Volume 8 Number 8
August 13 - September 9 2012
The Basil Sellers Art Prize is a biennial award staged at the University of Melbourne’s Ian Potter Museum of Art. The prize invites entrants to submit art works that respond to the theme of art and sport.
In addition to the $100,000 prize, finalists are in the running for the 2011 Basil Sellers Creative Fellowship, an artist-in-residency program at the National Sports Museum, and the $5000 Yarra Trams People’s Choice award, voted on by visitors to the exhibition.
This year’s award has been won by Jon Campbell, whose winning work consists of 22 paintings, each of which feature the nickname of an AFL player such as Captain Blood, Cowboy, Dipper, Daisy and Buddy Love.
He says he chose to create paintings based on AFL players’ nicknames because he had been a footy fan and Carlton supporter for a long time.
“I’ve worked with sporting imagery before, and when I was thinking about my entry I was thinking about a painting I did for a solo exhibition which featured the nickname Richo, [Richmond Player Matthew Richardson]. I really liked that painting and the response to it, so I decided to expand on that idea,” he says.
“Nicknames have always been part of Australian culture, so it was conceptually appropriate, and because I’ve watched all these players on the field, and knew their nicknames, it just fitted.”
Mr Campbell said he thought it was quite natural to combine art with sport.
“I loved sport as a kid, I’ve always been interested in it, and I live in Melbourne, so AFL has always been a big part of my life,” he says.
“Maybe people think artists aren’t interested in sport, but I know many artists who are interested in it, I’m even in a tipping competition which is mainly made up of artists.”
Mr Campbell was “stunned” to have been named the winner.
“You go into competitions hoping you’ll win but you’re never confident of it, so it’s amazing.”
The prize is supported by businessman and art collector Basil Sellers AM who partnered with the University because he wanted to change Australians’ perception and enjoyment of art and sport.
The prize recognises contemporary artists whose practices engage with the theme. It is open to entries in any style and in a broad range of media including photography, film, painting and sculpture.
The other artists shortlisted for the 2012 prize were Brook Andrew, Richard Bell , Lauren Brincat, Eugene Carchesio, Greg Creek, Louise Hearman, Pat Macan, Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano, Simon Perry, Kerrie Poliness, Patrick Pound, Sangeeta Sandrasegar and Christian Thompson.
Director of the Potter, Dr Chris McAuliffe, said the finalists brought unique perspectives to the cultural connections between sport and art.
“Our philosophy has always been, let’s do a really good exhibition, and one of the participants in that exhibition will win a prize,” he says.
“The judges were super-involved and respectful of all the artists’ work, and they worked really hard to make a decision. The quality of the works has been amazing.”
Dr McAuliffe was joined on the judging panel by Basil Sellers, former rugby union champion Nick Farr-Jones, Director of the Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art Erica Green, and CEO of CarriageWorks Lisa Havilah.
Dr McAuliffe says what attracted the judging panel to Mr Campbell’s work was the way it captured the spirit of the fan in the stands, and the colloquial, suburban voice.
“It’s the argument in the front bar, it’s sitting on a tram debating the greats of football, and it’s also a really smart painting that picks up on the pop art tradition,” he says.
Dr McAuliffe says the University’s partnership with Basil Sellers to give this award meant the University is changing artists’ lives.
“The University always talks about its commitment to culture and being involved in national life, and here we’re setting a national agenda. We’re walking the walk.
“We really wanted to make a statement about how art prizes should be run, not just about who won them.
“We’ve built a prize which gives artists prizemoney, professional opportunities and media exposure, as well as additional grants and awards.
“It’s important for me the University is part of the best art prize in the country.”
All the shortlisted artists’ projects will be on display at the Ian Potter Museum of Art until 4 November.