TO have Murrurundi artist David Darcy at the opening night of the Archibald Prize 2019 Regional Tour was deemed a massive triumph.
But, the appearance of 2019 winner Tony Costa enhanced the experience for the big crowd on hand at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre on Saturday night.
While the Upper Hunter local walked away from the prestigious competition with the People's Choice award, the Sydneysider wowed the judges with his meditative portrait of fellow painter, sculptor and practitioner of Zen Buddhism Lindy Lee.
Now, his work and that of Darcy's featuring Aboriginal elder Daisy Tjuparntarri Ward will be on view at the Muswellbrook gallery for another month and a half.
And, both men are thrilled the tour has landed in town.
"I've been here a couple of times before," Costa said.
"My wife once entered the Muswellbrook Art Prize - and I think I did, too.
"It's a big thing for Muswellbrook to stage the Archibald Prize 2019 Regional Tour.
"The TarraWarra Museum of Art saw 55,000 people visit the exhibition, during a seven-week period, in the Yarra Valley.
"So, it is an eagerly-anticipated event."
Darcy echoed Costa's sentiments.
"It's not every day you have something like this in our region," he said.
"I hope residents make the most of it.
"It is certainly a coup for the Upper Hunter - and a credit to the town's arts centre.
"They've done a great job with this exhibition."
At the official opening on January 25, Muswellbrook Shire mayor Martin Rush admitted it was a "privilege" to host the tour.
"To have 51 Archibald Prize entries on display in Muswellbrook is terrific," he said.
"It's wonderful to see so many people here [tonight] as well, especially the large contingent from Murrurundi.
"However, in saying that, this is the Upper Hunter's collection."
Also among the works is Tessa MacKay's portrait of actor and producer David Wenham titled Through the Looking Glass, which snared the 2019 Archibald Packing Room Prize.
The record number of 919 entries for the three prizes was culled into the final exhibition by the Art Gallery of NSW Board of Trustees, led by David Gonski, deputy Gretel Packer, Ben Quilty and Khadim Ali.
"The Archibald Prize is an incredible platform for any artist," Costa said.
"It's a great opportunity to be noticed."
The Archibald Prize 2019 Regional Tour will be on display at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre until Sunday, March 8.