Art

The Archibald’s Bankrupt Currency

Cultural Marxism’s long march through the institutions is well-nigh complete and, emblematic of art imitating life, the 2021 Archibald provides a classic example. This is evidenced not just by the works included as finalists but, just as important, those deemed by our 21st century arbiters of taste as being unworthy of recognition.

Take, for instance, the portrait of Jacinta Nampijinpa Price by Johannes Leak, shown below with the artist who executed it.

You don’t have to be a professional art critic to appreciate the skill and the power which the piece demonstrates. But here’s is what is particularly perplexing: why was Leak’s entry excluded from the final judging when the, er, artworks atop this page all made the cut?

Christopher Allen, art critic for The Weekend Australian, provides the explanation:

One can only assume a work as striking as this was excluded because the Trustees were afraid of implicitly raising the real questions that need to be asked about Aboriginal communities.

It’s so much easier to get kudos by including some harmless Aboriginal portraits and filling up the Wynne with bland dot paintings.

Likewise, as professional cartoonist Paul Zanetti wrote on social media:

Several weeks ago, when Johannes Leak stopped by for a visit, he told me he was taking a couple of weeks off to start his portrait painting for this year’s Archibalds Prize. His subject is Jacinta Price.

I didn’t say what I was thinking to Johannes at the time, but I feared he would suffer the same fate as his late great dad, Bill, who year after year painted by far the most outstanding portraits amongst all the entries, but was never recognised by the elitist socialist rabble on the voting committee because Bill’s politics didn’t conform.

Johannes’s stunning entry was the hands-down winner this year.

A few weeks ago, he texted me an unfinished preview.

So much power in one painting.

The Archibalds unfortunately are no longer a portrait prize, but another sad victim of ‘progressive’ wokism, more a political expression than a recognition of the best artistic skills.

Johannes has inherited his brilliant father’s genius. Bill was the best artist to never win an Archibald, a prize in itself.

The Archibalds no longer have any artistic currency.

On a deeper level, what is missing in so much of today’s art is the goal of what Roger Scruton argues is artist’s obligation to be ‘reclaiming beauty’. Ah, beauty! That transcendent virtue which reflects the truth and goodness of the universe implanted in us by our Creator. But having largely abandoned any such belief for atheistic materialism we now honour artworks no better than the primitive and childish. Scruton develops his argument even further here, a feature-length BBC documentary well worth watching in full.

Maybe it is time for conservatives in particular to reclaim the arts on behalf of everyone, to take  back the galleries, prizes and grantsfrom the mostly state-supported clique which presumes to determine what is good, bad and, like Bill Leak’s work, deemed to be beyond the politically correct pale.

After the outrage subsides, the answer to cancel culture has to be courage — courage to create and reflect that which is true, good and, ultimately, beautiful.

18 comments
  • Ceres

    Brilliant work by Johannes capturing the subtleties of the wonderful Jacinta. Real artists need not bother to enter, the judges have made that quite clear. My 8 year old grandson does similar work to the finalists so it’s quite probable he could end up with the prize of $100,000.
    Another indication of the leftie madness permeating our society.

  • Tony Tea

    This year my cousin has his third entry as an Archibald finalist. In 2019 the SMH art critic, John McDonald, cited his portrait of Benjamin Law as one of the few which stuck to the brief.

  • Harry Lee

    The visual and performing arts -all arts- are 90% controlled and staffed by the marxist-greenist/anti-Westernist people. Just like the education, research, news/opinion, and legal systems.
    Just like all the public services -at Federal, State/Territory and Council levels.
    And all evidence is that nothing can be done to reverse this calamity. Consider the reasons:
    To begin, the Australian Consitution is, obviously, weak and inadequate to protect against marxism and anti-empricism in all matters.
    And consider the bad bits of Australian popular culture: Swaggering BS, indolence, commitment to ignorance, foodism, excessive use of alcohol and other recreational drugs, escapism generally, and she’ll be right.
    Now, consider the deficits and negatives in the legal system, in the associated political system, and in how the vast majority of Australians mis-spend their freedoms and material abundance. These all combine to prevent the saving of the best of what was once The Good Australia, and prevent establishing a New Proper Australia.
    And multiculturalism -its causes, costs and consequences, and associated censorship. seal the deal: Australia is Kaput.

  • ChrisPer

    I used to say that Leftism was a mental illness.
    Now I see that its gro9uding in the ‘moral status auction’ is a way of being, while having no anchoring principles now that its power allows them to abandon western liberalism. is an active engine of evil.

    Next thing you know these bastards will be sitting on thrones on secret island lairs, launching ICBMs loaded with brain parasites into Western Civilisation.
    Oh my bad – that phase is complete.

