It’s Archibald Time Of Year Again and Again and Again…

Art Life , News Mar 15, 2004 No Comments

It’s that time of year again with the return of the Archibald Prize for Portraiture for 2004 and another raft of stories about artists getting their entries in on time. But if you’re an artist and you’re entering a painting into the competition, any media interest in your work will disqualify you from winning.

If there’s a camera anywhere near you, run for the hills. With 7.30 Report camera crews roaming the streets looking for artists with a canvas or two, ABC radio talking to regional artists and the Sydney Morning Herald wringing as many features out of the annual extravaganza as they can, you’d think someone would pick a winner.

Laura Matthews, for instance, was photographed with her subject Bettina Arndt in the Herald and the odds are very long that she’ll even get in, let alone have a chance of winning. Media coverage of your work is the kiss of death. We don’t know why, it’s just the way it is.

At least Matthews had a decent subject for her portrait as many artists don’t seem to be able to even understand the rules. One hapless artist was photographed arriving with a pop art style portrait of Colonel Sanders, willfully ignoring the fact that the Archibald rules stipulate that the subject of the painting be both living and Australian, known to the artist and that the subject “is aware of the artist’s intention…”

The SMH also covered the arrival of Evert Ploeg’s portrait of Jana Wendt which, it claimed, was still wet, the artist staying up late into the night to finish it. Unfortunately for Ploeg, the artist who won the 1999 People’s Choice award for his portrait of Deborah Mailman, the gallery may actually insist (as they do in the rules) that paintings arrive dry.

Self-aggrandisment can also gain a bit of media coverage for your entry, such as with artist Henry Mulholland who is no slouch in coming forward to big-up his own annual entries. Mulholland, who talks good art talk to insufferable bore Sally Loane, just happened to mention on Loane’s 702 mid morning radio show that he was entering a portrait of AFI Award winning film editor (The Boys, The Bank) and Surry Hills identity Nicky Meyers. Mulholland’s chances of getting in are slim, let alone being hung, but we celebrate his entire back catalogue, such as this mention on the late (and unlamented) The Arts Show.

The ABC also sets up shop at The Archibald with radio host and giggle-on-command expert Richard Glover moving his mic down to the Art Gallery of NSW. It’s fun for the whole family.

But the prize for the funniest coverage of the prize, however, goes to ABC Radio Gold & Tweed Coasts Queensland for their coverage of an entry by Brendan Abbott, AKA The Post Card Bandit (immortalised in a TV movie of the same name by Tom Long) of his lawyer Christ Nyst (part time lawyer, novelist and full time self publicist).

Although Adam Cullen had entered a portrait of Mark ‘Chopper’ Read a couple of years ago, this was the first time AGNSW director Edmund Capon could remember an entry into the prize by someone who couldn’t attend the opening due to their incarceration at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

“I don’t know that we’ve had many Archibald submissions emerging from the penitentiaries yet.” But Capon sees no reason why there shouldn’t be more. “I’m absolutely sure being in jail is no impediment to your artistic genius. After all, you know, if you’re going to be locked up, what better thing to do than paint your fellow inmates?”

Andrew Frost

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