The finalists for this year’s Archibald Prize for portraiture, held annually at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, are now listed online. Amongst the mixed bag of contenders are a couple of standouts – Martin Bell and Vernon Ah Kee deserve a mention here – but the most striking work is a portrait of collector Michael Buxton by Melbourne painter Tim McMonagle (above).
Buxton is a property developer, passionate art collector and friend of the artist. He’s the type of guy art dealers treat with kid gloves; so depicting him covered in raised, textured sores is a bold move indeed. It’s also an approach that folds into McMonagle’s interest in the painterly elements of his craft. The surfaces of his paintings are often scraped back then built up into densely layered patches – Buxton’s glaring liver spots being a case in point. Formalism aside, there’s no escaping the confronting, somewhat unflattering nature of the work. And what did Buxton think of it? He allegedly loved the painting so much he bought it on the spot.