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Public exhibition still in the frame for Brisbane Portrait Prize

After careful consideration, the organisers of this year’s Brisbane Portrait Prize have announced this year’s event is going ahead, with tentative plans in place for a public exhibition to take place at Brisbane Powerhouse in October.

Apr 03, 2020, updated Apr 05, 2020
Brisbane Portrait Prize Launch

Brisbane Portrait Prize Launch

Brisbane Portrait Prize director Anna Reynolds told InQueensland the prize’s board had a put a lot of scenario planning in place, and a virtual version of the exhibition was also an option.

“One of the important things about the Brisbane Portrait Prize is that it exists to support artists, and also to provide opportunities for people to engage with art, so it’s those two principles that are driving our decision-making,” she said.

“Given the entries are already open and artists are already working on artwork we wanted to keep going with it with the hope that we are able to have a final exhibition at the Brisbane Powerhouse in October.

“If we can’t, we’ll still proceed, and have the best online experience we can manage at the time but no one’s in a position to decide where that will go at this point. So, we just have to remain nimble and continue supporting artists and encouraging artists in a safe way to keep going with their work.”

One of the entry requirements for this year’s prize has been relaxed to take into account social distancing measures that have been implemented in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The portrait [now] doesn’t need to be from a live sitting and that’s a really hard one to let go of, because there’s a school of thought that says portraiture is very dependent on the live sitting and it’s the live interaction that really translates to making the portrait come alive,” Reynolds said.

“In making that call we’ve had to think, what are the obligations in terms of safety? So, what we’re saying is it doesn’t have to be a live sitting, it can be from a photo. We’d still encourage live sittings if they’re safe, and that’s why we might get more paintings and artwork this year that involve family and close friends.”

This year’s prize pool has increased to $85,000, with $50,000 to be awarded for the Lord Mayor’s Prize, as well as a $10,000 prize for the digital portrait, a category Reynolds said she was particularly excited to see the results of.

“We might get more interesting digital work this year, just thinking about the whole notion of distance, and how the digital concept can play into that separation and closeness as a part of the portrait that sort of tells the story, as well as the story about the actual person and celebrating the person.

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Working on a back-up plan for a digital showing of this year’s finalists is also something organisers have been working on, Reynolds said.

“We’re working with our digital partners Accenture, and the board, to scope out what the best thing to do is, I think if you look at the art space, everybody’s leaping online at the moment, which is good, but we really need to think about what’s going to be the best experience for the viewers and the artists in terms of trying to make the images work, and trying to add value to it, so we’re hoping to come up with some good ways to display the art.

“We’re pretty lucky in terms of the timeline for that in that we’ve got a little bit of time to actually, to get that get that going, so, we’ll certainly be working quite hard on that over the coming months.

“I think it’s really important for people to think there will be an end to [these social restrictions] and we need to think about what kind of a world we want when it does finish. And I think a world where the arts is still really important is a good world to be in.  I think there’s a bit of a message of hope in that in some way and I would hope that that comes through.”

Entries for the Brisbane Portrait Prize close on August 16.  For more details, visit brisbaneportraitprize.org

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