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Melbourne-based Richard Lewer has taken out the fifth and final Basil Sellers Art Prize. The lucky last winner was announced by businessman and philanthropist Basil Sellers AM at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne, which has worked in partnership with the Prize since its inception in 2008. The prize, which was awarded biennially, aimed to shake up the perception and enjoyment of both sport and art in Australia.

The winning work, titled The Theatre of Sport (2016) is a checkerboard of 12 paintings, which chronicle the very public moments of failure experienced by sporting heroes.

Some of the figures in the work appear to clutch their heads in disappointment, the dismay especially palpable in the painting of three faceless Australian basket ballers, who sit with slumped shoulders in front of their nation’s flag. In defeat, all the country’s hopes seem to slide off their shoulders.

Kelly Gellaty, Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art, commended the other finalists and spoke of Lewer’s work saying that within it are “recognisable sporting figures such as tennis player Nick Kyrgios, swimmer Ian Thorpe and athlete Sally Pearson captured in the immediate aftermath of loss – during moments of devastation, disbelief, frustration and distress.”

Though what seems to matter more for Lewer she went on to say is “how this loss is handled – the mechanisms that sportspeople draw upon to deal with these situations – and the accompanying issues of anxiety and depression – are, in effect, more interesting than the loss itself.”

In his artist statement Lewer wrote, “it is, perhaps, not through the triumphs but through the tough moments that we truly find resilience and a deeper understanding of ourselves.”

The 2016 finalists are: Abdul Abdullah, Dana Harris, David Ray, Eamon O’Toole, Fiona McMonagle, Grant Hobson, Jane Brown, Kate Daw and Stewart Russell, Laith McGregor, Rew Hanks, Shaun Gladwell, Trent Parke and Narelle Autio, Vipoo Srivilasa and William Mackinnon.

The finalists’ works will be on display at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne until 6 November 2016.

Basil Sellers Art Prize 5
The Ian Potter Museum of Art
19 July – 6 November

Varia Karipoff