In a year where human rights, domestic violence and the global pandemic have dominated the news, some of the people who are bringing about change in Australia are reflected in this year’s Archibald Prize.
For the first time in its 100-year history, an equal number of male and female artists have made the shortlist for Australia’s most prestigious portrait award. Ahead of announcing the winner next Friday, 52 of the 938 entries have been shortlisted for the prize, which is given to the best portrait of a person “distinguished in art, letters, science or politics”.
Between them, the entrants have painted a diverse field, from fellow artists and self-portraits to actors, politicians, activists and everyday heroes, including Making Noise by Kirsty Neilson, a portrait of Australian of the Year and child sex abuse survivor and advocate Grace Tame.
Neilson, an Archibald finalist in 2016 and 2018, was inspired by Tame’s passion, strength, and bravery in playing an instrumental role in changing Tasmania’s gag law that prevented victims from speaking out.
Oliver Watts’ Dorian Gray (Eryn Jean Norville), Natasha Bieniek’s Rachel Griffiths, Victoria Atkinson’s portrait of Liberal politician Trent Zimmerman and Karen Black’s portrait of biosecurity expert Professor Chandini Raina Macintyre are also among the highlights.
In another first, Kathrin Longhurst’s painting of Australian singer Kate Ceberano won the 30th annual Archibald Packing Room Prize, the first time a female artist’s portrait of a female sitter has won.
The Sydney artist, who champions women in her work, said Ceberano approached her about doing a portrait last year.
Pitjanjatjara Luritja painter Sally M Nangala Mulda is among the Indigenous artists receiving mainstream recognition in recent years.
Her Two Town Camp Stories, which shows her sitting with daughter Louise, who is playing cards, marks the first time an artist from the Tangentyere collective, an Aboriginal-owned art centre in Alice Springs, has been in the running for the Archibald Prize.
Mulda joins three other Indigenous finalists vying for the Archibald, including Yolngu artist Eunice Djerrkngu Yunupingu, who is in a position to follow fellow Central Australian artist Vincent Namatjira’s win last year. It was his fourth time as a finalist and the first time the prize was awarded to an Indigenous person.