Sydney filmmakers paint a portrait of The Archibalds

September 18, 2017 by J-Wire Staff
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Mint Pictures has filmed The Archibald Prize, Australia’s most popular and coveted art prize. Being awarded to portraits of prominent Australians the iconic prize is no stranger to intrigue and controversy across its 96-year history.

Adam Kay

In 2017 the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) provided Mint Pictures’ Adam Kay and Dan Goldberg‘s cameras to  unprecedented access to competitors, their work and the hidden internal processes by which the Archibald is judged, hung, announced and exhibited. The resulting four-part documentary series, The Archibald, premiered last Tuesday on Foxtel Arts.

Two of the eight artists featured in the series won selection in the 2017 Archibald Prize – former Prize winner Nicholas Harding and three-time finalist Yvette Coppersmith.

The prize itself was ultimately awarded to Mitch Cairns.

The Archibald takes viewers behind the scenes and away from the media front-line, as the series follows the artists and their sitters as they strive to win the most iconic prize in Australian arts.

Producer Dan Goldberg and an award presented to Mint Pictures

The Archibald follows the highs and lows of a clutch of artists ranging from three former Archibald Prize winners, four former finalists and a newcomer to the scene all vying to have their portraits hung in the prestigious exhibition. Their complete journeys from the artists’ first approach to their sitters through to their final portraits are captured across Australia as well as overseas in Afghanistan, Hollywood, London, and Paris.

The Archibald has an all-access pass to the Art Gallery of NSW and for the first time, cameras capture the deliberations as the submissions pass the judges and they announce the final portraits. Following which, the 2017 Archibald Prize winner is revealed.

Fraser Stark, Group Channel Manager of Foxtel’s Arts & Music channels said: “Part of Foxtel Arts’ mission is to be an active participant in, and observer of, Australia’s arts communities and institutions. By opening up for our customers such an unprecedented look inside the journey to the Archibald Prize we are certainly hitting that mark squarely. Mint Pictures has produced an insightful and revealing documentary series of which the channel is proud. We thank the AGNSW for their willing collaboration and for their trust in the quality of our treatment.”

Episode One of this four-part series narrated b Rachel Griffiths set up the Archibald Prize, its controversial history and a roll call of some of the most famous – and infamous – portraits that have been hung in the exhibition.

We met four of our cast – former Archibald winner Nicholas Harding, three-time finalist Yvette Coppersmith, 2016 People’s Choice winner Nick Stathopoulos, and war artist Dr George Gittoes.

Nicholas has been offered the rare privilege to paint art legend John Olsen, and the sitting in Olsen’s home in the Southern Highlands is a historic moment – two former Archibald winners in one room, climaxing with a glass of Rosé at 11am!

Yvette has selected the outgoing Australian Human Rights Commission president, Professor Gillian Triggs, and travels to Sydney for a photo shoot with her stylish subject. She’s also got a surprise in her suitcase: a $10 dress from an op-shop that she hopes Triggs will wear!

Nick decides to paint a celebrity who he describes as “a polymath, writer, actor and voice artist”. He emails her agent and we soon learn that Hollywood star and children’s book author Isla Fisher has agreed! But there’s a snag: she lives in Los Angeles, so the stakes just got a whole lot higher. Not only has the cost just increased, there’s still no guarantee the portrait will get hung.

George has made his career out of getting access to inaccessible places – this time he wants to paint the most infamous Australian alive: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who’s been holed up inside the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012. He’s in touch with Julian’s lawyer via email and while Julian has agreed, George still doesn’t have access to the embassy. Regardless, he rolls the dice and travels to London hoping he will get in.

Episode 2 will be screened on Foxtel Arts on Tuesday September 19 at 7:30pm

The series received a major investment from Screen Australia.





One Response to “Sydney filmmakers paint a portrait of The Archibalds”
  1. Ernest Newbrun DMD, PhD says:

    Will this film series be available overseas? I am planning to teach a course on Australian art and of course the Archibald Prize is a topic I plan to cover.

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