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A portrait of singer Kate Ceberano on a dramatic blood-red backdrop
Photograph: AGNSW, Jenni Carter | ‘Kate’, 2021, Kathrin Longhurst

A spectacular portrait of Kate Ceberano has won the Archibald's Packing Room Prize

This is the Archibald's 100th year and also marks the first time there's gender parity in the artists selected

Stephen A Russell

UPDATE, July 19: As of June 26, the Greater Sydney region including the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong is under a compulsory lockdown until community cases of Covid-19 are under control. Residents can only leave home for essential reasons. Essentially all events in Sydney have therefore been cancelled or postponed until further notice.

German-born, Sydney-based artist Kathrin Longhurst has taken out the 30th Archibald Packing Room Prize for her stunning, unguarded portrait of Kate Ceberano. Perhaps channelling the power of the recent eclipse, the legendary singer-songwriter is depicted against a blood-red backdrop.

It’s the first major award dished out before the announcement of the nation’s most prestigious art award, the Archibald Prize, at noon on June 4. The prize is selected by the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ head packer Brett Cuthbertson and his team. They awarded Longhurst $3,000.

Speaking about the wow-factor portrait, Longhurst reveals: “She had seen my work at the home of mutual friend and asked if I was interested in painting her next album cover. We attempted to get together several times, but lockdowns and border closures lead to every trip being cancelled.”

Ceberano, the first woman inducted into the Australian Songwriters Association Hall of Fame, in 2014, has now moved her family to Sydney. That meant she finally got to sit for Longhurst. “Although the album cover deadline had expired, we decided to paint the portrait to create a record of Kate at this important moment in her life, and as a legacy for her daughter,” Longhurst adds. And what good luck they did.

The astounding work is one of 52 finalists for the Archibald Prize, whittled down from 938 entries in the event's prestigious 100th year. For the first time in the award’s history, there is gender parity in the artists selected. Other hopefuls include Natasha Bieniek’s intimate portrait of famous actor and director Rachel Griffiths laid out on a day bed, Euan Macleod’s oil painting of First Nations artist Blak Douglas, and Kirsty Neilson’s likeness of Australian of the Year Grace Tame. We also love Kirthana Selvaraj’s self-portrait in an oversized green suit.

The Wynne Prize for the best Australian landscape painting will be announced on the same day as the Archibald Prize. More than half the finalists are First Nations artists, and there are more works by women than men for the first time. The Sulman Prize for a genre painting, subject painting or mural will also be announced on June 4, as will the Young Archie for artists 18 and under.

Finalists in all prizes will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of  NSW from June 5 to September 26.


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