You bloody ripper! Double Win for Michael Caton Portrait

In an impressive vote of popularity the portrait of Australia's local favourite Michael Caton has won both the Packing Room Prize and the People's Choice.


French-born Sydney artist Bruno Jean Grasswill was awarded the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ 2015 People’s Choice Award, following his selection as the Packing Room Prize with his portrait of leading Australian actor Michael Caton.

It is only the third time this feat has been achieved in the history of the Archibald Prize.Previous double-winners were Paul Newton in 2001 for his portrait of Roy and H.G. (John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver) and Jan Williamson the following year for her portrait of singer/songwriter Jenny Morris.

No newcomer to the Archibald, for artist Bruno Jean Grasswill entering the Archibald has become a tradition. However it is his portrait of Michael Caton that marks his first time as a finalist, catching Gallery Storeman Steve Peters eye when the work first arrived.

“I think the portrait is terrific. For me, it was always going to be a contender. That’s what the other guys thought as well,” Peters said.

First to greet the works since the Packers Prize began 24 years ago, Gallery Storeman Steve Peters holds 51% of the vote should there be any dissent among the packers. An unlikely art critic, the 30 years of experience – viewing around 24,000 works – has made for a keen eye, as Steve dryly commented of the 832 submissions “a lot are better from behind.”

Art Gallery of NSW Director Michael Brand remarked on the portrait’s ability to strike a chord, from the packing room staff right through to the public.”The Prize is a lively celebration of people in the public eye and the People’s Choice award recognises the favourite faces our visitors have enjoyed,” Brand added.

What is striking about Bruno Jean Grasswill’s oil painting is the ability to evoke a portrait of familiarity and warmth that emanates from the Australian actor. The pair met at a social gathering and the close friendship grew from there – hardly hindered by a long four-hour lunch in the artist’s backyard.

When asked why he decided to paint Caton, Bruno was left no chance to reply as Caton joked “because I’m like Everest, I was there.”

When arriving on stage for the Packing Room Prize Announcement Michael Caton declared himself as “chock-a-block full of culture,” wryly a likening his time at the State of Origin last night and the Art Gallery of New South Wales today, as both experiences of major cultural institutes.

A historic start and moment for Grasswill who is a great example of determination, his efforts have been duly awarded with the $1500 Packing Room Prize and the People’s Choice award of $3,500 cash prize.

Archibald Prize 2015
Art Gallery of New South Wales
18 July – 27 September 

Image: Bruno Jean Grasswill Michael Caton © the artist
Courtesy the artist and the Art Gallery of New South Wales

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