History was made in the Australian art world this afternoon. Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands artist and Western Arrernte man Vincent Namatjira has been named as the winner of the Archibald Prize for his self-portrait with legendary Australian AFL footballer and community leader Adam Goodes, in a work titled Stand strong for who you are. The portrait features Vincent clasping hands with Adam in an image of strength and brotherhood, surrounded by imagery of Adam from his days playing AFL with the Sydney Swans, of Vincent holding the Aboriginal flag and two sets of red footprints.
‘I’m so proud to be the winner of the Archibald Prize, and to be the first Aboriginal artist to win is really special. I feel like this is a very important moment in Australian art. It’s an honour to be the first, but I also want to acknowledge all of the Indigenous finalists and Indigenous sitters for the Archibald this year and in past years’ Vincent said of the historic moment, while acknowledging the work of Indigenous artists who came before him.
The pair first met in 2018 when Adam Goodes visited the school in Indulkana, where Vincent lives, and reconnected recently after Vincent watched Adam’s powerful documentary, The Final Quarter.
‘When I was younger and growing up in the foster system in Perth, Indigenous footballers were like heroes to me. Goodesy is much more than a great footballer though, he took a strong stand against racism and said, ‘enough is enough’. I stand strong with you too, brother,’ said Vincent.
Vincent’s win comes a week after actor and playwright Meyne Wyatt’s self-portrait took home the Packing Room Prize, which was the first time a First Nations artist had been awarded any accolade in the Archibald’s 99-year history.
The Wynne Prize for landscape painting of Australian scenery went to first-time Wynne finalist Hubert Pareroultja, a Western Aranda-Luritja man from the Northern Territory, for his work Tjoritja (West MacDonnell Ranges, NT). Melbourne-born, Western Sydney-based artist of Filipino background Marikit Santiago took out The Sulman Prize for her work The divine, which explores the ideals and principles surrounding faith, creation stories, motherhood, cultural heritage and gender roles.
We can only hope that the incredible winners of this year’s Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes – some of Australia’s most prestigious art Prizes – speaks to a greater change in recognising the significance of our First Nations artists, and artists who come from diverse backgrounds. Their stories shape our country, and it’s about time that the accolades from our institutions truly reflect this!
The exhibition of all finalists and winners 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.