Despite the delay to regular programming this year, the 2020 Archibald Prize has made history. A record number of 1068 entries were submitted in what has been an incredibly challenging year for artists, and yesterday the Art Gallery of New South Wales announced the 55 finalists for Australia’s highest honour in portrait painting.
The subjects of this year’s shortlisted paintings include a breathtakingly realistic portrait of Kurdish-Iranian writer, poet, filmmaker and journalist Behrouz Boochani by Angus McDonald; a wild and wonderful medley of Aboriginal cultural symbols with Western pop culture references in Kaylene Whiskey’s self portrait, imagined with one of her heroes, Dolly Parton; and footballer Adam Goodes alongside the artist Vincent Namatjira, in a poignant picture of strength and brotherhood.
Actor, playwright and Wongutha-Yamatji man Meyne Wyatt has become the first Indigenous artist to be awarded a prize in the Archibald’s 99-year history, taking home the hotly-anticipated Packing Room Prize. ‘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’ says Brett Cuthbertson, the Gallery’s head packer, who holds 52% of the vote for the Packing Room Prize (and has been there for 39 years!). ‘I loved the story and was really impressed with the result.’
Meyne is well known for numerous film/television and stage appearances over the last decade, but you might recognise his face from when he performed a powerful four-minute monologue on racism from his play City Of Gold on ABC’s Q&A that went viral only a couple of months ago. ‘Being a finalist for the Archibald Prize was a pipe dream, let alone being awarded the Packing Room Prize. I am absolutely ecstatic and truly humbled by this wonderful honour’, Meyne said.
The winners of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes will be announced at midday next Friday September 25th. The exhibition of finalists will open at Art Gallery New South Wales from September 26th until January 2021 and will then tour across regional New South Wales and Queensland for the following 12 months.