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For the first time in history, an Indigenous artist has won the Archibald prize

Vincent Namatjira has made history by becoming the first Indigenous Australian to win the country’s prestigious portraiture prize, the Archibald Prize.

Vincent Namatjira has become the first Indigenous Australian to win the Archibald Prize in its 99-year history.

The Western Arrernte artist took out the prestigious prize for a double portrait of himself and AFL player Adam Goodes.

archibald prize Vincent Namatjira
Vincent Namatjira and Adam Goodes.

Namatjira, the great-grandson of the famed artist Albert Namatjira, has been an Archibald finalist for the last fours year, including being runner up in 2018.

“What an honour it is to be the first Indigenous winner of the Archibald Prize. It only took 99 years!” Namatjira described over Zoom whilst accepting the award.

Namatjira’s portrait, titled Stand Strong for Who You Are, depicts himself alongside Goodes, who, named Australian of the year back in 2014, is famous for his stand against racism in Australia.

“When I was younger and growing up in the foster system in Perth, Indigenous footballers were like heroes to me,” Namatijira described in his artist statement. “Goodesy is much more than a great footballer though, he took a strong stand against racism and said, ‘enough is enough’. I stand strong with you too, brother.”

It’s been an amazing two years for Namatjira, who also took out the Ramsay Art Prize last year. Receiving $100,000 for each, with this latest win, Namatjira has well and truly secured himself a place in history.

It comes as fellow artist Meyne Wyatt also became the first Aboriginal artist to win the Packing Room Prize (and any prize in the Archibald competition) last week. Almost half of the finalists this year were also Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Speaking on Namatjira’s win, Adam Goodes offered a statement which was relayed by the President of the Art Gallery of NSW Board of Trustees, David Gonski:

“I am thrilled that an Indigenous artist, Vincent Namatjira, has won the Archibald Prize for the first time. And I am so pleased that it shines a light on all Indigenous art. We have a 60,000 year history of art and culture in our people, and we share this knowledge and gift of culture with all Australia.”