Melbourne-based artist Peter Wegner has won the 2021 Archibald Prize and $100,000 for his portrait of artist Guy Warren AM, titled Portrait of Guy Warren at 100.
A six-time Archibald Prize finalist, Wegner painted 100 year old Warren, coinciding with the 100 year anniversary of Australia’s oldest and most-loved portrait award.
Speaking from Melbourne, Wegner was emotional when Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand delivered the news that his ‘brilliant portrait’ of Guy Warren was the winner of the 2021 Archibald Prize.
“When Michael called, my wife burst into tears, and I was speechless. This is an unbelievable moment in my life. It’s the culmination of years of my time in the studio and validation of my work,” said Mr Wegner.
“When I think about the canon of all the previous winners and I get to be one of those names, especially in the 100th year, it is just an extraordinary feeling. I am humbled. Guy Warren turned 100 in April – he was born the same year the Archibald Prize was first awarded in 1921. This is not why I painted Guy, but the coincidence is nicely timed.”
“I have been working on a series of drawings of people who have turned 100, beginning with my Aunty Rita seven years ago. I’ve gone on to draw more than 90 centenarians. I chose to paint Guy Warren because he is one of the most incredible centenarians l have ever met. This portrait honours Guy in the 101st year of his productive and meaningful life,” said Mr Wegner.
Wegner was an Archibald Prize finalist in 2020, 2016, 2011, 2004 and 2000, and was also a finalist in the Archibald’s Sporting Portrait Prize in 2000. He is a four-time finalist in the Dobell Prize for Drawing and was awarded the Doug Moran Prize in 2006.
His works are held in the collections of the Art Gallery of NSW, National Library of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, State Library of Victoria, and several regional galleries.
Warren won the 1985 Archibald Prize with a portrait of artist Bert Flugelman, which is included in the Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize exhibition at the Art Gallery. This is the seventh time he has been an Archibald subject, including a self-portrait in 1996.
Warren started his working life at The Bulletin magazine, which was founded by JF Archibald, whose bequest established the Archibald Prize in 1921.
Brand said Wegner’s painting was selected as one of 52 finalists and then as the winner from 938 entries for the Archibald Prize 2021. “Peter Wegner’s tender portrait of Guy Warren provides a moving insight into the artist’s state of mind as he navigates his 101st year with characteristic grace and good humour,” he said.
“The fact that Warren was himself an Archibald Prize winner in 1985 adds a wonderful layer of history to the poignancy of the portrait. Who wouldn’t want to look this content at the age of 100?” said Mr 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 2021 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes.”
“The Wynne and Archibald Prizes, which are selected by me and my fellow trustees were especially difficult to judge this year, with a number of worthy contenders. But the decision was unanimous, and I applaud the winners,” said Mr Gonski.
This year two highly commended honours were awarded: Sydney artist Jude Rae for her self-portrait, Inside out; and Brisbane artist Pat Hoffie for her portrait of her daughter titled Visaya in a c-collar.
In other awards, the 2021 Wynne Prize has been awarded to Nyapanyapa Yunupinu, a Yolnu painter and printmaker who lives and works in Yirrkala in north-eastern Arnhem Land, for her painting Garak – night sky, while Tjungkara Ken has been awarded the 2021 Roberts Family Prize for her work Seven Sisters.
The 2021 Trustees’ Watercolour Prize was presented to Sydney artist Noel McKenna for his work, South Coast headland (2), Ottoman rose, Armidale-based artist Leah Bullen has been awarded the John & Elizabeth Newnham Pring Memorial Prize for her work, Arid garden, Wollongong, and Georgia Spain has won the 2021 Sulman Prize for her work, Getting down or falling up.
An exhibition of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman winners and finalists will be on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 5 June until 26 September 2021. For more information, visit: www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au for details.
Image: Peter Wegner, Portrait of Guy Warren at 100, (detail) oil on canvas, 120.5 x 151.5 cm – © the artist / winner – Archibald Prize 2021