In May 2022, the Archibald Prize is heading back to the New England Regional Art Museum.
The Archibald Prize, first awarded in 1921, is the country's most-loved portrait prize award, and one of its most prestigious.
"We are thrilled to bring the Archibald Prize 2021 to NERAM," said NERAM Director Rachael Parsons.
"This is an amazing opportunity for regional audiences and visitors to access an Australian art phenomenon."
The Archibald Prize 2021 opening event will take place on Friday May 13 at 6pm and the exhibit will be on display at NERAM until 26 June 2022.
Awarded to the best portrait painting, it's a who's who of Australian culture from politicians to celebrities, sporting heroes to artists.
In its 100-year history the Archibald Prize has celebrated Australia's leading artists with winners including William Dobell, Nora Heysen, Brett Whiteley and Del Kathryn Barton.
The prize has also courted controversy. From questioning the appropriateness of a sitter's status as 'distinguished' to interrogating modern art styles as legitimate examples of portraiture, the Archibald Prize has always inspired strong opinions and divisive debate, all of which has added to the prize's mass appeal.
In the centenary year of the Archibald, Peter Wegner's portrait of 100-year-old artist Guy Warren (himself an Archibald winner in 1985) took out the prize.
The 2021 'Packing Room Prize' was awarded to Kathrin Longhurst for her portrait of singer Kate Ceberano.
As a special accompaniment to the Archibald Prize 2021, Contenders presents a selection of portraits from the NERAM collections that were finalists in the Archibald Prize over the decades, including Nigel Thomson's 1983 winning portrait of NERAM's benefactor, Chandler Coventry.
"It's an indication of the quality and breadth of the NERAM collections to have such important works by artists who were finalists and winners of the esteemed Archibald Prize" says NERAM Curator Belinda Hungerford.
Also opening is the first museum exhibition in Australia by international contemporary art magazine Beautiful Bizarre.
Interconnected is a diverse showcase bringing together contemporary artists from around Australia working across a broad range of mediums and styles.
Over 70 artists have created work specifically for their exhibition in their own unique and diverse style including Ben Howe, Colleen Southwell, Dean Home, Del Kathryn Barton, Ebony Russell, Elouise Roberts, Hiromi Tango, Jeremy Geddes, Johnny Kovacevic, Judith Nangala Crispin, Julianne Ross Allcorn, Kate Rohde, Kathrin Longhurst, Kim Leutwyler, Lihao Lu, Liz Priestley, Marie Larkin, Myfanwy Gullifer, Paula Jenkins, Petra Reece, Ryan Pola, Samantha Dennison, Sebastian Galloway, Vanessa Stockard and more.
"This exhibition is much broader in its scope than our usual curated exhibitions" says Beautiful Bizarre CoFounder and Editor-in-Chief of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine and curator of Interconnected Danijela Krha Purssey.
"It expands the category of still life and landscape, intersecting these genres with lowbrow, neopop and dark surrealism.
"The representation of daily occurrences, the small objects around us, and the unfiltered reality that we live in, has the capacity to connect with people and provide a ground to start meaningful conversations.
"I decided to include other genres and styles, along with figurative art to appeal to the broader audience in regional Australia.
"To show collectors, artists and enthusiasts that all of these styles have value and are representative of the exceptional work being made in this country."
Local academic and photographer, Glenn Porter (Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of New England) has ditched his usual high-tech equipment for a digital camera and a cheap plastic "Holga" lens to create stunning black and white images for his first solo exhibition at NERAM, The Holga Experiment.
The Holga, popularised in the 1980s, is known for its inbuilt quirks and imperfections resulting in vignetting and blurriness. Porter is interested in this aesthetic for its links to the concept in Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, the beauty in imperfection.
"Life doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. There are different ways of looking at beauty" says Porter.
"Glenn has created a suite of very beautiful, dreamlike images. It's wonderful to be able to present this thoughtful work at NERAM" says NERAM Curator Belinda Hungerford.
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