Vincent Namatjira wins Archibald Prize 2020

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Vincent Namatjira has won the 2020 Archibald Prize for portraiture with his painting of footballer Adam Goodes, Stand strong for who you are.

Namatjira’s win marks a milestone in the Archibald. As the artist said via video link, “I am proud to be the first Indigenous winner of the Archibald Prize. It only took 99 years.”

Since its inception in 1921, the Archibald Prize has been held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). For nearly 100 years, being selected by the AGNSW board of trustees as a finalist in the Archibald has been a goal for many Australian painters. Not so much for the prize money – although, with the current cash prize being $100,000, this can provide motivation – but for the spotlight it can shine on an artist’s career.

This year, Vincent Namatjira was chosen from a field of 55 finalists, narrowed down from 1068 entires.

In his artist’s statement Namatjira explains why he decided to paint Adam Goodes. “I first met Adam in 2018, when he visited the school in Indulkana where I live, as part of his work promoting Indigenous literacy. When I saw the documentary The Final Quarter about Adam’s final season of AFL, my guts were churning as I relived Adam’s experiences of relentless racism on and off the field,” the artist explains. “Memories of my own experiences were stirred up and I wanted to reach out and reconnect with Adam.”

Earlier in the week, Steve Dow spoke to finalists Craig Ruddy, Angus McDonald and Wendy Sharpe to get the stories behind their portraits.

Winners of the Wynne and Sulman Prizes were also announced today.

The $50,000 Wynne Prize for a landscape painting of Australian scenery or a figurative sculpture was awarded to Hubert Pareroultja for his landscape painting, Tjoritja (West MacDonnell Ranges, NT).

The $40,000 Sulman Prize for subject painting, genre painting or mural project in oil, acrylic, watercolour or mixed media was awarded to Marikit Santiago for her painting, The divine.

AGNSW director Michael Brand said there are 107 artworks to visit across the three prizes. “There is lots to see this year – great works of art – in a year when artists, like so many others, have been doing it tough.”

The 2020 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes open to the public on 26 September.

Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes
Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW)
26 September  – 10 January 2021

Tracey Clement