Entries close today for the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney Australia. Artists have been marching in all this week with their chook raffle entries under their arm, hoping that the art gods will shine down on them with a $35,000 first prize and plenty of media attention.
The Archibald Prize is Australia’s most popular and talked about art prize. It’s the prize that draws the largest crowds and attracts those that wouldn’t usually enter an art gallery. It’s also the prize that the mainstream media in Australia picks up every year.
The Archibald was started in 1921 and is awarded to the best portrait of a distinguished person in the arts, sciences or politics and must be painted from life.
The media love the prize as there seems to be a scandal or disagreement nearly every year. It started with William Dobell winning the award in 1943 with a portrait of Joshua Smith. Other contestants accused it to be a caricature and took Dobell to court to appeal the decision. Sanity eventually prevailed and it was considered a portrait.
Since the Dobell scandal there has been controversy after controversy, which is great for publicity. If there were no scandals at the Archibald it would quickly lose its appeal to the media as it is really just another art prize, and art prizes with no edge get no television time.
The Archibald Prize is held at the same time as the Wynne and Sulman Prizes at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on the 29th of April and opens to the public on the 30th.