... The winning artist, Peter Smeeth, whose painting The Artist's Fate took him 150 hours to complete, is not amused.
''It takes away from my credibility, if that's his method,'' Smeeth said. ''It is a bit deflating, from my point of view, if that's the whole basis for how I won the prize. I certainly would like to think I won it on merit, not on the toss of a coin.''
the selection process
The sole judge of the prestigious Sulman art prize has revealed to The Sun-Herald that he chose the winner of the $20,000 award by tossing a coin.
''Like every prize, it's a lottery,'' said the judge, Richard Bell, an artist known for his provocative work.
Bell said he liked what Smeeth had written on the back of his canvas ''and the guts were drawn pretty good''.
On the back of The Artist's Fate , the artist had written: ''Rejection feels like it has cost an arm and a leg, getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick, being emasculated, having your heart ripped out and being left completely gutted!''
Bell was chosen as the sole judge of the Sulman prize by the 11 trustees of the gallery on the advice of the director, Edmund Capon. But Mr Capon said he was not surprised by Bell's judging method.
''He's a stirrer by nature and I've got no problem with that at all,'' he told The Sun-Herald .
Mr Capon said the Sulman prize was a lottery, but it was easier to predict the tastes of one person rather than the 11 trustees who judge the Archibald and Wynne prizes.
''It's very much a matter of individual taste and instinct and the kind of aesthetic, wit and humour of the individual artist. And I like that,'' Mr Capon said.
But while there was outrage among some of the finalists, Bell remains unrepentant.
“Most artists know what these prizes are about,” he told The Art Newspaper. “They’ve got very little to do with art and much more to do with the institution.”
Smeeth, whose winning entry was a self-portrait titled The Artist’s Fate, 2011, said that while he was initially “nonplussed”, on reflection he is now happy. “I’ve got the prize and the publicity,” he said. “Every person who judges an art show brings their own agenda to it, same as a cattle show.”