The finalist pool for 2017 might have been a sweet spot for 'old white men in chairs', but the winner of this year's Archibald Prize for portrait painting went to a young white woman sitting on a rug: artist Agatha Gothe-Snape, painted by her partner Mitch Cairns.
Speaking about his work, the young Sydney painter said “I composed this portrait with love. Agatha and I share everything in our lives; our two-year-old son; our work as artists and our day-to-day lives. ... When you have a young child there’s a lot of creative play happening on the floor."
The runner up for the Archibald Prize in 2015 with his portrait of painter Peter Powditch, Cairns has been a finalist in the Archibald three times previously: 2013, 2014 and 2015. A graduate of the National Art School, he was studio assistant to the late Adam Cullen in his early career.
The Archibald Prize is judged by the Board of Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales; currently that is comprised of 11 people, including artists Ben Quilty and Khadim Ali.
Announcing this year's winner, the president of board of trustees, David Gonski, noted that out of 43 finalist paintings, two paintings made the final cut – and the board highly commended painter Jun Chen for his portrait of gallerist Ray Hughes. The decision to award Cairns top gong was, however, unanimous.
This year's Sulman Prize, judged by artist Tony Albert, was awarded to Joan Ross for meditation on colonisation, 'Oh history, you lied to me.'
The Wynne Prize, for landscape painting and figurative sculpture, was awarded to Betty Kuntiwa Pumani from Antara in South Australia. Pumani says of the work, "My landscape work is my country, Antara. This is my grandmother’s country. My family is responsible for taking care of this country. The Ancestors taught the lessons of taking care of country, and these lessons have been passed through the generations. When I paint my country I am celebrating the culture of my country, and am taking my turn passing on these lessons, passing on the Tjukurpa (cultural story) to the next generation of Anangu. This is how we keep our culture strong.”
The Archibald Prize exhibition opens Saturday July 29 at Art Gallery of NSW – take a friend and have an argument.
Here are 13 other bloody awesome exhibitions you can see this weekend.