Indigenous artist Vincent Namatjira wins the 2020 Archibald Prize

APY Lands artist and Western Arrernte man Vincent Namatjira has won this year’s $100,000 Archibald Prize for his portrait of champion Australian Rules footballer and community leader Adam Goodes, entitled Standing strong for who you are (2020).

In the portrait, Namatjira has painted himself alongside Goodes, who he describes as ‘a proud Aboriginal man who stands strong for his people’; the same can be said for the Mparntwe-born artist. Namatjira has been an Archibald Prize finalist for four consecutive years and this year’s win makes him the first Indigenous artist to win the Archibald Prize in its 99-year history.

Archibald Prize 2020 winner: Vincent Namatjira, Stand strong for who you are, 2020, acrylic on linen, 152 x 198cm. © the artist. Photograph: AGNSW, Mim Stirling

On hearing the news, Namatjira said: ‘I’m so proud to be the winner of the Archibald Prize, and to be the first Aboriginal artist to win is really special. 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.

Vincent Namatjira pictured with his 2020 Archibald painting. Courtesy the artist and Iwantja Arts, South Australia. Photograph: Iwantja Arts

Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) Director Michael Brand said Namatjira’s painting ‘shows how much portrait painting still has to say and what strong voices our Indigenous artists have.’

Highly Commended, Archibald Prize
This year the AGNSW Trustees awarded a highly commended honour to Tsering Hannaford for her Self-portrait after ‘Allegory of Painting’. Hannaford was inspired by Artemisia Gentileschi’s c.1638-39 portrait, where the artist used two mirrors to observe herself in the act of painting.

All finalists in the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2020 will be exhibited at the AGNSW from 26 September 2020 to 10 January 2021.