For the first time in the perennial portrait prize's 100 year history; the Archibald Prize has achieved gender parity with its 2021 finalists. Celebrating its centenary year, exactly half of the 52 finalists who were announced at the end of last week at the Art Gallery of NSW are female.
Former Archibald winner Fiona Lowry and Wynne Prize winner Natasha Bieniek are just two of the female artists in the running to take the covetable win this year. Lowry and Bieniek are also joined by Lucy Culliton, Tsering Hannaford, Thea Anamara Perkins, Sally M Nangala Mulda and Julia Ciccarone amongst others. Just like the range of artists, their sitters are just as diverse; ranging from fellow artists and self-portraits to actors, politicians and everyday heroes who have captured our hearts and minds over the last 12 months with their incredible stories and achievements.
A few notable mentions include actors Rachel Griffiths, Eryn Jean Norvill (in character as Dorian Gray) and Firass Dirani; artists and former Archibald Prize winners Del Kathryn Barton, Ben Quilty and Wendy Sharpe; as well as sexual assault survivor and 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame and photographer Cameron Bloom and his wife Sam, whose story forms the basis of the 2020 film, Penguin Bloom.
Among the finalists announcement, the winner of the Packing Room Prize was also awarded to artist Kathrin Longhurst for her portrait of singer-songwriter Kate Ceberano. In more monumental, history-breaking news, this marks the first time a female artist’s portrait of a female sitter has won the prestigious award. Speaking of the special project, Longhurst shared that she originally had three different concepts for the portrait, but ultimately, wanted Ceberano to choose as a way to foster collaboration between them.
“I’d picked Kate mid-song [as a concept], but she said she wanted her daughter to see her as strong and calm, so that’s what we ended up settling on.”
The winning paintings for the 2021 Archibald Prize will be announced this Friday, June 4.