Prize 2012

March 31, 2012
Martin Sharp, The thousand dollar bill, acrylic on canvas on plywood,183 x 153cm

At that dreaded time of year when the Archibald Prize rolls around, the Trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW strap on their armour and prepare to be criticised, condemned, lampooned and humiliated. Admittedly they often bring this fate on themselves by their choice of a show or a winner. The only difference this time … More

Margaret Olley 1923 – 2011: An Appreciation

July 25, 2011

“Hurry, hurry, last days!” Margaret Olley would cry when someone tried to involve her in another hopeful project. It usually involved Margaret making a donation of some sort, or simply gracing an event with her presence. At the end she found it easier to write a cheque rather than face a room full of people … More

The 2011 Archibald Prize

April 16, 2011
Ben Quilty, Margaret Olley, oil on linen, 170 x 150cm

It’s appropriate the Archibald Prize should coincide with Easter, because the Trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW have repented of their sins of last year and asked to be forgiven. Not in so many words, of course. They have simply chosen a better, more credible exhibition and tried to put the horrors of 2010 … More