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Unpacking the Archibald

A short documentary about Steve Peters, Australia's most unlikely art critic

Unpacking the Archibald: a portrait of Steve is a seven-minute documentary tracking the rise of Steve Peters, Australia’s most unlikely art critic. It’s a short portrait of an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation.

Steve Peters is the head of the Art Gallery of NSW’s packing room, and for 30 years has unpacked and processed every painting that is entered into the prestigious Archibald Prize. Steve is known and loved at the Gallery for his dry sense of humour and 'common touch’ when it comes to art criticism.

Twenty-three years ago, he jokingly announced that he would be awarding his own Archibald Prize to a portrait of former foreign minister Gareth Evans. Somehow this piece of mischief was taken up by the media, and was subsequently embraced by the Gallery. The following year, Steve began awarding the official 'Packing Room Prize’ – now worth $1500.

Since then, the annual announcement of the Packing Room Prize has become a media event, and Steve a national celebrity.

Although a generally shy and modest man, Steve nevertheless steps into the spotlight each year to dispense his unique, down to earth opinions about art. As he is so fond of saying, 'It’s not a crime for the painting to look like the subject’.

Both hilarious and poignant, Unpacking the Archibald: a portrait of Steve is directed by Robert Herbert and produced by Chris Aronsten.

View on the Gallery channel

Media contact

Susanne Briggs
Tel +61 2 9225 1791
Mob 0412 268 320
susanne.briggs@ag.nsw.gov.au