Photojournalism is a contact sport. One would think that an art gallery is a safe haven from harm but one would be wrong. On an assignment at the Art Gallery of NSW this afternoon, I left with bruises, cuts and experienced a rush of adrenaline not unlike having just participated in a game of tackle. Indeed I was in the middle of this:
Meanwhile, about 30 odd photojournalists and videographers were behind me fighting for a spot.
Yes it was the Archibald Prize – the most prestigious portraiture prize in the country. This year, the 90th year of the Archibald, NSW artist Ben Quilty won with his painting of esteemed artist Margaret Olley.
He embraced Olley after he was awarded the prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. Quilty said he first met the elderly artist when she was a guest judge for the 2002 Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, which he won. “It’s quite moving to be here today,” he said, adding that Olley had been a “very maternal figure to me, but most of all a friend”.
Quilty says Olley’s support has been amazing. “It’s been such an amazing experience for me to have over the last eight years. To know someone like that, for her to give so freely to me,” he said. “She doesn’t hold anything back. She’s very direct and very honest with her opinions. If she doesn’t like what I’m doing, she tells me to my face and I think to be a good artist you have to take those comments on in a really positive way.” Olley says she is not biased when she says Quilty’s painting was the best. “I told Ben the best painting doesn’t always win. This year it has,” she said.
The Archibald Prize 2011 Exhibition will be on show until June 26th. More behind the scenes photos from today’s announcement are here.