10 February 2023

Archibald Prize comes to Wagga

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Dr Lee-Anne Hall

Wagga Wagga Art Gallery Director Dr Lee-Anne Hall with the winning 2022 Archibald Prize painting – Moby Dickens. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

The Archibald Prize regional tour is back in Wagga after a seven-year hiatus.

Australia’s most prestigious art prize for portraiture will be on show at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery for the next six weeks, featuring the 2022 winning work Moby Dickens by Blak Douglas.

Moby Dickens features the portrait of Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens at the time of the Lismore floods and represents the disappointment felt not just by the artist but also by the people who suffered.

The Art Gallery of NSW said it was the first time a portrait of an Aboriginal woman had been awarded the prize, and Blak was the second Aboriginal artist to win the Archibald.

Each year the Art Gallery of New South Wales offers to tour the Archibald Prize to six regional galleries.

Wagga Wagga Art Gallery director Dr Lee-Anne Hall said the gallery was fortunate to be one of the six.

“It’s been about seven years since we last had the Archibalds here in town,” Dr Hall said. “We know it’s an incredibly popular show.

“There are 52 works … it’s a very tight grouping.”

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Dr Hall said the artwork would showcase celebrities and people of significance in Australia that people were familiar with from the arts, sciences, politics, economics, and more.

“The portraits offer an incredible insight into the individuals, their thinking and content,” Dr Hall said.

“The best portrait offers the inner life of the individual but also speaks to those people who are more broadly significant in our society.”

The gallery director said she was also delighted the winning artist would be in Wagga to give the opening address.

The Young Archie finalists will also be on display.

Gallery officer Tayla Martin said it was the first time the gallery had held the Young Archie Competition, which occurred in late 2022.

“We had a range of submissions from young artists aged between six to 18 years,” Ms Martin said.

Tayla Martin

Gallery officer Tayla Martin making final touches to the Young Archie artworks at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

“The young people were encouraged to paint a portrait of somebody that is significant to them and has played a special part in their lives.

“It’s been so nice reading all the artist statements from the artists and all the wonderful portraits that came in through the competition.”

Ms Martin said young children’s artwork emphasised their world view.

“They are putting their spin on things, and we’re seeing a lot of issues around gender and identity.

“Art is how people express themselves, and it’s such a great platform for young people.”

The gallery officer said it was incredible for the young people to have their artwork on exhibition next to some of the most famous Australian artists.

Ms Martin said the young artists would also have the opportunity to meet with Blak Douglas on Saturday.

There are 50 Young Archie artworks on display.

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This weekend the gallery will also be launching five exhibitions, including its year of environmental exhibitions and programs.

Dr Hall said that two years ago, the gallery decided to lead the conversation and discussion in the community around the environmental crisis.

“It’s been a long time coming, and we understand things have to change how we view, love and value our environment and our own practices around consumerism, our native animals, our waterways, our trees and our undergrowth,” Dr Hall said.

“So many things that connect to the environment we love, and we don’t want to lose.”

Dr Hall said for 2023, the gallery would have 20 exhibitions devoted to the environment.

The 2022 Archibald Prize exhibition will open to the public for free from Saturday 11 February.

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