  • ChrisPer

    grounding was the word I failed to type.

  • Michael

    Accolades in art world have rarely had a close relationship to artistic talent and merit. They are better considered as form of social fashion and positioning for the elite. Who is in and who is out is always changing. Keeping up, being in the know, about who is hot and who is not shows how close one is to the centre of that particular social circle.

  • NFriar

    What is a portrait?
    Perhaps they need to change the requirements.

  • gareththomassport

    Seems quant to consider Dobell’s winning portrait of Joshua Smith in 1943 was challenged in court. I had to double check Mark’s claim that his collage accompanying this piece were actually finalists in this year’s exhibition.
    What mindless dross visual art has become.

  • Harry Lee

    Bankrupt currency? Regard the way the ABC -that bastion of The Arts, Marxism and Fakery, is reporting the end of its assault on Christian Porter. To me, the ABC is corrupt to the core, and every which way. This, the ABC that is funded by nett wealth-creators whom the ABC denigrates, indeed wants to cancel, indeed abolish. And corruption such as ABC’s exists because of the wider corruption of society, and the inadequacy of the Australian Constitution to protect Australia from said corruption, marxism and fakery.

  • March

    Yep, time for a prize for portraiture that recognises talent rather than politics. Who has deep pockets and a social conscious… Gena?

  • nfw

    My man-in-the-sky, tht’s a painting of Ms Price? I actually thought it was a photo of her when I first looked at it. Now that I’ve seen it and compared it to the childish rubbish of others I can see why it would never be considered, it’s a work of art. You have to remember prizes are for luvvies, not true talent.

  • Bernard

    It is a scandal that Johannes Leak’s portrait of Jacinta Nampijinpa Price was not a finalist and the more than plausible political reasons for it make it even more scandalous.
    Amongst the usual rubbish, there were some wonderful portraits. The works by Peter Wegner, Graeme Drendel, Lucy Culliton, Tsering Hannaford, Ann Cape and Dagmar Cyrulla seem, in their variety, to show that portrait painting is not dead.

  • Peter Marriott

    Good article Mark. Of course the stuff at the top is just construct nonsense, not even real abstraction I think, but the way modernism, or post modernism is these days, just what the ‘avant-garde establishment’ seem to want. You can’t compare that rubbish with Leak’s picture, which seems to capture something in the subject that makes one think, hard, and not only that, it looks like it was difficult to paint, very difficult, which always means something, to me anyway. The ‘pre-emptive kitsch’ at the top is still just real common or garden ‘kitsch’ nonsense to use another of Roger Scruton’s expressions. I suppose to sum up for me, Leak’s painting is a real fair dinkum portrait, done by a real painter for a mature audience, while the other stuff shown is just clever nonsense of the sort that children would really laugh at and so must have been done by them, for them.

  • IainC

    Too technical. Too proficient. Too professional. Too much like a portrait. Too elegant. Too painterly. Too artistic. Too good. Not Archibald-worthy at all. Next!
    Many submissions are simply situational paintings with a face somewhere in frame (often almost obscured, which seems to counter the meaning of “portrait”). It’s good that they’ve allowed several pictures by school children. Perhaps the experience will encourage them to take up art.

  • RB

    Your view of the quality or otherwise of the contestants marks you as being out of the in-group. That is its sole purpose, it is no more reflective than a house brick.
    Modern art is rubbish, I am told that view is mine due to my own shortcomings.
    I think however Pablo Picasso had it right when he said the chief enemy of creativity is good sense. If only the rest of us had the good sense to ignore these people entirely…

  • Ian MacKenzie

    I’ve been reading Christopher Allen’s reviews ever since he began contributing to the Weekend Oz. He seems to me to be the best I’ve come across since the late great Giles Auty.

  • mpowell

    Peter Marriott “You can’t compare that rubbish with Leak’s picture, which seems to capture something in the subject that makes one think, hard, and not only that, it looks like it was difficult to paint, very difficult, which always means something, to me anyway.” Well said! That was exactly my response to Leak’s piece

  • Harry Lee

    I doubt that expressions of good common sense, let alone proper art criticism, can halt the expansion of leftist anti-art in the nominally labeled “arts-entertainment” industry. More so, I doubt there is any remedy to the anti-civilisational use of resources brought on by the leftist takeover of our entire society.
    But as we descend into The Abyss, and with no chance of emergence of a new non-leftist Western society, I encourage more inventiveness in the quips, scoffs, and slag-offs now typically used by non-leftists in their comments on leftist “art” and leftist “entertainment”, such as the Pascoe Fantasy.
    As someone said: “We need new cliches, urgently”.

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