Current Issue #488

Vincent Namatjira wins 2020 Archibald Prize with Adam Goodes portrait

Art Gallery of New South Wales / Mim Stirling
Vincent Namatjira, Stand strong for who you are, acrylic on linen, 152 × 198 cm

Vincent Namatjira has become the first Indigenous artist to win Australia’s biggest portraiture prize.

The Indulkana-based Western Arrernte artist, who won the 2019 Ramsay Art Prize for his work Close Contact, took out the top prize for his painting Stand strong for who you are. A portrait of the artist alongside Wallaroo-born former Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes, the work is in some ways a continuation of the ongoing thread in Namatjira’s work of placing himself alongside famous figures in popular culture – his Ramsay-winning piece juxtaposed his own image against that of Captain Cook.

In Stand strong for who you are, however, the inclusion of two of Goodes’ most iconic on-field moments makes for a powerful show of strength and pride – and a fitting subject for the first painting by a First Nations artist to win the prize in its 99-year history.

“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,” Namatjira said of the piece’s inspiration. “Memories of my own experiences were stirred up and I wanted to reach out and reconnect with Adam.

Rhett Hammerton / Iwantja Arts
Vincent Namatjira

“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.”

“I am delighted that Vincent Namatjira has become the first Indigenous artist to win the Archibald Prize, for his portrait of Adam Goodes,” Art Gallery of New South Wales director Michael Brand said of the win. “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.”

South Australian artist and six-time Archibald finalist Tsering Hannaford also received a highly commended honour for her work Self-portrait after Allegory of Painting.

Stand strong for who you are and the other finalists will be on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 26 September to 10 January 2021.

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer, editor and broadcaster living on Kaurna Country. His work has appeared in Rip It Up, Broadsheet, The Saturday Paper, The Guardian Australia, The Thousands, dB Magazine, Jetstar Magazine and Royal Auto. 

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