Sydney art lecturer Leslie Rice has won the country’s richest portrait prize for his work, Self Portrait – with the Muses of Painting and Poetry. It’s the second time Rice has taken out the $150,000 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, having also won it in 2007. The award drew a record 330,409 entries this year.
The Australian (as always) had an amusing commentary on the win “…with a slasher superhero, lady dwarf and bodacious babe as its subjects, Leslie Rice’s Self-portrait has more than a whiff of a teenager’s bedroom about it. As if to complete the picture of adolescent kitsch, Rice has painted the portrait – with himself as Conan the Barbarian – on black velvet, the “lowest” of art materials.
“You think of fine Belgian linen and frescoes at one end, and at the other end is black-velvet painting,” Rice said in Sydney. “It’s the sort of stuff that’s low-class and so am I.” ::::
The prize was judged by Vincent Fantauzzo, last year’s winner, and Christopher Menz, acting director of The Ian Potter Museum of Art. The runner-up prize of $10,000 was awarded to Melbourne artist Natasha Bieniek for her work, Fading into Blue. Michael Peck, also from Victoria, was given an honourable mention for his portrait titled Fighter Pilot #3, 2011.
For the first time, the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize was awarded equally to four photographers – Kelsey Austin Walsh, Tobias Titz, Ashleigh Bradley and Jacqui Stockdale – who each received $25,000.
Moran Arts Foundation chief executive Mark Moran said a defining point of the Moran Prizes was that the artists and photographers were free to choose ordinary people as their subjects.
“In a world focused on celebrity, the Moran Prizes are about the greatness in every Australian,” Mr Moran said.
The awards ceremony marked the opening of the free exhibition at Moran House, which runs for 12 weeks before touring nationally.