Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands artist and Western Arrernte man, Vincent Namatjira, has won the 2020 Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for his portrait of champion Australian Rules footballer and community leader Adam Goodes.
An Archibald Prize finalist for four consecutive years, Namatjira is the first Aboriginal artist to win the Archibald Prize in its 99-year history and his painting, Stand strong for who you are is one of ten Archibald Prize 2020 finalist portraits featuring an Indigenous sitter – a new record for the Prize.
In the portrait, Namatjira has painted himself alongside Goodes, who he describes as ‘a proud Aboriginal man who stands strong for his people’. “I’m so proud to be the winner of the Archibald Prize, and to be the first Aboriginal artist to win is really special,” said Namatjira.
“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.”
“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. Memories of my own experiences were stirred up and I wanted to reach out and reconnect with Adam.
“We share some similar stories and experiences – of disconnection from culture, language and Country, and the constant pressures of being an Aboriginal man in this country. We’ve also both got young daughters and don’t want them to have to go through those same experiences.
“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 Namatjira.
The pair first met in 2018 when Goodes visited the school in Indulkana, where Namatjira lives, as part of his work promoting Indigenous literacy. Namatjira decided to reconnect with Goodes after watching the 2019 documentary, The Final Quarter – which explored the final three years of his playing career when he publicly called out racism, sparking heated public debate.
Born in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) in 1983, Namatjira lives in the community of Indulkana in the APY Lands in the north-west of South Australia and works at Iwantja Arts. Since 2013, he has been painting portraits of important figures, both personally familiar and famously political.
He is an acute observer of national and international politics and the connections between leadership, wealth, power and influence. He is the great-grandson of the renowned artist Albert Namatjira, who exhibited in the Wynne Prize in 1944 and was the subject of William Dargie’s 1956 Archibald-winning portrait.
Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said Namatjira’s painting was selected as one of 55 finalists and then as the winner from a record number of 1068 entries for the Archibald Prize. “I am delighted that Vincent Namatjira has become the first Indigenous artist to win the Archibald Prize for his portrait of Adam Goodes,” he said.
“Painted in a uniquely personal style, it also features Vincent himself, pointing to Adam as a great Australian. Vincent’s work shows how much portrait painting still has to say and what strong voices our Indigenous artists have. I commend the Board of Trustees both for their choice of winner and for the respect they have shown to all the artists during the judging process,” said Brand.
The Archibald Prize winner is decided by the Gallery’s Board of Trustees. Board president David Gonski said, “We were impressed by the large number this year of excellent entries, but the winning entry drew us all towards it and was compelling. The decision was a unanimous one.”
Namatjira was highly commended in the Archibald Prize 2018 for his painting, Studio self-portrait, which is now in the Art Gallery of NSW collection.
This year the Art Gallery of New South Wales Trustees awarded a highly commended honour to Tsering Hannaford for her Self-portrait after Allegory of Painting. A six-time Archibald Prize finalist for a series of self-portraits, Hannaford was inspired by Artemisia Gentileschi’s c1638–39 portrait, where the artist used two mirrors to observe herself in the act of painting.
In other awards, the 2020 Wynne Prize has been awarded to Hubert Pareroultja, a Western Aranda man from the Northern Territory, for his painting Tjoritja (West MacDonnell Ranges, NT), while Nyunmiti Burton has been recognised as a highly commended finalist in the Wynne Prize 2020 and winner of the 2020 Roberts Family Prize for her work, Seven Sisters.
An exhibition of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman winners and finalists will be on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 26 September 2020 until 10 January 2021. For more information, visit: www.artgallery.new.gov.au for details.
Image: Vincent Namatjira, Stand strong for who you are, acrylic on linen, 152 x 198 cm. © the artist – photo by Mim Stirling / AGNSW