Vincent Namatjira, an Indigenous artist, has won Australia’s 2020 Archibald Prize, an annual award for portraiture painted by a resident of Australasia. It comes with a cash prize of $100,000. Namatjira’s winning painting, entitled ‘Stand Strong for Who You Are’, features retired Australian footballer, Adam Goodes, as “a proud Aboriginal man who stands strong for his people”. In the portrait, Goodes clasps hands with the artist himself.
Part of the criteria for the award requires that the subject “be known to the artist, aware of the artist’s intention and [have had] at least one live sitting with the artist.” Namatjira’s works of art often tackle social and political issues, and he has an interest in people and their stories. Namatjira and Goodes met in 2018, and the inspiration for the portrait came from Goodes’ 2019 documentary ‘The Final Quarter’, which portrays the ex-footballer’s anti-racism activism.
From 1,086 entries, Namatjira was selected as the winner. During the virtual ceremony he said, “It only took 99 years. I’m so proud to be the first but I also have to acknowledge all the Indigenous finalists and Indigenous sitters for this year and past years.”
The Archibald Prize is one of Australia’s most high-profile art awards, so Namatjira’s win is hugely significant for the Indigenous art community. His piece, along with works by other finalists, will be on show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and will tour New South Wales and Victoria next year.
Namatjira hopes this win will inspire other Indigenous artists to pursue their dreams and encourage them not to give up when hardships arise. This is a positive step in the arts world, and another step towards recognising and appreciating art from all communities.