Ben Quilty named Archibald winner - Art Collector

Above: Ben Quilty, Margaret Olley

18 April 2011 | Art world insiders weren’t surprised when Ben Quilty was announced the winner of this year’s Archibald Prize at a function at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on Friday.

For a painter largely known for his interest in masculinity, judges were clearly touched by his decision to paint Margaret Olley, widely considered one of the grand old dames of Australian art.

The two first came to know each other when Olley judged the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2002, selecting the young painter as the winner. For his part, Quilty was surprised that she was interested in his work but welcomed the friendship that followed. “She’s been a friend and great supporter of my work ever since,” says Quilty. “Over the last ten years she has donated my paintings to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and various regional galleries.”

The support has also taken different forms at times. Quilty says that when Olley once came to visit his studio, she pointed to some canvases leaning against a wall and asked “what are these works here, Ben?” He told her they were experiments. “Well, stop experimenting,” was her straight-to-the-point reply.

Quilty wins $50,000. Interestingly, he is continuing to paint women and his next body of work will be a series of portraits of his wife.

Amanda Marburg was the runner up with a portrait of David Astle (better known to crossword junkies as DA). Richard Goodwin won the Wynne Prize for a sculpture titled Co-isolated slave and Peter Smeeth won the Sulman for a canvas titled The artist’s fate depicting a naked man being disembowelled.

The finalists exhibitions for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes will continue at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until 26 June 2011 before touring New South Wales and Victoria.

Jane O'Sullivan

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