Archibald Prize

The Archibald Prize is an Australian portraiture art prize for painting, generally seen as the most prestigious portrait prize in Australia.[1] It was first awarded in 1921 after the receipt of a bequest from J. F. Archibald, the editor of The Bulletin who died in 1919. It is administered by the trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales[2] and awarded for "the best portrait, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics, painted by an artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the date fixed by the trustees for sending in the pictures". The Archibald Prize has been awarded annually since 1921 (with two exceptions[3]) and since July 2015 the prize has been AU$100,000.[4]

Archibald Prize
W B McInnes - H. Desbrowe Annear (1921).jpg
Desbrowe Annear by W B McInnes, the first Archibald Prize winner (1921)
Sponsored byArt Gallery of NSW
LocationNew South Wales
First awarded1921 (Desbrowe Annear)
Currently held byVincent Namatjira for Stand Strong for Who You Are
Most awardsSir William Dargie (8)
Website Edit this on Wikidata
Edmund Herring by William Dargie.jpg
Lt-General The Hon Edmund Francis Herring, DSO, MC, ED by Sir William Dargie (1945)


Prize moneyEdit

  • 1921 – £400
  • 1941 – £443 / 13 / 4[5]
  • 1942 – £441 / 11 / 11[6]
  • 1951 – £500[7]
  • 1970 – $2,000
  • 1971 – $4,000[8]
  • 2006 – $35,000[9]
  • 2008 – $50,002
  • 2013 – $60,000
  • 2012 – $75,000[10]
  • 2015 – $100,000[4]

Additional prizesEdit

Since 1988 two other prizes have been added to the Archibald prize event.

People's Choice AwardEdit

The People's Choice Award, in which votes from the public viewing the finalists are collected to find a winner was first awarded in 1988. The award comes with a monetary prize of A$3,500.[11] The inaugural People's Choice Award prize was won by Fred Cress with his portrait of fellow artist John Beard, which had won the Archibald Prize.[12] This was the first 'double' win until Craig Ruddy won both awards with his portrait of David Gulpilil (David Gulpilil, Two Worlds) in 2001.

Packing Room Prize Edit

In 1992 the Packing Room Prize was established, in which the staff who receive the portraits and install them in the gallery vote for their choice of winner. The prize-winner is not always an Archibald finalist. Head packer Brett Cuthbertson receives 52% of the vote between packers for the prize.[13] The Packing Room Prize is awarded annually and since June 2014, the prize has been A$1,500.[11]

To date there has never been an Archibald Prize winner who has also been a Packing Room Prize winner. (In fact, a number of Packing Room Prize winners have not been Archibald Prize finalists). For this reason winning the Packing Room Prize is known as "the kiss of death award".[14] (However, there were two People's Choice Awards given to Archibald Prize winners in 1988 and 2004.)

There has twice been a matching Packing Room Prize and People's Choice Award winner – although neither won the main prize – to Paul Newton's portrait of Roy Slaven and HG Nelson in 2001, and to Jan Williamson's portrait of singer/songwriter Jenny Morris in 2002.

Danelle Bergstrom has won the Packing Room Prize twice, first in 1995 with a portrait of singer/songwriter Jon English,[15] and again in 2007 with a portrait of actor Jack Thompson, with the work entitled Take Two.[16]

In 2020 Meyne Wyatt became the first Indigenous artist to win the Packing Room Prize.[17]

Young Archie Prize Edit

Related distinctionsEdit

Archibald finalistsEdit

Salon des RefusésEdit

Since 1992, a selection of entrants not included amongst the finalists has been included in the Salon des Refusés.

Salon des Refusés People's Choice AwardEdit

Since 1999, Sydney based law firm Holding Redlich have sponsored a Salon des Refusés People's Choice Award.

Associated prizesEdit

The Archibald Prize is held at the same time as the Sir John Sulman Prize, the Wynne Prize, the Mortimore Prize for Realism, the Australian Photographic Portrait Prize, the Young Archie competition and (before 2003) the Dobell Prize. The Archibald is the next richest portrait prize in Australia after the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.

