Mparntwe-born artist, Vincent Namatjira has made history by becoming the first Indigenous artist to win the Archibald Prize.
The great-grandson of acclaimed artist, Albert Namatjira, Namatjira was announced as the winner of the $100,000 Archibald Prize Friday for his artwork Stand Strong for Who You Are.
The artwork is a double-portrait featuring Namatjira with AFL legend and The Australian Dream star, Adam Goodes.
This is Namatjira’s fourth consecutive year as a finalist, and in 2018 he took home runner-up.
Namatjira accepted the win via Zoom.
“This is a really special moment for me and I’m feeling a bit nervous and excited,” Namatjira said.
“What an honour it is to be the first Indigenous winner of the Archibald prize. It only took 99 years.”
“I am so proud to be the first, and I want to acknowledge all the Indigenous finalists and the Indigenous sitters for the Archibald this year and past years.”
A statement from Goodes, read at the ceremony, congratulated Namatjira.
“I am thrilled that an Indigenous artist, Vincent Namatjira has won the Archibald Prize for the first time,” Goodes said.
“I am so pleased that it shines the light on all Indigenous art. We have a 60,000-year history of art and culture in our people and we share this knowledge and gift of culture with all Australia.
“Vincent and I are also Countrymen, I’m so proud of Vincent and his family. Their journey has been shared in art through generations.”
Stand Strong for Who You Are was selected from a record-breaking 1,068 entries, and 55 finalists.
President of the Art Gallery of NSW Board of Trustees, David Gonski, announced the winners and noted the level of entries despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although we are living through COVID, creativity and innovation is abound, as you will see from the number of entries we received and by the quality of those that sit now, or in fact are hung, on our walls,” he said.
The Archibald Prize was announced alongside the Sulman Prize, the Wynne Prize, the Robert’s Family Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prize and Trustee’s Watercolour Prize.
Winner of the Wynne Prize was Western Aranda artist, Hubert Pareroultja for his artwork Tjoritja (West MacDonnell Ranges, NT).
Pareroultja was selected from 782 entries and 34 finalists. Like Namatjira, he accepted his award via Zoom.
“I really had a big shock, I didn’t know what to say, I was so happy and proud that my work is seen by so many people down south,” he said.
“It is important for me because it is my Country that my father showed me when I first learnt to paint.”
Nyunmiti Burton was awarded both the Roberts Family Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prize and highly commended in the Wynne Prize for her artwork, Seven Sisters.
Namatjira’s win follows Wongutha-Yamatji artist Meyne Wyatt taking home the 2020 Packing Room Prize.
By Rachael Knowles