Sam Newman has questioned the awarding of the Archibald Prize to Vincent Namatjira for his portrait of AFL champion Adam Goodes.
Namatjira became the first Indigenous artist to win the prestigious award when it was announced on Friday.
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The great-grandson of the renowned Albert Namatjira was announced winner of the $100,000 prize, now in its 99th year, at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney for his portrait titled ‘Stand strong for who you are’.
“It only took 99 years,” Namatjira said on Friday.
“This is a very important moment in Australian art. It’s an honour to be the first but I also want to acknowledge all of the Indigenous finalists and Indigenous sitters for the Archibald this year and in past years.”
However Newman didn’t seem to agree with the decision.
Responding to a tweet from entertainment reporter Peter Ford, the former Footy Show favourite questioned why the portrait of Goodes had won.
After Ford tweeted ‘wow’, Newman asked if that was an acronym for “why oh why”.
An acronym, obviously ‘Why Oh Why’. https://t.co/SlPOtqkYF5— Sam Newman (@Origsmartassam) September 26, 2020
Needless to say, fans were unimpressed with Newman’s comment.
Keep clinging to relevance old man— Subbies Battler (@Subbiesbattler) September 27, 2020
What a surprise you chiming in on this.— Scott Gumbleton (@scottgumbleton) September 26, 2020
In the portrait, the Western Arrernte artist painted himself alongside Goodes, who he describes as “a proud Aboriginal man who stands strong for his people”.
He recalled his “guts churning” after watching a documentary about Goodes’ final season of AFL where he relived the player's experiences of racism.
“We share some similar stories and experiences - of disconnection from culture, language and country, and the constant pressures of being an Aboriginal man in this country,” he said.
Goodes was booed mercilessly by fans to the extent that he was forced out of the game in 2015.
However Newman was of the opinion that the fans’ treatment of Goodes had anything to do with race.
Last year the former Geelong player used disgraced Chinese swimmer Sun Yang as an example.
“Newspaper article says Sun Yang being booed for what he did,” Newman tweeted.
“Can you believe it. Being booed for what he did, not for who he is. Sounds like racism to me.”
Vincent Namatjira’s crowning achievement
Since 2013 Namatjira has been painting portraits of important personal and political figures.
Albert Namatjira exhibited in the Wynne Prize in 1944 and was the subject of William Dargie’s 1956 Archibald-winning portrait, the first of an Indigenous person to win the prize.
Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said Namatjira’s painting was selected as one of 55 finalists and is one of a record 10 finalist portraits featuring an Indigenous sitter.
“Vincent's work shows how much portrait painting still has to say and what strong voices our Indigenous artists have,” he said in a statement.
This year the Art Gallery of NSW trustees also awarded a high commended honour to Adelaide artist Tsering Hannaford for her work titled Self-portrait after Allegory of Painting.
The six-time Archibald Prize finalist was inspired by Artemisia Gentileschi's c1638-39 portrait, where the artist used two mirrors to observe herself in the act of painting.
Their works were up against Angus McDonald's portrait of Behrouz Boochani, the Kurdish-Iranian granted refugee status by New Zealand and Wendy Sharpe's portrait of popular actor Magda Szubanski.
Also among them was first-time Archibald prize entrant Meyne Wyatt who last week had become the first Indigenous artist to win any of the prizes on offer in the Archibald's 99-year history.
The actor and Wongutha-Yamatji man won the Packing Room Prize for his self-portrait.
The winner of the Sulman prize was also announced on Friday with Marikit Santiago taking home the award for her entry titled The Divine.
The Wynne prize was also on Friday awarded to Hubert Pareroultja for his piece titled Tjoritja (West MacDonnell Ranges, NT).
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