A NAKED man looking at his washing in a laundromat and an unclad woman reclining in a forest are among 32 works shortlisted for the inaugural Benalla Nude art prize.
The $50,000 competition has sparked interest from across Australia with the final number whittled back from nearly 700 entries.
High profile contenders include 1996 Archibald Prize winner Wendy Sharpe, who has painted two bejewelled women and Robert Dickerson, whose Nude at Good Dog Creek shows a lady lying between water and trees.
Juan Davila, who has work in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, has entered a painting showing two women hugging with a giant ampersand in the left bottom corner.
Artist Ivan Durrant, who helped select the finalists along with former Monash Gallery of Art director Jane Scott, said he was looking for entrants who had “something personal to say”.
He described the candidates “as a splendid mix of lesser-publicised professionals and many freshly unknown to me, all with an equal chance of winning”.
“It was rather awkward that we had so many people, but unfortunately we can only hang so many,” Mr Durrant said.
“Next year I think we’ll have pop-up galleries all over the place and be able to hang a lot more.
“The quality of the entries was so good we could have easily included another 150 artists as finalists without compromising any inch of standard.”
Mr Durrant believes the novelty of the competition and big prizemoney were the key drawcards for entrants.
“I think over time it will grow like the Archibald Prize and it will become an enormous tourist attraction for Benalla,” Mr Durrant said.
The winner of the non-acquisitive prize will be judged by art curator Daniel Thomas and announced on April 10 with an exhibition of all 32 works at the Benalla Art Gallery from April 11 to July 13.
Benalla Council’s arts communications and events manager Jilian Mulally was pleased at the variety of works, which include classically influenced depictions through to a nude art class with speech bubbles above participants.
“I am very proud that we are going to be presenting an exhibition of such high calibre,” Ms Mulally said.
“The quality of the entries is outstanding, and the interpretations of the nude are so varied.
“We have been waiting with great anticipation for the shortlist to be revealed, and now it is only a few short weeks until the winner is announced.
“It is a very exciting time for the Benalla Art Gallery, the council and the whole community.”