Wongutha Yamatji artist and first-time entrant to the Archibald Prize, Meyne Wyatt, has been awarded the 2020 Packing Room Prize for his self-portrait, Meyne.
The first Indigenous artist to win an award at the Archibald Prize, Wyatt’s self-portrait was one of 55 finalists.
A striking headshot, Wyatt’s self-portrait is backgrounded by a black canvas which blends into his shirt and hairline. The artist stares at the viewer with a strong-held gaze and his iconic raised eyebrow.
The Packing Room Prize is chosen by the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ staff who receive, unpack and hang each entry in the Archibald.
Head packer Brett Cuthberston currently holds 52 per cent of the vote, having worked at the Gallery for nearly four decades.
“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. I loved the story and was really impressed with the result,” said Cuthbertson.
While Cuthbertson has been known to say artists who enter self-portraits have “no hope” of winning, he said he made an exception for Wyatt.
Upon hearing the news of his win, Wyatt said he was “absolutely ecstatic and truly humbled” by the win.
“I want to thank the Art Gallery of New South Wales, their staff, Brett Cuthbertson and the Packing Room team,” he said.
“Most of all I want to thank my Mum, who encouraged me to enter the Archibald Prize in the first place and gave me the courage to be so bold. In a way, that is the essence of the painting and what it reflects—to be bold.”
The artist also took to Twitter to celebrate his win:
Humbled to be a finalist and Packing Room Prize Winner for the Archibald @artgalleryofnsw I’m the First Indigenous Artist to win any prize in the competitions 99 year history but that’s ok our Art and Culture has been celebrated on this land for over 60,000 years!!! pic.twitter.com/T6sH8H1Hgf
— Meyne Wyatt (@meynewyatt) September 17, 2020
Meyne is the second self-portrait to win the Packing Room Prize since Kerrie Lester’s Self-portrait as a bridesmaid in 1998. He will take home a $1,500 cash prize.
By Hannah Cross