A total of 868 Archibald Prize entries were whittled down to 39 finalists by 11 trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW in about four hours last weekend.
Among the finalists are Jasper Knight’s portrait of Adam Cullen, Vincent Fantauzzo’s portrait of Asher Keddie, former winner Del Kathryn Barton’s portrait of Hugo Weaving, Abdul Abdullah’s portrait of Anthony Mundine, and Alexander McKenzie’s portrait of Toni Collette. Michael Lindeman’s entry, Dear Trustees (self-portrait), is in the form of a letter to the prize’s 11judges asking them to consider his entry for the prize.
A portrait of novelist Kate Grenville by Jenny Sages, who has been a finalist in the past 20 Archibald Prizes, was not selected.
However, although the trustees may agonise over their choices, Steve Peters had few doubts when it came to awarding this year’s Packing Room Prize.
The gallery’s head packer said Mathew Lynn’s portrait of novelist Tara Moss was the obvious winner, announced at the Art Gallery of NSW on Thursday.
‘‘Number one: it has to be good, so that knocks out a hell of a lot of ’em,’’ Mr Peters said.
Self-portraits and pictures of figures in the art world do not impress Mr Peters, who wields dictatorial control over the prize.
‘‘It has to be a really popular person for us to pick it,’’ he said.
But he was tempted to change his mind after philanthropist Pat Corrigan, whose portrait by Alan Jones is among the 39 finalists in this year’s Archibald Prize, walked past with a fistful of $50 banknotes. ‘‘Well, listen, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of bribery is there?’’ Mr Peters said.
He said the prize, which is judged by the staff who receive the portraits and hang them, had been a two-horse race between Moss and a portrait of ABC newsreader Juanita Phillips.
Lynn’s portrait is in contention for the $75,000 portrait prize but in its 22-year history the Packing Room Prize has never coincided with the Archibald judges’ decision. Lynn, who receives $1000 cash and a $500 ANZ Visa debit card, said it ‘‘was just great to be in the show’’.
The winner of the Archibald Prize, as well as the winners of the Sulman and Wynne prizes will be revealed next Friday.