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The 2017 Archibald Prize says goodbye to gender parity, hello to 'old white men in chairs'

Written by
Dee Jefferson

The finalists for the Archibald Prize – Australia’s longest-running art prize, and one of Sydney’s best-attended annual exhibitions – have been announced. And there’s good news and bad news.

Let’s do the bad news first: unfortunately, having said hello to gender parity in 2016, for the first time in its history, the Archibald has said goodbye to it in 2017. Just 14 of the 43 finalists for this year’s Prize are women – a third. (It’s slightly better when it comes to sitters: of the 43 finalists, 20 feature female sitters – including two paintings featuring both a man and a woman.)

The good news? If you are partial to portraits of old white men sitting in chairs, then boy howdy is this the exhibition for you. There are eight such paintings in the finalist line-up, a true boon.

Archibald Prize finalists featuring old white men sitting in chairs

Fewer women appear sitting on chairs (just three) – although we’ll never know how many of the 822 entries for the 2017 Archibald Prize fell into this sub-genre. The fact that this year’s Packing Room Prize winner features Lisa Wilkinson reclining on a couch feels like some kind of clue...

Packing Room Prize winner 'Lisa Wilkinson AM' by Peter Smeeth

But are the paintings any good? As always, the people of Australia (read: Sydney) must decide. You can make up your mind via the online gallery of finalist portraits, and/or when the Archibald Prize exhibition opens.

You can check out the Archibald Prize exhibition from July 29 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Here’s what else is on this month in Sydney.

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