Yes, the Archibald Prize for Portraiture exhibition is nearly over and now we can go back to living our lives again – at least until the exciting Biennale of Sydney opens on June 4. The Archibald exhibition closes this Sunday and all the people who say ‘I think I’ll go next weekend’ and then finish washing the dog – are going to be kicking themselves they missed it.
The announcement of The People’s Choice award came as no surprise – especially as we had picked it the day after the actual, real award was given. But as the Art Gallery of NSW’s über-publicist Jan Batten pointed out in reply to our rash, intemperate letter, it wasn’t very hard to pick, now was it? It seemed most people agreed.
As of last week, when the AGNSW sent out a press release advising that the people had spoken, they’d had 88,000 people to the show, just over 10,000 shy of the record set for attendance in 2001 with 98,349 coming in that year for a gawk at Nicolas Harding’s impasto riot John Bell, Thespian. The gallery is hoping to break the 2001 record and cram another 10,000+ people through the doors in the last week and heaven knows, with a few more school groups they may even get there.
Incredibly, of all the people who have attended this year, 60,133 people actually voted in the People’s Choice selection and 11,455 said yes to Craig Ruddy’s portrait David Gulpilil – Two Worlds. According to the AGNSW, that was 4,000 more than the second place getter (not revealed). There was sweetener involved in the voting – if you nominated your favourite and your name was pulled from the barrel, you won a prize of a free meal the Russian Coachman Restaurant, a weekend for two at Rest Point Casino in Hobart, a Wheel of Fortune Game and the chance to do a lot of publicity for the gallery.
The lucky winner had a name so outrageous it has to be a fake – Udi De Waard – and she advised the press that she recognised the painting was large. “It is such a big painting and I approached it in parts,” she explained. “Taking it in from the wildness of David’s hair and the depth of his eyes. Then slowly appreciating the whole painting. It has such wisdom and presence.”
We, like Udi, have been appreciating the painting slowly, getting to like it a little bit more as the weeks and months have gone by. At first we were just ‘meh’ about it, now we’re sort of ‘heh’. That’s a huge leap and a dinner for two at the Russian Coachman could persuade us to appreciate it even more. For 2005, we plan on predicting the winner in advance, possibly around New Year’s Day, or possibly sooner. Please stand by.