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Look in your attic! Hunt begins for Australia’s missing portraits

Look in your attic! Hunt begins for Australia’s missing portraits

Australians are being encouraged to look in their attics and reach out to their great aunts and uncles for one of more than 6,000 missing Archibald Prize artworks as the major prize is approaching its 100th anniversary.

In celebration of the prize’s centenary next year, the Gallery of New South Wales is looking to fill the gaps in the prize’s history and complete its online catalogue of submissions.

“With over 6,000 portraits created, they could have ended up anywhere – in private clubs, galleries, museums and collections,” Natalie Wilson, the gallery’s curator of Australian and pacific art told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“There are so many out there we think are in private collections across the country, possibly in your great uncle’s dining room.

“We’re calling out to people around Australia to look in their attics or ask their great aunts and uncles if there is a portrait in their family that was perhaps painted by an Archibald artists.”

Wilson said they located 1,500 portraits, but are still looking for the rest to “put together an archive online that people around Australia can use and to have a look at the history of the prize”.

Some of the most wanted portraits included works from the early decades of the Archibald by artists such as Enid Dickson and Gwen Grant. Another piece the Gallery is looking to track is Constance Paul’s 1929 portrait of landscape architect Walter Burley Griffin.

“We cannot find that portrait anywhere, and we thought, as the architect that designed Canberra, that someone might know where that one is.”