The Tweed Regional Art Gallery in Murwillumbah is about to be filled with bustling crowds eager to catch a glimpse of Australia’s most renowned portrait prize.
A touring exhibition of the Archibald Prize has just been hung at the gallery and will remain on show for six weeks.
For the first time, visitors to the gallery are being issued with wristbands so staff can keep track of the hordes there to view the 47 portraits chosen as finalists for the prize, including Nigel Milsom’s winning painting of barrister Charles Waterstreet.
Tweed Gallery Director, Susi Muddiman, said last time the Archibald visited the region was in 2011, when 29,000 visitors flooded through the gallery’s doors.
“That was between 850 and 1,000 visitors per day,” Ms Muddiman said.
“Depending on the exhibition, the average is usually about 500 visitors per day.
“In terms of cultural tourism, [the Archibald] attracts visitors to the region from outside the local environment and helps put the cultural facility on the map.
“It does great things for businesses in the town that they’re located in and it puts a focus on how important the arts are in everyday life, to so many Australians.”
Ms Muddiman said the Archibald was a “blockbuster” of an exhibition that appealed to the masses.
“The Archibald, for me, is like the art equivalent of the Melbourne Cup,” she said.
“Everyone gets excited about who’s going to win and who’s going to be a finalist each year.
“I think the appeal for the general public is because it’s portraiture, which is a very accessible genre.
“It gives everybody the opportunity to be a bit of a critic for a short length of time.”
When the Sydney exhibition closed, the artworks were packed in specially-crafted individual cases and loaded onto climate-controlled trucks that transport nothing but art.
Touring manager Georgia Connelly, from the Art Gallery of NSW, said the process was complex and costly, meaning the Art Gallery of NSW made no profit from the tour.
“The idea is that it is prepared and managed in a way that sustains the tour, but also makes it affordable for the regional galleries as venues, and for the local community to visit,” she said.
“It’s a very important exhibition because it allows people who don’t get to Sydney to see the show.
“It provides regional galleries with a way to connect with their local communities and it brings commerce into towns.
“Towns just rave about it, crowds have so far been queuing out the doors.
“The community engagement is fantastic.”