Kicking goals at the Basil Sellers Art Prize

For winner Richard Lewer depicting the show of sport and it's drama was a runaway goal.

The 5th and final winner of the prestigious $100,000 Basil Sellers Art Prize at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne. Richard Lewer has won the award for his work titled The Theatre of Sports (2016).

Richard Lewer’s The Theatre of Sports (2016) is a compendium of twelve paintings that form one work. It represents Lewer’s sustained passion for art and sport, and examines the role sport can play in relation to mental illness. His practice looks at extremes of behaviour, centering in this work on the very public moments of failure of well-known sporting figures.

Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne, Ms Kelly Gellatly. On the decision to award Lewer, she stated, “The winning work, Richard Lewer’s The Theatre of Sports investigates the very public down side of the dedication and commitment of professional sportsmen and women: the moment of defeat. Within the work Lewer pictures recognisable sporting figures such as tennis player Nick Kyrgios, swimmer Ian Thorpe and athlete Sally Pearson captured in the immediate aftermath of loss – during moments of devastation, disbelief, frustration and distress. However, for Lewer, how this loss is handled – the mechanisms that sportspeople draw upon to deal with these situations – and the accompanying issues of anxiety and depression – are, in effect, more interesting than the loss itself. The work is both a commanding, painterly ode to a sense of vulnerability and to the emotional side of sport, while honouring the discipline of elite athletes and their ability to draw upon an inner strength that enables them to continue, and to strive for excellence, in the face of loss.”

Over 240 artists from all over Australia submitted entries for the $100,000 Basil Sellers Art Prize, one of Australia’s richest and most prestigious art awards. An additional $5000 Peoples’ Choice award will be voted for by visitors to the exhibition. And the finalists included Abdul Abdullah, Dana Harris, David Ray, Eamon O’Toole, Fiona McMonagle, Grant Hobson, Jane Brown, Kate Daw and Stewart Russell, Laith McGregor, Rew Hanks,  Shaun Gladwell, Trent Parke and Narelle Autio, Vipoo Srivilasa and William Mackinnon.

They were selected by judges Basil Sellers AM; Kelly Gellatly, Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art; Dr Chris McAuliffe, consultant for the Basil Sellers Group; Maurice O’Riordan, director of the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Darwin; Christine Clark, Manager of Exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra; and Chris Langford, former member of the AFL Commission.

We can only hope that Lewer’s response to winning was as dramatic as his sportsmen and women he depicted.

2016 Basil Sellers Art Prize

Until 6 November
Ian Potter Museum of Art

Courtesy of the artist, Sullivan & Strumpf and Hugo Michell Gallery.