Vincent Namatjira becomes first indigenous winner of Australia’s Archibald Prize

In its 99 year history, no indigenous artist has won Australia’s Archibald Prize for portraiture, but that changed this year when Vincent Namatjira’s Stand Strong for Who You Are took first place. 

Namatjira’s piece was chosen from 1,068 entries and depicts retired Australian footballer Adam Goodes. Namatjira’s work frequently takes on political and social issue themes and in addition to his athleticism, Goodes is well known for his anti-racism activism.

The two met in 2018 and Namatjira was inspired to paint him after being moved by his 2019 documentary, The Final Quarter, detailing his experiences of racism on and off the field. “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,” said Namatjira. 

As the first indigenous person to win this prestigious prize, Namatjira has broken down barriers in the world of fine art where artists of color are often underrepresented and under-acknowledged for their work. In his acceptance speech, 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.”

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Vincent Namatjira becomes first indigenous winner of Australia’s Archibald Prize

In its 99 year history, no indigenous artist has won Australia’s Archibald Prize for portraiture, but that changed this year when Vincent Namatjira’s Stand Strong for Who You Are took first place. 

Namatjira’s piece was chosen from 1,068 entries and depicts retired Australian footballer Adam Goodes. Namatjira’s work frequently takes on political and social issue themes and in addition to his athleticism, Goodes is well known for his anti-racism activism.

The two met in 2018 and Namatjira was inspired to paint him after being moved by his 2019 documentary, The Final Quarter, detailing his experiences of racism on and off the field. “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,” said Namatjira. 

As the first indigenous person to win this prestigious prize, Namatjira has broken down barriers in the world of fine art where artists of color are often underrepresented and under-acknowledged for their work. In his acceptance speech, 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.”

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