Whatever you might think of him, there is no doubt that he is an interesting Australian.
A bloody good football player.
Australian of the Year.
A political and cultural hero to some (but certainly not to me and many others).
Love him or loathe him, Adam Goodes has been a towering figure in Australian life this century. There is no doubt about that.
So when a ‘portrait’ of Adam Goodes by Vincent Namatjira won the prestigious Archibald Prize last week, you might think that this artwork would be a striking image, particularly as it was painted by an ardent supporter.
But, bizarrely, what was dished up was something a parent might be somewhat proud of if it was painted by their kid in year 6, but not if they were about to finish high school. You’d pat them on head, say well done, and suggest that they take up plumbing instead.
I mean, and I don’t mean this in a mean way, you kinda have to take the artist’s word and the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ word and the whole swooning art critic class’s word that the painting that won is even a portrait, let alone a depiction of Adam Goodes.
There is no doubt that the decision to award this painting the Archibald Prize had nothing to do with art everything to do with politics.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s resident art critic, John McDonald, was unapologetic about this, writing that:
Well, that wasn’t hard to pick. In a year when Black Lives Matter protests are raging around the world, it was a safe bet the Archibald Prize would go to an Indigenous artist.
Well that is interesting.
For all that Australia’s cultural elite love to hate America, here we have proof that they still take their cues from United States pop culture.
Mobs have been burning down Portland and looting New York? Well, then, we’d better give the Archibald Prize to whoever most aligns with Black Lives Matter…
I think Adam Goodes has been a divisive figure. He is a man that is hard to respect after he had security eject a 13 year old girl from an AFL game.
For his song and dance routine and claims that Australia is systemically racist, Goodes was loudly booed by patrons. They were probably a little miffed about a dude who earnt a million dollars a year to play football lecturing them about how badly this nation treats him.
It’s not hard to understand why this occurred. It’s a little hard to see any substance to Goodes’ whine that Australia is racist when this very same nation honoured him with the title of ‘Australian of the Year’.
But the booing that Goodes’ copped is nothing like the mockery this Archibald Prize farce makes of him.
One day, people will look back at this painting and Goodes and laugh at him and the people who gave this award. In fact, it’s already happening.
In deciding to hand out the Archibald Prize for this work, in this year, for purely political reasons, what has basically been said is that when it comes to Goodes, anything at all will do, even if it is not much good at all.
So for all the claims that this decision says the art world thinks a lot about Aboriginal artists and their subjects, the complete opposite is true: they don’t think much of them at all.
In fact, they have such a low opinion of the talent of Aboriginal artists that they’ve decided this is the best they can get. Better give it a prize.
They might as well just come and patronisingly say, see, you can do more than just draw dots.
As I said at the start of this piece, Adam Goodes is an interesting Australian. While he is contentious, surely there was a painting of Goodes out there that raised him up.
Instead, he’s been cut down to size by this parody of an artwork by his own supporters. He’s been reduced to a buffoonish cartoon.
If this is the best Goodes’ supporters can do, then his critics are probably right.
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Bernard Gaynor is a decorated veteran of three deployments to Iraq with the Australian Army serving with military intelligence specialising in Arabic language and culture. A Catholic conservative with the courage to speak up when totalitarian political-correctness demands silence, he is deeply interested in the loss of values in modern society and its impact on all aspects of life. He is prepared to breach enemy lines with valour to defend Australia’s traditional way of life, particularly on the political and cultural fronts.
A new episode of The Bernie Gaynor Show is released every Sunday morning.