My picture framer of the past 25 years, once my dad’s, turned off his air nail gun for a chinwag: “What do you think of this barn?” he asked, gesturing toward an oil in for framing, a bucolic scene painted all over with a very small brush. I squinted past a tight foreground of scotch broom and looked around at other paintings in the shop, stealth in their charm or worldly importance and leaning in the shadows amongst their waiting moldings. I asked him how many paintings he’d thought he’d framed over the years and suggested that he’d probably seen more stuff than almost anyone. A hockey and hunting guy, his eye was good and fair, and he was always quick to point out quality.
Each year at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, a special prize has been awarded by the museum’s head packer, Steve Peters. Called The Packing Room Prize, it’s attached to the museum’s larger, more prestigious, $100,000.000 Archibald Portrait Prize. For 26 years, Steve, along with his receiving, unpacking and hanging staff, has awarded $1500.00 to the painting “that looks good and looks just like the sitter.”
While the Archibald and its accompanying exhibition are wildly popular — and often controversial — Steve’s prize has grown to be a favourite among museum visitors and non-art-world types. In 2017, Steve announced his final choice — he was retiring after 40 years in the packing room. His last winner would be a portrait of journalist Lisa Wilkinson by Central Coast artist Peter Smeeth. “I looked at the painting and thought, that’s a great likeness,” said Steve. “It’s how Lisa looks every morning on the telly.”
PS: “I have the simplest of tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” (Oscar Wilde)
Esoterica: Administered by the trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Archibald is awarded for “the best portrait, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics, painted by an artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the date fixed by the trustees for sending in the pictures.” It was first awarded in 1921 after the museum received a bequest from the late editor of the Australian magazine The Bulletin, J.F Archibald. To date, The Packing Room Prize winner and the Archibald Prize winner have never been the same artist. “It’s a bit more akin to what our everyday visitors might appreciate and enjoy,” said Archibald curator Anne Ryan, when asked about the 2018 Packing Room Prize winning portrait of Australian rocker Jimmy Barnes, painted by first time finalist Jamie Preisz. Jamie was amongst 794 Archibald entries, 58 who made it to the finals. Brett Cuthbertson, the new head packer and the new last word on who wins the Packing Room Prize said, “To be honest, when the work arrived, I’d just been asked by a journalist who I’d like to see painted this year. Fair dinkum, I said Barnsey would be great.”
The winner of the 2018 Archibald Prize is announced today, Friday, May 11th and the exhibition of finalists is on view at the Art Gallery of NSW until September 19th.
“Competition is for the competent.” (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi)
On this unique art retreat, Keith leads a group of artists by canoe into the backcountry of Kawartha Highlands. Mixed forest, lakes, islands, rock faces, swamps and more. This place is a great place to paint, if you like views looking like they did 100 years ago. Keith is a post-impressionist painter and teaches compositional fundamentals, how to bring order out of the chaos of a live scene when painting en plein air, plus how modern colour theory can make colour mixing easy.
Watch for these other retreats.
June 14-17 Ottawa Valley, Ontario
September 1-6, paint in the Killarney/La-Cloche Mountain, Ontario
For more information, visit: