The Archibald Prize

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

andrian-valeanu-82531-unsplash

The Archibald Prize is arguably the most prestigious and iconic portraiture award in Australia. Since its commencement in 1921 at the posthumous bequest of J.F Archibald, a former co-owner and editor of The Bulletin, the Prize has been the cause of much controversy and media attention, consolidating the career of many artists. Whilst it isn’t the highest paying Australian portraiture prize ($100,000 to the Moran’s $150,000), it is far better known, and for good reason, with J.F Archibald’s edict stating that the portraits are to be ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’. As such, the Archibald has oft depicted well known people of varying degrees of celebrity: politicians, actors, musicians, sports stars, other artists (à la Ben Quilty’s portrait of Australian icon Margaret Olley in 2011).

As we fast approach the centenary of the prize with today’s announcement of the 2018 winner, Yvette Coppersmith’s ‘Self-portrait, after George Lambert’, the Prize has demonstrated how portraiture has moved strictly from realism to a more emotive mode of painting. This was first particularly noted after the controversy surrounding the now infamous painting ‘Portrait of an Artist (Joshua Smith)’ by Sir William Dobell (whose portrait of Dame Mary Gilmore is featured on the Australian $10 notes)which won the prize in 1943, calling into question the nature and guidelines of portraiture, with the work being contested in the Supreme Court of New South Wales by two other entrants for falling into the genre of caricature as opposed to portraiture and thus not eligible for the prize. Nonetheless, their verdict was overturned and the Archibald has continued to be a demonstration of the changing face of art within Australia.

In 2014, there were over 130,000 tickets sold to the finalist exhibitions for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes, and it is an event that attracts over $1 million in profit each year, with that number only climbing. There is criticism that it is, to quote gallery owner Michael Reid, ‘a media circus’ as opposed to a respected art prize. Regardless of opinion, it has undoubtedly cemented its place in the Australian art world and provides a platform for artists such as Ben Quilty, Del Kathryn Barton, Yvette Coppersmith, Fiona Lowry and more to be recognised outside of the often introspective sphere of the art world.

Portraiture is so often stereotyped as a stoic, bygone form of art, with Dobell stating during the Joshua Smith case that ‘so long as people expect paintings to be simply coloured photographs they get no individuality and in the case of portraits, no characterisation. The real artist is striving to depict his subject’s character and to stress the caricature, but at least it is art which is alive.’ That is not to say that realism is out dated and irrelevant, but that the nature of portraiture goes beyond capturing a physical likeness of the subject. It is perhaps this unique insight of the artist, particularly when applied to so many notable figures in Australian culture, that has made the Archibald Prize the icon that it is today.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources in relation to this subject. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education, just search for the titles below on your site:

The Archibald- Welcome to the Archibald (S01E01)

The Archibald- First Strokes (S01E02)

The Archibald- D Day (S01E03)

The Archibald- And The Winner Is (S01E04)

Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery- Ben Quilty

Artscape Paths to Portraiture

Art Nation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soup Cans and Superstars: How Pop Art Changed the World

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

cris-tagupa-606858-unsplashPop art is one of the seminal art movements of the mid 20th century: brash, bold and instantly iconic. Whilst it was arguably initiated in Britain, it took root in the advertisements and commercialism of the modern American landscape, designed to appear lightweight and vacuous. However, as host Alastair Sookes states in the documentary Soup Cans and Superstars: How Pop Art Changed the World, pop art has far more depth than it is often given credit for, being utilised to ‘expose the dark side of the American dream.’

What exactly is pop art? In 1957, pop artist Richard Hamilton defined it as the following: ‘popular (designed for a mass audience); transient (short term solution); expendable (easily forgotten); low cost; mass produced; young (aimed at youth); witty; sexy; gimmicky; glamorous; and big business.’ In short, it seeks to emulate the industry of its eponymous popular (pop) culture, mass media and advertising that it so often commentates on, bringing commercial art into the gallery.

Unlike many art movements, à la Dadaism, Futurism, Symbolism, Realism, Surrealism, Cubism and more, pop art wasn’t initiated with a strict manifesto regarding its boundaries or its foundation. However, like many of these movements, pop art plays with the boundaries of what is considered to be art, creating syncretism between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. The majority of the pop art movement was formed in isolation, made cohesive by the spirit of the time rather than commonality with other artists. Indeed, as curator Henry Geldzahler stated to Andy Warhol, ‘It was like a science fiction movie- you pop artists in different parts of the city, unknown to each other, rising up out of the muck and staggering forward with your paintings in front of you.’

Many famous pop artists, such as Warhol and James Rosenquist had their start in advertising. Their artwork often plays with the concepts of consumerism, celebrity and media, of mass reproduction, and the advertising ideal of happiness being a commodity. Advertising as we know it today had its genesis in the late 1940’s and 50’s, with the introduction of television advertisements, and pop art, coming to the forefront in the 1950’s and 60’s, was very much a reactionary framework for artists. As Sookes notes, pop art ‘holds up a mirror to the times… in all its Technicolor, tarnished glory.’ Against the backdrop of the Cold War and in a post WWII society, the glossy façade of celebrity and mass media was increasingly apparent, with the dichotomy between their projected optimism and artist’s cynicism being a frequent theme, prominently displayed in works such as Warhol’s ‘Marilyn Diptych’, Rosenquist’s ‘F-111’ and Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Whaam!’

Pop art is a unique movement, in that in often directly participates in perpetuating the very aspects it is commenting on. A perfect example of this is Warhol’s infamous ‘Factory’, which cemented him as one of the first ‘business artists’, a model that has found favour with many contemporary artists (Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst spring to mind). Warhol’s method of screen printing allowed him to mass produce his work, this mechanical, accessible art style being a direct representation of Western consumerism, with Warhol noting that what was wonderful about America was that they ‘started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola… you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola… you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke.’ This is further extrapolated in his famous ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’, playing with everyday, highly recognisable imagery, and in doing so, taking art out of the gallery and into everyday life.

Whilst pop art is often intrinsically linked with the golden age of advertising in America, Sookes is also quick to note that it didn’t only find its home in the U.S.A. Pop art stretched to Britain, France, Germany and the USSR, often finding its beginnings as protest art. However, it consolidated its place in China’s late 20th century economic boom, as they embraced political reform and opened their doors to Western society. Long after the NY Times had declared the pop movement as ‘dead’, pop art found new life in China’s ‘tiger economy’ of the 1980’s, something that has continued into their current day art scene, reflecting an inherent fascination with the deeply embedded role that the nation has in the culture of consumerism and mass production.

Pop art is one of the major art movements of the mid 20th century, however, its reach stretches far beyond the typical association with the so called ‘golden age of advertising’ from the 1950’s and 60’s. Pop art has undoubtedly informed our perception of art today, serving as a direct commentary on our culture and influencing the business model of many current artists, utilising mass production and an assimilation of popular culture as a means of furthering their reach. The documentary Soup Cans and Superstars is an excellent resource in the study of this fascinating movement and will undoubtedly assist students in their understanding.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources that can be used in relation to the topics covered in this post. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education, just search for the titles below on your site:

Soup Cans and Superstars- How Pop Art Changed the World

Alan Cumming on Pop Art

Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein

A Guide to Pop Art

Behind the Artist- Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

TED-ED Lessons Worth Sharing- A Brief History of Graffiti