Prior to the announcement of the Archibald Prize winner each year, I always look forward to learning which painting receives the honour of being awarded the Packing Room Prize. A cash prize of $1500, the Packing Room Prize is awarded to the best entry in the Archibald Prize, as judged by the Gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries.
Steve Peters, the head packer at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for 35 years, pleased the crowd when he announced his final year judging choice for the Packing Room Prize was a portrait of journalist and television personality Lisa Wilkinson AM, painted by New South Wales Central Coast artist Peter Smeeth.
With 51% of the vote, Steve maintains that the Packing Room Prize should be awarded to a portrait, “that’s good and looks just like the sitter.” Steve said “I looked at the painting and thought, that’s a great likeness. It’s how Lisa looks every morning on the telly. She looks like she’s laughing at something Karl said!”
An Archibald finalist three times, artist Peter Smeeth, who won the Sulman Prize in 2011, is a regular entrant to the Archibald Prize, having entered for the past 34 years, which is almost as long as Steve Peters has been awarding the prize.
Lisa Wilkson said she was thrilled that Peter Smeeth had won the Packing Room Prize and humbled that she was the subject of his work. “I love the Art Gallery of New South Wales, adore the Archibald and as a big fan of portraiture I was taken with Peter’s portrayal. He got me. A particular thank you to head packer, Steve Peters, who picked this portrait, and who, I am told, is retiring after 40 years on the job. Go well,” Lisa commented.
In 2018 the Packing Room Prize mantle will be handed to installation officer Brett Cuthbertson who replaces Steve Peters as head packer.
By Sandra Tiltman Photos: John Pond