The Archibald has been awarded annually since 1921 (with two exceptions in 1964 and 1980). It has to be painted by an artist resident in Australia and doesn’t have to be, but preferentially is, of someone who is "distinguished in art, letters, science or politics".
And who is Archibald? Good question – JF Archibald (1856-1919) or “Archie” as he was affectionately known, was a former trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW and founder of The Bulletin, an influential Australian political and literary magazine. In his will he made two notable bequests: for the Archibald Fountain in Sydney’s Hyde Park, and the Archibald Prize for Portraiture.
This year’s winner: look up at Blak Douglas’ towering three-metre-tall portrait of fellow Koori artist Karla Dickens, Moby Dickens, the largest entry in this year’s Archibald. It also displays the strength of NSW’s Northern Rivers community on Bundjalung Country, during the disastrous recent floods and their frustration with the government’s crisis relief response.
Douglas is the second Aboriginal artist to win the Archibald Prize in 101 years, after Vincent Namatjira won in 2020. As Douglas said upon receiving the prize, the next step is an “Albo-riginal prime minister” – we’ll be watching this space.
Look out for: some buttocks. That is, the buttocks of Sydney writer Benjamin Law, reimagined as a mischievous and modern portrayal of the goddess of beauty, Venus, by emerging Central Coast based artist Jordan Richardson.
This year, a record 20 Indigenous artists entered the Archibald, and there were 27 Indigenous finalists across all three prizes. The exhibition also includes five exciting works from Studio A, Sydney’s only group studio for artists with intellectual disabilities.