Sydney College of the Arts' Ben Quilty wins Archibald

15 April 2011

Margaret Olley, by Ben Quilty, winner of the Archibald Prize 2011.
Margaret Olley, by Ben Quilty, winner of the Archibald Prize 2011.

Ben Quilty, a graduate and research affiliate of the Sydney College of the Arts at the University of Sydney has won Australia's most famous art prize.

Quilty won for his portrait of the artist and art patron, Margaret Olley.

Quilty said he first met Olley when she was a guest judge for the 2002 Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, which he won.

When Quilty first asked Margaret to sit for him she refused: "Margaret didn't understand why anyone would want to see a portrait of her," he said, but she later relented allowing Quilty to celebrate a friend and mentor who has had a "powerful bearing on my career."

The painting is oil on linen in a bright palette which Quilty says is in homage to Olley's famous studio which is full of striking colour and "translucent works- in-progress".

Ben Quilty graduated from Sydney College of the Arts with a Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1994. He is currently an Adjunct Research Affiliate there.

He has had 15 solo exhibitions and participated in more than 70 group exhibitions since 2000.

He has been awarded numerous prizes and awards including the 2009 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, for a portrayal of Jimmy Barnes in oils and aerosol.

This is the second time a portrait of Olley has won the Archibald. A portrait of her by William Dobell won in 1948.

Margaret Olley was awarded the Order of Australia in 1991 for service as an artist and to the promotion of art. In 1996, she was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia.

Olley has an Honorary Degree in Visual Arts from the University of Sydney, awarded in 2000.

The Archibald winner receives $50,000. This is the 90th year of the Archibald and there were 798 entries. Some of this year's Archibald finalists include Del Kathryn Barton's portrait of Cate Blanchett, Craig Ruddy's picture of Olympian Cathy Freeman and Nicholas Harding's portrait of Hugo Weaving.

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