Australia’s favourite art prize is back with a show of 57 fa­mous and not-quite fa­mous faces.

Time Out (Sydney) - - INSIDE - By Ben Neutze

EV­ERY­BODY’S A CRITIC at Archibald time. But one man’s opin­ion has more sig­nif­i­cant weight than most: the Art Gallery of NSW’s head packer, who awards the an­nual $1,500 Pack­ing Room Prize (this year the prize has gone to Jamie Preisz’s por­trait of Jimmy Barnes). Steve Peters was the Archibald head packer for more than three decades, but this year Brett Cuth­bert­son took over the role. We asked Cuth­bert­son a few key ques­tions about what he looks for in a win­ning por­trait.

Brett, what have you learnt from work­ing along­side Steve Peters?

To not take any­one or any­thing too se­ri­ously. That’s most im­por­tant. To care­fully lis­ten to what peo­ple have to say – par­tic­u­larly about the Archibald – but stick to your own opin­ion. Steve was a great teacher.

How did you be­come a packer in the first place?

I’m ac­tu­ally an in­stal­la­tion of­fi­cer. I’m part of a team that phys­i­cally hangs the art­work. But at Archibald time, it’s all pack­ing room du­ties. I’ve been do­ing it for so long now that I can’t re­mem­ber how I first came to be work­ing there. Just lucky, I guess.

What is the at­mos­phere like in the pack­ing room when the en­tries start ar­riv­ing?

There’s a real buzz. It’s ab­so­lutely ex­haust­ing, but ex­cit­ing. I love it. Artists come in ev­ery year to drop off their works, so it’s like a fam­ily re­union. They al­most are your fam­ily – a crazy, cre­ative fam­ily.

What is the im­por­tance of hav­ing a Pack­ing Room Prize along­side the Archibald Prize?

Non-arty peo­ple should have a say too. The Archibald Prize is judged by the gallery’s Board of Trustees – I guess you could call them art ex­perts. They’re look­ing at tech­nique and style, while for the Pack­ing Room Prize we just pick what we like. We don’t care if the tech­nique doesn’t mea­sure up.

What does a day in the life of the AGNSW head packer look like?

At Archibald time it’s all about re­ceiv­ing en­tries, reg­is­ter­ing them, un­pack­ing them and then parad­ing ev­ery sin­gle art­work in front of the judges. Once that’s done we hang the show with the ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor. Oh, and ev­ery now and then I have to an­swer ques­tions like these ones. Archibald, Wynne & Sul­man Prizes, Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Rd, The Do­main 2000. 02 9225 1700. art­ Thu-Tue 10am-5pm; Wed 10am-10pm. $8-$20. Un­til Sep 9.

Brett Cuth­bert­son

Jamie Preisz, ‘Jimmy (Ti­tle Fight)’

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