The Geelong Gallery has been named this year’s exclusive Victorian venue of Australia’s most prestigious annual art exhibition, which is expected to attract at least 60,000 visitors.
The Archibald Prize exhibition showcases vivid and provoking portrait paintings by some of Australia’s most talented artists, including Yvette Coppersmith whose self-portrait was awarded the esteemed Archibald Prize in May.
Geelong Gallery deputy director Penny Whitehead said she expected the exhibition to have a strong economic benefit for the city.
“In 2017, the Archibald Prize contributed over $6 million in economic value to the economy of Geelong,” she said.
“The economic benefits were seen across cafes, restaurants, retailers, accommodation providers and local transport in particular.
“I expect the 2018 Archibald Prize will have a similar, if not larger, effect.”
Ms Whitehead said the exhibition attracted 60,000 visitors to the gallery during its six-week stay last year, which is 15 per cent more than the 52,000 people who visted the gallery for the remainder of the year.
She said that Geelong Gallery would not stage the Archibald Prize exhibition again next year.
“The Archibald Prize has traditionally toured to regional venues in Victoria for a two-year period,” she said.
“The Art Gallery of New South Wales is responsible for the exhibition tour and determines which venues it travels to in regional Victoria and NSW.”
A first-time Archibald Prize winner, Coppersmith was awarded a $100,000 prize for her work Self-portrait after George Lambert.
Lambert won the 1927 Archibald Prize and is one of Coppersmith’s favourite Australian artists.
“His style was academic, yet he supported the avant-garde in Australia and painted portraits of his artistic contemporaries Thea Proctor and Hera Roberts – both independent, self-possessed style-makers at a time of burgeoning female empowerment,” Coppersmith said.
The prize-winning artist, who is only the tenth woman to win the prize, has experimented with her artwork for the past 21 years and said the accolade had been a long time in the making.
“… my mind was scrambling to integrate the surreal news about something that’s been 20 years in the making,” she said.
Jamie Preisz’ portrait of Jimmy Barnes as a boxer, Jimmy (title fight), won the Packing Room Prize and $1500.
The 2018 finalists include portraits of singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel and actor Guy Pearce.
The prize was first awarded in 1921 after JF Archibald, who was a journalist, founder of the Bulletin magazine and Art Gallery of NSW trustee, left money in his will for an annual portrait prize to foster young Australian artists.
Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said there was almost double the number of self-portraits among the Archibald Prize finalists this year compared to recent years, but it was rare for the Board of Trustees, who award the prize, to choose a self-portrait.
“Yvette is a highly talented young artist who brings a deep and historical understanding of the tradition of contemporary art practice. Her previous paintings as a finalist have been diverse and shown clearly her talent as an artist,” Brand said.
Board president David Gonski said the judges made a unanimous decision about the winner of the prize “after much discussion”.
The exhibition will tour Tamworth, Orange and Lismore Regional Galleries in New South Wales after it wraps up in Geelong.
The Archibald Prize 2018 exhibition is at the Geelong Gallery from September 22 to November 18.