Blak Douglas wins Archibald Prize 2022 for portrait of artist Karla Dickens in the Lismore floods

Winner-Archibald-Prize-2022-Blak-Douglas-Moby-Dickens-(detail)-©-AGNSW-Mim-StirlingBlak Douglas, a Sydney-based artist with Dhungatti heritage, has won the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Archibald Prize 2022 and $100,000 for his portrait of artist Karla Dickens, titled Moby Dickens.

A five-time Archibald Prize finalist, Douglas painted his good friend, Wiradjuri woman Dickens for Australia’s most-loved portrait award.

With his win Douglas becomes the second Aboriginal artist to win the Archibald Prize in 101 years after Western Aranda artist Vincent Namatjira won in 2020, and Moby Dickens is the first time a portrait of an Aboriginal woman has won the prize.

Douglas was thrilled when Art Gallery of New South Wales director Michael Brand delivered the news that Moby Dickens – which at 3m x 2m is the largest Archibald painting in this year’s exhibition – had won this year’s Archibald Prize.

“I’m elated to be the first New South Wales First Nations artist to have won with a painting of a New South Wales First Nations artist. It’s a major historic win,” he said.

“Karla is my favourite female First Nations artist, we are dear friends, we are birds of a feather when it comes to our sentiment in art, and I really admire the way she pieces together her work.”

“It just happens that I was there in Lismore immediately after the first deluge in February and saw the shock and horror on people’s faces. Karla had just reached a pivotal point in her career and almost immediately the flood catastrophe happened.”

“So, when she should have ordinarily been excited about where her career was going, she was harbouring three families in Lismore as part of her own rescue mission,” said Douglas.

Douglas – who was born Adam Hill – was an Archibald Prize finalist in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, all with portraits of Aboriginal sitters.

“I’m making up for lost ground in the failure to memorialise First Nations people,” he said. “In the past I’ve considered each entry to the Archibald Prize a memorial to that individual and that’s why I only paint First Nations people.”

Douglas was also a finalist in the Wynne Prize in 2009. Douglas’ works are held in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), City of Sydney and the Australia Council for the Arts.

Douglas depicted Dickens in the recent floods in her hometown of Lismore in northern New South Wales which devastated her community. Dickens, a Wiradjuri artist who lives and works on Bundjalung Country in Lismore, is known for bringing a black humour to her unflinching interrogation of subjects such as race, gender and injustice, revealing her often raw pain.

Dickens is one of nine artists who have been commissioned to produce a site-specific work as part of the Sydney Modern Project. Her commissioned work, a panel depicting hooded figures, is a powerful consideration of the continuing legacies of colonialism and patriarchy. It will be installed in the niche above the front door of the Art Gallery’s historic building later this year.

“I am completely over the moon for my dear friend, brother in art and early morning confidant Blak Douglas,” said Dickens. “I love this talented man … Adam is so deserving for all the praise and opportunitywinning the Archibald will deliver.”

“The painting – Moby Dickens – is a grumpy white sperm whale in muddy water ready to rip the leg off any fool with a harpoon who dares come too close.”

“His painting not only has an incredible likeness to me and my mood in the last three months, but this killer work pays homage to each and every person who has found themselves knee deep in mud, physically, emotionally, mentally and financially after the natural disaster that has destroyed so many lives in the Northern Rivers of NSW and beyond.”

“Let art be our witness – let Blak Douglas be acknowledged for the Dhungatti deadly visionary he is. Your old stand with you today,” said Dickens.

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said Douglas was overwhelmed and incredibly humbled when he took his phone call. “My congratulations to Blak whose painting is a powerful portrait. It is a spirited likeness, captured at a hugely challenging time for Karla and her local community,” said Brand.

The Archibald Prize winner is decided by the Art Gallery’s Board of Trustees. Board president David Gonski said, “I wholeheartedly congratulate all finalists in the 2022 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes.”

“This year the trustees were most impressed with the high standard of works from which to select finalists and winners, and our decision about this Archibald Prize winner was unanimous,” said Gonski.

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes, the Young Archie competition and the Archibald Prize regional tour are all generously supported by presenting partner, ANZ.

Mark Whelan, Group Executive, Institutional at ANZ was delighted to hear that Douglas had been selected as the winner of the Archibald Prize 2022. “To be awarded the Archibald Prize is a significant achievement and we congratulate Blak Douglas,’ he said.

“The Archibald Prize is one of Australia’s most distinguished and iconic awards, which showcases the depth of Australia’s artistic talent and makes it accessible to all of us. We are proud to have supported this iconic exhibition for thirteen years,” said Whelan.

This year a highly commended honour was awarded to Sydney artist Jude Rae for her portrait of scientist, engineer and inventor Dr Saul Griffith. Rae is also a finalist in this year’s Wynne Prize with her landscape The white fig (Ficus cirens), Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.

In other awards, renowned Australian painter Nicholas Harding has won the Wynne Prize 2022 for his landscape Eora, while Sally Scales has been awarded the 2022 Roberts Family Prize for her work Wati Tjakura.

This year two highly commended honours were awarded to Lucy Culliton for her painting Mooresprings, a good season, and Juz Kitson for her sculpture An unwavering truth. She walks in beauty, of the night and all that’s best of dark and bright. In memory of the wildfires.

Collaborative duoClaire Healy and Sean Cordeiro have won the Sulman Prize 2022 with their work Raiko and Shuten-d?jia depiction of the fight between Japanese warrior Raiko and the demon Shuten-d?ji painted on the fuselage of a Vietnam War-era helicopter.

An exhibition of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman winners and finalists will be on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 14 May until August 2022. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Winner Archibald Prize 2022, Blak Douglas, Moby Dickens (detail), synthetic polymer paint on linen, 300 x 200 cm © the artist, image © AGNSW, Mim Stirling