Portrait of Tony Abbott hung as Archibald finalist despite backlash

Portrait of Tony Abbott hung as Archibald finalist despite backlash

16 July, 2015. 15:06

ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact

The first official portrait of Tony Abbott sits between two similarly conservative politicians, Bob Katter MP and Senator Bernardi
The first official portrait of Tony Abbott sits between two similarly conservative politicians, Bob Katter MP and Senator Bernardi


DESPITE VEHEMENT PROTESTS and an online petition, Frances Abbott’s portrait of her father has been hung along side the Archibald Prize finalists at the Art Gallery of NSW today.

Late last month, the trustee board of the famous art prize made an exception to all submission deadlines, due to the young creative designer’s inability make the cut-off.

The board’s decision was met with furious public anger as many punters felt she should have to abide by the same rules as everybody else.

However, the calls for Ms Abbott’s painting to be withdrawn from the prestigious art prize fell on deaf ears. The winner of the 2015 Archibald Prize is to be announced tomorrow in Sydney and already art critics and commentators have labelled the portrait of PM Tony Abbott a frontrunner.

Should Frances Abbott win the Archibald Prize tomorrow, she’d be one of only a handful of women to do so – and the first to win it with a debut artwork.  In fact, over 80% of Archibald winners have been men.

The Prime Minister's daughter, Frances Abbott, poses at a Archibald luncheon with her long-term housemate, Muhammad Dib
The Prime Minister’s daughter, Frances Abbott, poses at a Archibald luncheon with her long-term housemate, Muhammad Dib

The portrait was met with a mixed critical response, with SMH Arts Editor Joel Meares describing the artwork as “a half-polished turd”, while Daily Telegraph culture writer Rebecca Mulligan heralded the oil painting as “Ms Abbott’s magnum opus; her stunning debut in to the world of art”.

The Art Gallery of NSW has defended the decision to allow Ms Abbott to deliver her now-finalist artwork, saying that while all entrants are judged equally, some are more equal than others.

“We made an exception to the rule because it’s an exceptional artwork, and the first ever portrait of our current Prime Minister” said Angus Capon.

“It’s not everyday we break protocol, but in this instance, we thought she deserved a fair go. Both as an artist, and as a woman. Her story is powerful.”

“It’s akin to the migrant story. Nobody should be unfairly judged by their family background.”

Multiple Archibald winner, Tim Storrier poses with the portrait of his close friend Tony Abbott. Storrier tells SMH that he is "certain Frances will take him this year's prize"
Multiple Archibald winner, Tim Storrier poses with the portrait of his close friend Tony Abbott. Storrier tells SMH that he is “certain Frances will take him this year’s prize”


In it’s 94th year, the prize attracted approximately 800 entrants submitting portraits-of-photographs of conservative politicians, other artists, and Aboriginal Australians that white people have heard about.

This year’s finalists appear to be a far cry from the typical bumper crop of B-list male Australian actors and iconic Labor identities.

However, in true Archibald fashion, a portrait of Michael Caton won this year’s Packing Room Prize.

In a photo released via the Art Gallery of NSW’s website, Frances Abbott’s portrait of the Prime Minister sits between two similarly political portraits: Bob Katter MP (painted by Cairns artist, Kristin Tennyson) and Senator Cory Bernardi (Stewart MacFarlane).

The latter of the three men gave comment to the Herald today, about how this year’s list of Archibald finalists gives a fair indication of the current state of Australian politics.

“There it is, from Parliament to the Archibald packing room. A conservative revolution,” said an excited Senator Bernardi

“It was a matter of time until our country’s politics crossed over into our art, and I couldn’t be happier.”

As usual, Bob Katter MP was also keen to give comment.

“The painting is bloody deadly!” said the jovial leader of the Katter’s Australia Party.

Bob Katter, on the phone with some of his ringer mates from the 'Curry (Cloncurry, QLD)
Bob Katter MP, on the phone with some of his ringer mates from the ‘Curry (Cloncurry, QLD)

“It’s a shame about the two other blokes, but I’m glad to see our nation’s artists paying homage to their local members. If Kristin doesn’t bag the prize, I’ll be calling for a bloody enquiry [laughter]”.

Gallery spokesman, Angus Capon, says the new trend of conservative subjects spells out exciting times ahead for the Australian art scene.

“Our trustee board was ecstatic. If you are looking to please an assortment of grey-haired millionaires, I think your best bet is to paint the people they worship”

“We have had VIP’s booking special tours of the gallery ever since the announcements. Gina Rhinehart, Ben Quilty, Russell Crowe. Just today Tim Storrier came in to have a closer look at his close friend, Prime Minister Abbott.”

If you would like anymore information regarding this story, the 2015 Archibald prize or upcoming renovations to the Art Gallery of NSW – please contact editor@betootaadvocate.com

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