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Byron Shire
May 20, 2024

Interview with Brett Adlington, the director of the Lismore Regional Gallery about the Archibald Prize

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Travelling Archibald Exhibition

Lismore Regional Gallery  |  Opening Wednesday 17 April  |  5.30pm  |  $62/67
Daily until 17 June  |  Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 4pm, Thursdays until 6pm  |  $10

Prestigious and controversial, The Archibald Prize is Australia’s foremost portraiture prize. Awarded to the best painting of a notable Australian, The Archibald Prize is a who’s who of Australian culture, from politicians to celebrities and from sporting heroes to artists.In a coup for the region, Lismore Regional Gallery will host the 2018 Archibald Prize, the farthest north in Australia the national touring show will be exhibited.

Finalists in the 2018 Archibald Prize, including the winning portrait Self-portrait after George Lambert by Yvette Coppersmith, will be on display at Lismore Regional Gallery from Wednesday 18 April till 16 June. Yvette Coppersmith will be in Lismore to open the exhibition at a ticketed Gala Event on Wednesday. Brett Adlington, the director of the Lismore Regional Gallery, spoke with The Echo.

Q: What is the process for being one of the regional centres that shows the travelling Archibald exhibiton? 

A: It’s obviously a competition to host the Archibald Prize – so generally there is an annual regional gallery director wrestling match – and this year I won! The other way it works is that the Art Gallery of NSW, who host and tour the Archibald Prize, essentially share it around the regions to venues that have the capacity to show it. Geographical spread is considered, as is the amount of time between venues. We’re next scheduled to have it in 2025; I would imagine other Northern Rivers galleries may be having it in some of the intervening years.

Q: How many regional centres in NSW is it shown in?

A: This tour the exhibition is being shown in three regional centres (Tamworth, Orange, and Lismore), and at Geelong Gallery in Victoria. Generally there has always been at least one Victorian venue.

Q: Is it the complete exhibition including the Packing Room Prize or just a selection?

A: Yes, the entire show will be on display here – more than 50 portraits.

Q: Why do you think the Archibald Prize has such prominence in our art scene and what is the public appeal?

A: I think a key reason that the Archibald Prize has such prominence is the number of high-profile faces and what constitutes a ‘portrait’. Australia also tends to be known internationally for its love of art prizes. – as when you look at other countries there does not seem to be the plethora of prizes that we have. Perhaps it’s our, and the media’s, obsession with sport that has turned it into the one guaranteed news event of the year for the arts. It’s no surprise then that the Art Gallery of NSW delights in using the ‘the face that stops a nation’ tagline. Then there is also our increasing obsession with celebrity that keeps the Prize current.

Q: What is the key to a good portrait, do you think?

A: A good portrait stops you in your tracks – and offers you information about who the sitter is. But more than that, I think a good portrait displays the ‘spirit’ of the subject. This doesn’t have to be a good likeness, but gives you a sense of what drives the person being painted.

Q: What is your pick of The Archibald Prize exhibition?

A: I think Yvette Coppersmith’s self-portrait was a very worthy winner, but I also love Joanna Braithwaite’s portrait of art collector and philanthropist Patrick Corrigan. Not only does Braithwaite capture a wonderful likeness of Pat, she paints him standing in front of 14 other paintings of the subject. It is a multi-layered work that manages to capture a range of impressions of Pat over a period of time.

Q: Will the Gallery be offering guided tours?

A: Yes, we will be offering guided tours at set times, and for larger groups tours can be booked. Additionally, with the support of the Quota Clubs of Lismore and Alstonville, we will be starting a monthly program of Auslan-led tours by native Auslan speaker Sigrid McDonald for the deaf community. All details can be found on our website www.lismoregallery.org.

Opening Wednesday 17 April with a ticketed event at 5.20pm – $62/67 – book on lismoregallery.org or come see the show at the Gallery Tuesday–Sunday 10am–4pm. Thursdays till 6pm.

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