This portrait of MasterChef's George Calombaris just won the Packing Room Prize at the Archibald

George Calombaris by Betina Fauvel-Ogden is a finalist in the 2016 Archibald Prize. oil on linen, 124.5 x 110cm. © the artist Photo: AGNSW/Nick Kreisler

The Archibald Prize opens next weekend, and after 830 entries flooded in, 51 were finalists were announced today – and part of the ritual is letting the packing room at the Art Gallery of NSW have its say on the best work.

Melbourne artist Betina Fauvel-Ogden’s portrait of MasterChef judge George Calombaris has won the $1500 Packing Room Prize with her first entry into the for the $100,000 portrait painting competition.

The Packing Room Prize is chosen by gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries, with backroom boss Steve Peters, getting the final say with 51% of the vote. It’s his 34th Archibald and 25th handing out the prize.

Showing his talents as a critic, Peters said “It is a very strong portrait. George Calombaris is looking directly at you. He means business”.

“I’m hoping George will cook me a burger next time I am in Melbourne,” he added.

Fauvel-Ogden is mostly an urban landscape painter, and spent eight months chasing Calombaris a portrait sitting, having never previously met him.

“I was always interested in George Calombaris as a subject as I felt there was an intensity to his character,” Fauvel-Ogden said.

“I wanted to paint him in his chef’s white jacket and black apron. In choosing the pose, George felt most comfortable with his hands on his hips. I kept the lighting simple and focused on capturing the determination in his eyes.

“I had always envisaged a vibrant yellow background for the portrait. When George gave me his cookbook Greek with its bold yellow cover, as a gift at the first sitting, that clinched it.”

Finalists for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes were also announced today. The exhibition opens on July 16 and runs until October 9 at the Art Gallery
of NSW.

The winners of the three prizes will be announced next Friday.

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