“The Dobell [Prize for Drawing], at the Art Gallery of NSW, is a good case study because it is one of the better prizes: it is well organised and motivated by good intentions. The idea of an acquisitive prize supporting drawing, which many, with good reason, feel to be neglected in our art schools, sounds noble. What could possibly be wrong with it?
“The fact that it is a prize. Precisely because of the competitive situation it creates, the Dobell encourages artists to enter drawings that are bigger, more finished, more conceptually forced than they may ordinarily produce. They can’t resist the temptation to tint things up, add another, larger, more expensive piece of paper, to push at the limits of drawing.
“In other words, they are led away from the kind of drawing they habitually do into something performative and tarted up, like a finalist on Australian Idol. And this in turn leads us, the audience, away from an appreciation of the true role drawing plays in their work.”
Sebastian Smee, Pencil It In, The Australian, September 8.