Friday Files – Archibald Prize 2020

Friday Files – Archibald Prize 2020

To mark NAIDOC week our blog this week celebrates the winner and packing room prize recipient of the 99th Anniversary of The Archibald prize; Australia’s most prestigious award for portraiture art. The winner is chosen by the trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and is awarded to “the best portrait, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics”.

Winner of 2020 Archibald Prize
“Stay True To Who You Are” by Vincent Namatjira
Acrylic on Linen

The portrait must be completed by an artist resident in Australia the year prior to the prize, and the winner receives a prize of $100,000.  This year’s very talented winner, Vincent Namajira was announced in late September, and is the first indigenious Australian to win the Archibald Prize.

Namajira’s work Stay True To Who You Are is a self-portrait of himself and AFL Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes. It acts as a visual representation of his admiration for Goodes’ and the way he embraces and shares stories of his Indigenous heritage. Coming from similar experiences and sharing similar memories of growing up as an indigenous Australian, Namajira wanted to pay homage to one of his heroes. This is the 4th time the artist has entered the Archibald Prize, and this year has been successful taking out the top prize.

Winner of 2020 Archibald Packing Prize, Meyne Wyatt, with his winning portrait Meyne

Archibald prize entrants are also eligible for the Packing Room Prize, awarded by staff of the gallery responsible for curating and setting up the exhibition – a cash prize of $1500. This year, it was awarded to Wongutha-Yamatji artist, Meyne Wyatt for his self-portrait Meyne. An artist, writer and actor, Wyatt is the first Indigenous artist to be announced as a winner of any of the prizes on offer in the Archibald Prize.

Brett Cuthbertson, head packer at the Gallery, holds 52% of the vote for the prize on account of his 39 years’ experience in the job. 

“I have been known to say that artists who enter a self-portrait have no hope of winning the Packing Room Prize, but…when Meyne came into the Gallery to deliver his entry he said he hadn’t painted in some time and the work was just a COVID project…(I) was really impressed,” said Cuthbertson. 

Held concurrently to the Archibald prize are also the Wynne and Sulman Prizes, the Young Archie competition, and the Salon des Refusés exhibition held at the S. H. Ervin Gallery in Millers Point in Sydney. 

Declined Archibald entry chosen to be showcased at the The Salon des Refusés
Alexandra Keating and Rupert Sanders on a yacht in Sydney Harbour by Oliver Watts

The Salon des Refusés exhibition was started in order to celebrate the large number of works that are not selected for display in the official Archibald Prize. Each year, a panel from the S.H. Ervin Gallery select from hundreds of works to make up the exhibition. The Salon des Refusés has established an excellent reputation since it was initiated in 1992, and now acts as a friendly rival to the Archibald Prize exhibition.