Sydney painter and first-time finalist Jamie Preisz has won the Archibald Packing Room Prize for his portrait of Jimmy Barnes.
The announcement means Archies season has kicked off at the Art Gallery of NSW, with the unveiling of the 58 finalists for this year’s Archibald Prize for portraiture – Australia’s oldest and arguably most popular art prize.
The Packing Room Prize represents the “layperson’s” point of view and has been awarded annually since 1991 by the gallery’s head packer.
As Archibald curator Anne Ryan told ABC’s 7.30 program earlier this week: “It’s a bit more akin to what our everyday visitors might appreciate and enjoy.”
Preisz said of his sitter: “He’s not just a rock musician, he’s part of the cultural fabric of Australia. He is iconic.”
The head packer and his team choose the winner from amongst all entries to the Archibald – but with the head packer holding 52 per cent of the vote, it is largely a matter of personal taste.
Former head packer Steve Peters told 7.30 the criteria is that “the work has to be good” and “the subject should be someone that everyone knows”.
After 31 years presiding over the prize, Peters handed the reins to new head packer Brett Cuthbertson in 2018.
At the winner’s announcement, Cuthbertson said the Preisz portrait was pretty much “the only contender” for him.
To be honest, when the work arrived, I’d just been asked by a journalist who I’d like to see painted this year. Fair dinkum, I said Barnsey would be great.
“I turned around after the interview and there was a young artist turning his work around so we could see it.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was Barnsey. The portrait stuck in my head for the week we were receiving entries. By the final day of submissions, it was still the only contender for me.”
Barnes himself is pleased with the portrait.
“You might look at me and think, this guy’s no oil painting, but Jamie’s proven that wrong,” Barnes said.
The packer’s choice gets $1500 – but artists often call it the “kiss of death”, as no winner has ever gone on to win the Archibald itself.
Who else is among the finalists?
The remaining 57 finalists for the Archibald Prize, chosen by the Art Gallery of NSW Board of Trustees, include some stalwarts and 14 first-timers.
It is South Australian painter Robert Hannaford’s 20th time as an Archibald finalist (he has also won the People’s Choice Award three times).
His daughter Tsering is carrying on the tradition: 2018 is her fourth consecutive year as a finalist in the Archibald Prize.
Sydney painter Nicholas Harding is only slightly behind, taking his 18th bow as an Archibald Prize finalist this year (with a self-portrait of himself during treatment for cancer); he also won the prize in 2001.
Other previous Archibald Prize winners who are finalists in 2018 include Euan MacLeod (1999), Del Kathryn Barton (2008 and 2013), Marcus Wills (2006), and Guy Maestri (2009).