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January 28, 2022

Archie 100: Touring Archibald Prize Exhibit Comes to Geelong

Kathryn Shanks
Archie 100: Touring Archibald Prize Exhibit Comes to Geelong
The Geelong Gallery will be the only Victorian exhibit space for Archie 100, so book in soon!

The Archibald Prize – Australia’s most prestigious portrait award – celebrates its centenary with a touring exhibition of 100 submitted works from across its history. Like the prize itself, Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize is administered by the Art Gallery of NSW and is currently on display at the Geelong Gallery in regional Victoria, set to close February 20, 2022.

With its beginnings in 1921, the Archibald Prize has seen some 6,000 submissions over its hundred years – prior to the Second World War, artists could submit as many pieces as they wanted, but these days, each artist is limited to just one submission. Nevertheless, this vast history was a challenge for the exhibit’s curator, Natalie Wilson, who faced the unenviable task of narrowing thousands down to just one hundred portraits. Her exhaustive approach bore rich fruit, however, as she avoided the easy route of picking her favourite winners. Instead, the exhibit comprises a thematic journey exploring the prize’s history and diversity of submissions and artists.

I had to set myself some boundaries, just to try and be inclusive as I could be over the last century… I tried to include 10 works from every decade, give or take.
CURATOR NATALIE WILSON.

With 11 themed sections in the exhibit, Archie 100 demonstrates the diversity of portraiture, moving from self-portraits and ‘the intimacy of familiarity’ – paintings of friends and family – to ‘artists by artists’ and ‘recasting the gaze’. The latter category focuses on contributions by women, who make up roughly a third of Archibald artists, and forms a way to ‘bring[] back those stories of women artists who have either been… forgotten today, or overlooked’. Another significant inclusion is Tjungkara Ken’s Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa (Seven Sisters dreaming), a self-portrait – an extraordinary painting that underscores the fact that ‘Aboriginal artists who are painting country are painting not only landscape, they are painting themselves, their ancestry.’

Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize is a fantastic time capsule of Australasian art, history, and culture, showing the changing trends of style and subject throughout the century. The thematic, non-chronological exhibit highlights the diversity the art scenes across Australia and New Zealand and is the perfect destination for a regional road trip.

Photo Credits: Hails & Shine

If you liked this article, you might like our feature on the brand-new Shepparton Art Museum.

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