You could be $75,000 better off by getting creative

One of the greatest art prizes available in Australia is ‘The Archibald’, a portrait painting competition, run by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and offering a first prize of $75,000. The competition is organised under the will of the late JF Archibald, dated 15th March 1916, for the best portrait, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the date fixed by the trustees for sending in the pictures.


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Apart from the main prize of $75,000, there are two other prizes to be won; the Packing Room Prize, valued at $1,500 judged by the people who unpack and hang the works, and the People’s Choice Prize, worth $3,500, which is self explanatory.

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Any resident of Australia is eligible to enter the competition; not just the skilled professional artists to whom so many competitions of this value are limited. But an aspiring exhibitor should bear in mind that entry doesn’t necessarily mean exhibition, and the handling fee of $50 that must accompany each painting is non refundable, even if the Committee do not accept the work.

It is a great accomplishment though, to have a painting chosen; should one be accepted, that alone is worth more than the prizes of most other portrait exhibitions, just to be able to say that you have been an exhibitor in the Archibold would undoubtedly open many doors with experts in the art world.

The Archibold can be a very controversial show, with many arguments taking place as to whether this painting or that painting was worthy of showing, due to painting styles, chosen subject and even the colours used in order to arrive at the finished result. Jealousy can play an important part in discussions too, artists can be just as prissy as the most outrageous actress and if one you hate gets in with his awful, amateurish picture while your stunning work was rejected, the result can be close to murder!


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But the important thing, apart from the sheer kudos of having been accepted, is the fact that a very large number of people roll up to admire or hate the paintings during the three months they are on display in Sydney, often followed by a touring show of selected works, which again is a situation of value to an artist, in getting both his work and his name before the public, who for most artists are their final clients.

Anyone who knows the Archibold will be aware that a painting doesn’t have to follow formal lines, such as the portraits on display in Buckingham Palace, for instance. Virtually any medium is acceptable, so long as it isn’t going to fall off the surface during the exhibition, the only criteria are that it must be a painting, as opposed to a sculpture, it must have been painted from life and it must fit within certain dimensions, though these would be considered generous by most artists.


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So what have you to lose, apart from the $50 handling fee; if you can paint to a reasonable standard, your subject is fairly recognisable within the painting and you follow the many applicable rules correctly and accurately, you have just as much chance as most of the other competitors. In the meantime go to Archibald Prize in Google and have a look at some previous prizewinners work, some you’ll love, others you’ll hate, just like the rest of us!

Go on, give it a go! Who knows, by the end of 2014 you could be better off to the tune of $75,000 – wouldn’t that be wonderful?


 Both paintings shown in this article were done by Brian Lee. The first painting is a portrait of a friend who is an antiques dealer and the second is a portrait of his lovely wife Jacqui. 


Are you an artist? Would you consider entering the competition?