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By Andrew Frost
There cannot be a Salon des Refuses without the Archibald Prize, nor for that matter, the Wynne Prize. And that’s simply because the Salon des Refuses is an exhibition of works that weren’t selected as finalists for either of the Art Gallery of NSW’s big annual prizes and acts as a sort of consolation for the heart broken and love-lorn who have felt the harsh sting of rejection. Of the 868 portraits submitted for the Archibald, and the 763 landscape paintings entered for the Wynne, the Salon des Res judges have selected 57 for the second chance of having the work seen at the S.H. Ervin Gallery.
The title of the show is taken from exhibitions staged in Paris in the 1860s, a series of breakaway shows including work by the upstart geniuses of La Belle Époque rejected by the Academy, work that rocked the boulevard and educated the bourgeois in the first stirrings of Modernism. It’s drawing a long bow perhaps to think works deemed not good enough for the Archibald are masterpieces in hiding, but the Salon has a rough-n-tumble attraction of its own, where artistic excellence alone is put aside in favour of humour, diversity and innovation. That the show is predicated on trying to figure out why some works in the show weren’t included, and others were, also makes the des Res as kind of democratic mind meld. Perhaps if we all think together hard enough we might understand the thinking of the AGNSW’s trustees. Or not. Just enjoy the show.
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