The Archibald is one of Australia's highest profile art events. Since 1921, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney has hosted the portraiture prize: an annual event that captures the general public's interest and that in some way charts and reflects our ongoing appreciation of painting as a fine art and of the importance of portraiture in general.
There are two, let's say, main prizes; those judged by the official panel which comes with a pretty generous cash prize - and that of the packing room where the art handlers and assistants also give a nod to their favourite - with, let's say a less generous cash prize ;).
It's an award structure that in some ways gives importance to both technique and to populism and that in some way makes the art quite accessible to the general public. Offering up the two prizes is a way of compromising. Public favour isn't often aligned with that of critics in the visual arts.
The main prize will be awarded next week when jurors announce the winner of the $100,000 prize. The Packing Room prize, which has been in effect since the early nineties, is hardly ever in line with the main prize, has just been awarded.
This year the usual variety of high profile subjects has attracted the attention of contestants. Portraits of politicians, musicians, or prominent Australian figures often guarantee some measure of media exposure for the artists involved. And this year is no different- there are some loathe some identities alongside those whom we love. Pictured here is Julian Meagher's portrait of former Silverchair rocker, Daniel Johns, who has recently made a solo foray into pop music. This is up for the main prize and my favourite.
The Archibald often travels to regional locations once the main gig in Sydney is up. For example, Melbournians can get a taste of the show when it visits Ballarat later this year after the awards have been handed out and the show gets packed up in Sydney.
There's some local superstition floating around regarding the packing room prize. Basically winning it is tantamount to being cursed not to win the main prize as jurors almost never see eye to eye with the handlers.
I know, I didn't tell you who won the packing room prize. It was Bruno Jean Grasswill's portrait of a much loved Australian actor, Michael Caton. Visit this link for some footage and more info.