Archibald Prize

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Archibald Prize
Archibald Prize 2016 winner Barry Humphries by Louise Hearman

Hop on the train to the Art Gallery of Ballarat and find out why this portrait prize is the most prestigious and controversial in Australia

The Archibald Prize is the exhibition that stops a nation. Everyone has an opinion about who and what is most deserving of the $100,000 top gong – and the 2016 Archibald lineup features 51 portraits (culled from 830 entries) to argue over, featuring faces familiar and not, by big name, mid-career and emerging painters.

This year’s winner is first-time finalist Louise Hearman, for her portrait of iconic Australian performer Barry Humphries. It seems apt that a woman has taken out the 2016 prize in a year in which of the 51 finalists, 25 are women – or 49%. When you compare that to just 14 out of 47 in 2015 (29%) and 17 out of 54 in 2014 (31%) that's quite the leap. 

Of the 25 female finalists, the first-time finalists include this year's Packing Room Prize winner Betina Fauvel-Ogden (for her portrait of MasterChef's George Calombaris), and young Sydney painters Clara Adolphs and Natasha Walsh. 

Other artists featured are Carla Fletcher with her portrait of Australian designer Linda Jackson, Melissa Ritchie with her portrait of comedian Rhys Nicholson and Nick Stathopoulos with his hyperrealistic rendition of Sudanese refugee and lawyer Deng Adut (below). 

Deng Adut, by Nick Stathopoulos

The home of the prize is the Art Gallery of New South Wales, but each year, the winning portraits travel to a regional Victorian gallery. For the second year the Art Gallery of Ballarat has the honour, and the best part is that it’s located just 250 metres from the train station. To the V-Line, art fans!

Other interesting stats for this year’s prize: 

- 49% of the subjects this year are artists themselves
- 52% of the finalists are from NSW
- 47% are first-time Archibald Prize finalists
- 33% of the subjects are women
- 27% are old white men
- 2% are Ken Done reclining in a rainbow vest

By: Dee Jefferson

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