Visit the Art Gallery of Ballarat and you’ll not only see wonderful portraits but also learn about some very interesting people.
The gallery is staging the Archibald Prize Touring Exhibition which features the 47 finalists in Australia’s best known portrait award.
Naturally seeing the work of Australia’s top artists is most enjoyable but it is also fascinating reading about the artistic process.
Accompanying each painting is information from the artists about the reason for their subject choice and style of painting.
First held in 1921, the Archibald Prize is awarded annually to the best portrait, ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’. This open competition is judged by the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW. There’s also the Packing Room prize which is awarded by the Art Gallery of New South Wales staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries as well as the People’s Choice award.
I can’t say I am a huge fan of the winning portrait – Nigel Milsom’s painting of barrister Charles Waterstreet. My preference was for Bruno Jean Grasswill’s portrait of actor Michael Caton. Interestingly this work also won the Packing Room and People’s Choice award. My other favourites were the portraits of Jenny Kee, Paul Kelly, Betty Churcher and Tim Bonyhady. But then that’s the joy of such an award – debating your favourite work with friends and fellow exhibition goers. And it should be said there was quite a bit of support for Milsom’s work!
The Art Gallery of Ballarat is the only gallery outside NSW to host the exhibition. As such it has developed an extensive supporting program including artist talks, forum/discussion events, evening concerts every weekend and Gallery guided tours. There are also activities for kids including an Interactive Portrait Room where they can build a pixel portrait using a giant wooden pegboard wall. Or they can piece together a portrait using eyes, ears, mouths and noses from the collection on the magnetic wall.
One of the best ways to get to the gallery from Melbourne is by train. The V/line service departs from Southern Cross Station and takes around 90 minutes. The gallery is only a few minutes walk from the railway station and as an added bonus there’s a discount on entry into the exhibition. As we discovered by taking the train we didn’t have to worry about the traffic and could enjoy a glass of wine at the end of our viewing to debate the merits of the works without worrying about the drive home!
The exhibition is on until November 15. Tickets cost $13 for adults, $11 concession, $6.50 for children 5 to 12 and $10 for V/Line ticket holders.
Booking in advance is recommended as it is a time-ticket exhibition with entry every 30 minutes up until 4pm.
Jenny Burns attended the exhibition on Friday October 2 as a guest of the Art Gallery of Ballarat.
Visit Archibald Touring Exhibition for my 2016 review of the exhibition.