The Archibald Prize and Australia's premier art awards
Ben Quilty, Margaret Olley. Winner of the 2011 Archibald Prize. Image courtesy of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
The annual Archibald Prize for portraiture is one of Australia's oldest and best-known visual arts awards. The Prize was first awarded in 1921 and is now worth $50,000.
The winning entry is judged by the Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. An exhibition of the paintings shortlisted for judging, in conjunction with those shortlisted for the Wynne Prize and the Sulman Prize, is held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales each year.
2011 Archibald Prize
Ben Quilty was born in Sydney in 1973 and is now based in the NSW Southern Highlands. Quilty has won the 2009 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize for his portrayal of singer Jimmy Barnes. Quilty was also named runner-up in the 2009 Archibald and has been a finalist six times. Margaret Olley, the subject of the 2011 Archibald Award winning painting, was born in Lismore in 1923 and died in July 2011. Olley was awarded the Order of Australia in 1991 for service as an artist and to the promotion of art. In 1996, she was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia.
The Packing Room Prize
One quirky aspect of the Archibald competition is the Packing Room Prize, awarded by the workers behind the scenes who receive, unpack and hang all the entries. First awarded in 1991, the Packing Room Prize is adjudicated by the Gallery's Storeman, Steve Peters - who continues to claim his right to 51 per cent of the votes. This Prize is traditionally awarded a couple of days before the Archibald, after the hanging of the finalists.
Vincent Fantauzzo, Matt Moran. Winner of the 2011 Packing Room Prize. Image courtesy of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
The winner of the 2011 Packing Room Prize was Vincent Fantauzzo for his portrait of celebrity chef Matt Moran. Vincent Fantauzzo has won the People’s Choice Award in both 2008 and 2009 for portraits of actor Heath Ledger and child actor Brandon Walters, who played the young Aboriginal boy Nullah in Baz Luhrmann’s film Australia.
Salon des Refusés:
The alternative Archibald and Wynne Prize selection
The Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Rejected) is an alternative portraiture and landscape exhibition selected from artworks submitted for the Archibald and Wynn Prizes. This exhibition has been running since 1991 and 'stimulates popular debate on differing approaches in contemporary art'. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to vote for the annual Holding Redlich People's Choice Award.
The Archibald Prize encourages development
The prize of $50,000 and the publicity and recognition the prize generates for the winning painter encourages painters entering the competition to stretch their skills.
The Archibald Prize competition, and each year's winning entries, are subjects of great public interest. The competition encourages discussion about painting, portraiture, and larger questions about art and definitions of quality, as few other art prizes do.
The artists submitting works in the Archibald Prize must know the subject of the portrait and, in turn, the subject of the portrait must be aware of the artist's intention. There also has to be at least one sitting by the subject for the portrait.
The inclusion of a People's Choice Award in 1988 has subsequently ensured wide engagement by the public in the prize and the related Archibald exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales every year. In 2004 Craig Ruddy also won the People's Choice Prize of $2,500. It was only the second time the People's Choice Prize was awarded to winner of the Archibald Prize. The other time was 1988, the year the People's Choice Prize was introduced and Fred Cress's portrait of John Beard won both awards.
Jules Francois Archibald
The Archibald Prize began in 1921 with a bequest from Jules Francois Archibald, the editor of The Bulletin magazine. Archibald said the Prize was to be awarded by the Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales to 'the best portrait, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics, painted by an artist resident in Australasia during the 12 months preceding the date fixed by the Trustees for sending in the pictures'. The prize aims to encourage portraiture by supporting artists and celebrating the memory of great Australians.
Dobell's controversial 1943 win
William Dobell, Portrait of an artist (Joshua Smith), 1943, oil on canvas, 107 x 76cm. Private collection, © William Dobell, 1941.
Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney 2003. Photograph: Jenni Carter for the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
William Dobell's 1943 Archibald win was particularly controversial - many pundits argued his portrait of Joshua Smith so distorted Smith's features that it could not be called a portrait. Dobell's win however, expanded the concept of what could be a portrait, and abstract interpretations as well as conventional portraits were subsequently submitted.
Other visual arts prizes
The Archibald is not the only significant Australian art prize.
The Sulman Prize is awarded for the best subject painting, mural project, or genre painting by an Australian artist. Unlike the Archibald and the Wynne, which are both judged by the Art Gallery of New South Wales' Trustees, the Sulman is selected by a single artist.
The Sir William Dobell Art Foundation sponsors The Dobell Prize for Drawing to encourage excellence in drawing and draughtsmanship. The 2004 Dobell Prize for Drawing is held separately later in the year.
The National Photographic Portraiture Prize is an annual prize hosted by the National Portrait Gallery. This prize was established in 2007 after the cancellation of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Australian Photographic Portraiture Prize, which was held concurrently with the Archibald Prize.
The Doug Moran National Portrait Prize with its $100,000 first prize is the richest portrait prize in the country. Its home is the State Library of New South Wales.
Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award was developed from a bequest managed by Perpetual Trustees and named after the late Australian artist, Helen Lempriere, and is the richest art prize for sculptors in Australia. It is run by Robertson Art Projects Pty Ltd.
The Macquarie Bank and The National Gallery of Australia present the National Sculpture Prize & Exhibition each year. The Prize aims to promote and support sculpture in Australia and to recognise outstanding works. It is open to artists working across all forms of sculpture, including installation and works in new media.
Craig Ruddy, David Gulpilil, 2004. Image courtesy of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Since 1921, the Archibald Prize has been won by a wide range of artists.
Famous winners and subjects
Many famous artists have vied for the Archibald and won - including Brett Whiteley, Judy Cassab, Clifton Pugh, Keith Looby, and William Dobell. Famous subjects for the portraits have included Banjo Paterson, Marcus Clarke, Margaret Olley, Albert Namatjira, Patrick White, Lloyd Rees, John McEwan, Gough Whitlam, Philip Adams, Dorothy Hewitt and David Gulpilil.
2009 Archibald Prize
The 2009 Archibald Prize was won by Guy Maestri for his painting of Indigenous singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Born in Mudgee, NSW in 1974, Maestri has had solo exhibitions at the Tim Olsen Gallery and was a finalist in the 2007 and 2008 Dobell Drawing Prize.
Gallery and prize information
- Archibald Prize
- Jules Francois Archibald - Australian Dictionary of Biography
- Art Gallery of New South Wales
- National Portrait Gallery
- Salon des Refusés
- Holding Redlich People's Choice Award
- Archibald Prize
- Sulman Prize
- Wynne Prize
- The Dobell Prize for Drawing
- National Photographic Portraiture Prize
- Archibald Prize winners (1921 - )
- Archibald, Wynne, Sulman, Dobell and Australian Photographic Portrait Prizes Database
Some of the painters who have won the Archibald
- William Dobell, winner 1943, 1948 and 1959
- William Pidgeon, winner 1958, 1961 and 1968
- Clifton Pugh, winner 1965, 1971 and 1972
- Garry Shead, winner 1992/93
- Brett Whiteley studio virtual tour, winner 1976 and 1978
- Wendy Sharpe, winner 1996
- Lewis Miller, winner 1998
- Craig Ruddy, winner 2004
- John Olsen, winner 2005
Last updated: 17th August, 2011.