Jackson, You Nailed It
I was lucky enough to get to the Orange Regional Gallery last week, to partake in the brilliant exhibition of the Archibald Prize finalists for 2018. For those who know nothing about nothing, the Archibald is a portrait competition, with some pretty strict rules about entrants, subjects and mediums. If you don’t mind looking at other people’s mugs, then this is the show for you. I’ve been to this exhibition in the past, and the paintings are always pretty spectacular. Last time around there was a massive painting of a young Indigenous man that stole the show, and also one that was as small as a matchbox. Love it.
In this years’ group I didn’t dislike the winner, it was a self-portrait by Yvette Coppersmith, and I can kind-of see why it won. It got poo-pooed by some sections of the media and the public, but each to their own, and lots of people like to down the tall poppies. I bet Yvette doesn’t give two hoots that some people didn’t like her painting … more publicity for her. The Jimmy Barnes and George from Masterchef efforts were pretty good, too, and there was even one done in a Salvador Dali style. My favourite was the stunning portrait of Australian acting superstar Guy Pearce, it was earthy, realistic and it’d look good in my house I reckon. I hope Guy loved it, it was fabulous.
Standing there looking at the picture of Guy Pearce made me think fondly of favourite EVER piece of art. I certainly was NOT on the bandwagon when I first heard and saw a picture of this painting in a magazine. I thought it was awful. I thought it was crazy that our nation bought it. Then … I saw it in person, and I understood what all the fuss was about. I fell in love. Blue Poles by Jackson Pollock is easily the most loved and hated piece of art in this country. Originally named Number 11, Jackson the expressionist painted it in 1952. It’s a massive 5m wide by 2m high, and as a painting with no faces or real objects, it certainly doesn’t meet any of the criteria set up for the Archibald.
Back in 1973, it cost us a massive $1.3 million to buy it off the Yanks. That was a ridiculous amount of money back then (perhaps equivalent to about 7 or 8 million now), and because the piece of art was costing more than a million, Gough Whitlam as PM had to countersign – many thought he was bonkers. Cut the story short and have a crack at what they reckon it’s probably worth today. Somewhere between 150 mill and maybe up to 350 million in some estimates! Gough would be laughing his head off in the afterlife I’m betting. He was right all along.
Anyway, I got to see the ol’ Poles again recently, and again she put me under her spell. I could sit on that little bench in front of the five metre wonder and stare all day, going into a daze as the colours and combos take hold. I’m sure lots of others come from far and wide to do the same thing. I sat there once in the gallery wondering if anyone had thought about trying to ‘borrow’ it … it’d be the greatest heist of all time, it’s so bloody big. So, if you can’t get down to Canberra to share in the wonder of Blue Poles, duck in to the Orange gallery and get a dose of the Archibald paintings for your dose of culture, it’ll be worth it I promise.