Archibald Comes to Coffs

By Anna Dowd

The Archibald has long been considered the height of Australian art awards, and is one of the most popular drawcards on the country’s cultural calendar. In a major coup for the Coffs Coast, the 2019 Archibald Exhibition is now rolling into town in all its multifaceted glory. We talk with Gia Crowhurst from Coffs Central about the next summer blockbuster.

“We were meant to have [the exhibition] in July,” says Gia, thinking back to the Covid-cancelled events of 2020. “But now it’s combined with the anniversary birthday for the gallery, so that’s amazing timing. It’s a big deal, and should bring people from far and wide.

We’re exposing culture and art to those who might not normally be exposed to the gallery, so I’m excited to bring something that every Australian should know about, and if you don’t, you can literally go shopping in Kmart and then wander in to see the ones that we’ll be housing, and then grab a little map to go between the gallery and the Centre so that you can see both sides of the exhibit.”

The exhibition is the latest in a string of artistic endeavours that the gallery and Gowings have been showcasing, and will undoubtedly bring a whole new demographic to explore the portraits firsthand. The cultural climate across the Coffs region has been steadily growing for years now, and in her role as Regional Marketing and Events Manager, Gia is confident that the scene is only getting stronger.

“You’ve got all walks of life [in Coffs], an increasing amount of families who are moving from Melbourne, from Sydney and Brisbane, who are used to really top-notch cultural events, and then you’ve got the locals who perhaps haven’t had all that access, but are interested in it. I really feel there is this groundswell. I feel like it was there bubbling away before, but now that I’m more familiar with what goes on and seeing the passion and excitement and opportunity coming this way, I think more people are excited about it.

There’s a tipping point. Things can be bubbling and bubbling away, and it’s suddenly on everyone’s radar.”

As for what makes the Archibald itself so perennially popular, Gia laughs and insists she’s not expert. But her thoughts, to this writer at least, go to the very heart of what engages us as audiences, and what compels us to create.

“I think it’s because the focus in on people, and as someone who has lived in Australia now for 14 years, my observation is that we love focusing and observing, getting to know people. The winner Tony Costa, he was talking about when he was painting Lindy [Lee], it was about a feeling. It wasn’t so much about the perfection of the painting and getting her exactly right in terms or biology or whatever, it was about more than that. I think that’s why we like looking at them, and seeing if we can see that. To look and see if we feel they’ve captured that person, and see if we can learn from that.”

Where | Coffs harbour regional gallery + Culture hub

When | 22 jan – 6 mar

Image: Archibald Prize Finalist, Faustina by Kim Leutwyler

Archibald Prize 2019 finalist
Kim Leutwyler    
oil and acrylic on canvas    
76 x 76.5 cm    
© the artist
Photo: AGNSW, Mim Stirling
Sitter: Faustina Agolley - actor, broadcaster, TV producer, music journalist, writer and DJ   
The 2019 Archibald Prize competition, on display 11 May – 8 Sep 2018, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. This image may not be cropped or overwritten. Prior approval in writing required for use as a
cover. Caption details must accompany
reproduction of the image. Media