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Art provides a wonderful balance for this lawyer who was thrilled to be named as a finalist in this year’s Archibald Prize,DOMINIC ROLFE reports.

Early on a Monday morning in late June, Paul Mallam sat at his desk, opened his email and saw a message from the Art Gallery of New South Wales headed “Congratulations”. He was instantly suspicious.

The director and principal of Mallam Lawyers was often part of the gallery’s competitions and member draws but he was certain that he hadn’t entered anything recently. He dismissed it as spam from a Nigerian oil company and moved on to the rest of his inbox. Ten minutes later, however, he returned to the gallery’s email.

“I opened it and it said, ‘Congratulations, you are a finalist in the Archibald Prize’,” he says. “And I thought, ‘But I only entered on Friday, this must be an acknowledgement that I have entered’. Then I kept re-reading the email and realised no, this isn’t one of those automated emails, I’m a finalist.”

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