It was with more than a little surprise and a laugh that we heard our work was chosen as a finalist in the Sulman. A week before, we spent all morning packing and hauling the work into the ute, with a few swear words along the way, as I wondered about the point of it all.... We were entering the painting prize for the first time. With a frame, made of salt. From the outset, it was a kind of joke. If we got into the finalists, that would be a miracle, and a laugh. But was all this effort really worth it?
Then came opening night. It was our first time at the Archibald/Wynne/Sulman opening. Actually, Ken has to admit it was the first time he had ever seen the Archibald. A true artist - too much of a cheapskate to pay for looking at art. After a few too many glasses of champagne, we managed to bump into our friend and the judge of the Sulman Prize, Richard Bell. “Thanks for choosing us, Richard!” we laughed. “Well, I had to choose some of my friends didn’t I?”, his eyes gleamed, “I decided on a theme, you know, animals. But then I had to choose a few of my friends…". “And how did you choose the winner, Richard?” Ken asked. “Oh, that. Yep, well, I had to write a few titles down on a piece of paper, you know, and then flip a coin…”
Since then, of course, the story has come out in the media, so we can write about it. We didn’t mind. We entered the Sulman as a joke, just without realising that we were going to become part of another joke, Richard’s Joke! Prizes are arbitrary, and Australia’s obsession with them tiring. I had a kind of epiphany walking around a country fair when we were staying in small town outside Mildura last year. The wives were so competitive, checking out each other’s roses and eggs. Like how can you choose the best dozen eggs? The Archibald, the Sulman, whatever, it doesn’t seem much different.
I do kind of feel sorry for the winner, he must feel like a bit of an idiot after baring his chest to the world. But the joke had to be made. And trust Richard to make it!
So now we hang at the AGNSW, and are happy laughing, in between a chimp and a zebra.
AND it is in the little corner at the end, where you don’t have to pay...