Guests take advantage of seeing Australia's premier portraiture prize the Archibald at the Grafton Regional Gallery.
Guests take advantage of seeing Australia's premier portraiture prize the Archibald at the Grafton Regional Gallery.

Archibald portraits on show

PASSION and support for the arts in the Clarence was alive and well on Friday night when the much-anticipated opening to the 2017 Archibald Prize was given the official nod.

More than 150 people filled the courtyard, including some of the country's finest artists and heads of the art world.

Special guests included Archibald finalist and one of Australia's premier portrait artists, Paul Newton; director of the Art Gallery of NSW Dr Michael Brand and chair of the Australia Council for Arts, Rupert Myer.

As part of the evening's program the trio entered into a fascinating conversation providing insights into their roles and practices including how Newton made Maggie Taberer cry after painting her portrait (in a good way) and how the abstract background of his portrait of Rupert Myer took a lot longer than the life-like figure.

While sitting in front of his portrait dressed in the same clothes, Myer said he recognised a lot of himself in the painting but also a lot he didn't.

"It's a good likeness. The first time my mother saw it a broad smile came across her face (Myer's parents were also present).

"I could see it gave her great pleasure. There's a real simple pleasure in looking at portraits. We like what the artists find in people. It's a way to feel close to other Australians we know."

Dr Brand said the Archibald was not just about winning but also exploring Australian portraiture.

"This is my first visit to Grafton and the gallery has done a wonderful job hanging the exhibition," he said. "It's always interesting to see it in different spaces. When the trustees chose the finalists, the juxtaposition of the different works is also important. When they get it right, the paintings seem to talk to each other."

  • The 2017 Archibald Prize Regional Exhibition is on display at the Grafton Regional Gallery until March 18. It is a ticketed exhibition but seasonal so you can come and enjoy Australia's foremost portraiture prize as many times as you like. Tickets $10pp, $5 for Friends of the Gallery and ANZ customers (major sponsors). A gold coin for school students and free for pre-schoolers.

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