By Andrew Frost
The tension between traditional portraits and works that sit at the limits of what most people consider them to be is the friction that fires up the whole debate
The winner of the Archibald prize 2017 for portraiture has been awarded to Mitch Cairns for his portrait of artist. and partner, Agatha Gothe-Snape. A runners-up highly commended rosette goes to Jun Chen, for his portrait of retired gallerist Ray Hughes.
Before we get to a discussion of these works and the finalists, and a quick tour through the accompanying main prizes – the Wynne prize for landscape and figure sculpture, and the Sir John Sulman prize for subject and genre painting – let's pause for a moment to consider a couple of simple questions: what is the state of portrait painting? And what does the Art Gallery of NSW's storied annual prize, now in its 96th year, tell us about the kinds of choices made in its selection?