In 1978 Brett Whiteley won the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes all in the same year, the only time this has happened. It was his second win for the Archibald and the other prizes as well.[citation needed]

The satirical Bald Archy Prize, supposedly judged by a cockatoo, was started in 1994 at the Coolac Festival of Fun as a parody of the Archibald Prize; it attracted so many visitors that it has moved to Sydney.

History and controversiesEdit

The prize has attracted a good deal of controversy and several court cases. The most famous was in 1943, when William Dobell's winning painting, Mr Joshua Smith, a portrait of fellow artist Joshua Smith, was challenged because of claims it was a caricature rather than a portrait.[18]

Max Meldrum criticised the 1938 Archibald Prize winner, Nora Heysen, saying that women could not be expected to paint as well as men. Heysen was the first woman to win the Archibald Prize, with a portrait of Madame Elink Schuurman, the wife of the Consul General for the Netherlands.[19]

In 1953, several art students, including John Olsen, protested against William Dargie's winning portrait, the seventh time he had been awarded the prize. One protester tied a sign around her dog which said "Winner Archibald Prize – William Doggie".[20] Dargie went on to win the prize again in 1956.

On becoming Prime Minister in 1972, Gough Whitlam commissioned his friend Clifton Pugh to paint the official portrait. Normally the Australian Parliament Historical Memorial Committee would have commissioned a portrait.[21][22] Pugh's portrait of Whitlam won the 1972 Archibald Prize.[23]

In 1975, John Bloomfield's portrait of Tim Burstall was disqualified on the grounds that it had been painted from a blown up photograph, rather than from life.[24] The prize was then awarded to Kevin Connor. In 1983, John Bloomfield sued for the return of the 1975 prize which was unsuccessful.[25] As a result of the controversy, the application form for the Archibald Prize was modified to make it clear that the subject must be painted from life.[11]Bloomfield later claimed that Eric Smith's winning 1981 portrait of Rudy Komon was painted from a photograph taken in 1974. This claim was refuted by Smith and Komon and the Trustees agreed with the artist and the complaint was dismissed on 23 September 1983.[26]

In 1985, administration of the trust was transferred to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, after a court case where the Perpetual Trustee Company took the Australian Journalists Association Benevolent Fund to court.[27]

In 1997, the painting by Evert Ploeg of the Bananas in Pyjamas television characters was deemed ineligible by the trustees because it was not a painting of a person.[28]

Another controversy involved the 2000 Archibald winner, when artist Adam Cullen lodged a complaint with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, that it had used his painting, Portrait of David Wenham, in a television commercial.[29]

In 2002, head packer Steve Peters singled out a painting of himself by Dave Machin as a possible winner for the Packing Room Prize. It did not win, but it was hung outside the Archibald exhibition. Following that, portraits of the head packer were no longer allowed.[30]

In 2004, Craig Ruddy's image of David Gulpilil, which won both the main prize and the "People's Choice" award, was challenged on the basis that it was a charcoal sketch rather than a painting. The claim was dismissed in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in June 2006.[31][32]

In 2008, Sam Leach's image of himself in a Nazi uniform made the front page of Melbourne's newspaper The Age[33] and sparked a national debate about the appropriateness of his choice of subject matter. The prize money was also changed to $50,000. It was changed twice more, and is now worth $100,000.[4]

In 2020 the competition was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,[34] and for the first time an Indigenous painter (Vincent Namatjira) won the prize.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Archibald prize 2020: Vincent Namatjira named winner for portrait of Adam Goodes". The Guardian. 25 September 2020. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  2. ^ Archibald Prize - Chronology of events, Art Gallery of New South Wales
  3. ^ No Archibald Prize was awarded in 1964 or 1980; refer to List of Archibald Prize winners and the references cited there for details.
  4. ^ a b c Ong, Thuy (17 July 2015). "Archibald Prize 2015: Newcastle artist Nigel Milsom wins prestigious award for Charles Waterstreet portrait". ABC News. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  5. ^ Sir James Elder by Sir William Dargie, The Artists,
  6. ^ Cpl Jim Gordon VC by Sir William Dargie, The Artists,
  7. ^ "They Didn't Win – Five Paintings from the Archibald Prize Exhibition". The Sunday Herald (Sydney). Trove, National Library of Australia. 27 January 1952.
  8. ^ Nicklin, Lenore (23 January 1971). "From the archives: 1971 Archibald winner waited 25 years". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 June 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ Sunanda Creagh (25 March 2006). "Portrait of the artist as a holed man wins the day". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  10. ^ "Increase in prize money for 2012 Archibald, Wynne & Sulman Prizes". The Art Gallery of New South Wales. 13 September 2011.
  11. ^ a b c "Enter the Archibald Prize 2014". Art Gallery of NSW. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  12. ^ "In the Herald : December 17, 1988". 16 December 2015.
  13. ^ "Archibald Prize head packer gets own portrait". ABC News. 7 July 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  14. ^ McDonald, John (17 July 2015). "Archibald Prize 2015: first-time finalists bring new life to the contest". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  15. ^ "Archibald Prize Archibald 1995 finalist: Jon English [not selected as an Archibald Prize finalist, but awarded Packing Room Prize] by Danelle Bergstrom".
  16. ^ "Archibald Prize Archibald 2007 finalist: Take two - Jack Thompson by Danelle Bergstrom".
  17. ^ Galvin, Nick (17 September 2020). "Listen to mum: Meyne Wyatt makes history with Packing Room Prize win". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  18. ^ "IS IT A PORTRAIT OR A CARICATURE ?". Weekly Times. No. 3932. Victoria, Australia. 25 October 1944. p. 4. Retrieved 17 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  19. ^ "WOMEN AND ART". The Evening News. No. 5140. Queensland, Australia. 27 January 1939. p. 10. Retrieved 17 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  20. ^ "Hostile Reaction to Art Award". The Age. No. 30, 496. Victoria, Australia. 26 January 1953. p. 3. Retrieved 17 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  21. ^ "DOUBT OVER P.M.'s IMAGE HANG-UP". The Canberra Times. Vol. 50, no. 14, 455. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 12 August 1976. p. 1. Retrieved 17 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  22. ^ "Portraits of Parliament". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  23. ^ "Casting a long shadow". The Canberra Times. Vol. 55, no. 16, 614. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 23 March 1981. p. 7. Retrieved 17 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  24. ^ "COURT REPORTS". The Canberra Times. Vol. 58, no. 17, 519. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 16 September 1983. p. 9. Retrieved 17 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  25. ^ "COURT REPORTS". The Canberra Times. Vol. 58, no. 17, 527. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 24 September 1983. p. 10. Retrieved 17 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  26. ^ "Winner: Archibald Prize 1981, Rudy Komon — Eric John Smith". Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 5 June 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. ^ "AJA challenge to Archibald Prize hits the canvas". The Canberra Times. Vol. 59, no. 18, 180. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 9 July 1985. p. 7. Retrieved 17 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  28. ^ Lawson, Valerie. "Archibald and me". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  29. ^ "Copyright, Moral Rights, Licensing Agreements". Australian Copyright Council. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  30. ^ "Jenny Morris portrait wins Archibald packers' prize". Sydney Morning Herald. 29 May 2002. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  31. ^ "Artist sues over Archibald winner". Sydney Morning Herald. 29 May 2006. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  32. ^ "Archibald winner takes prize in court". The Australian. 15 June 2006. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  33. ^ Edwards, Lorna (29 February 2008). "Archibald Hitler portrait stirs up fury". The Age. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  34. ^ Morris, Linda (21 March 2020). "'Paint has more time to dry': Archibald Prize delayed". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 June 2020.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Archibald Prize at Wikimedia Commons