A portrait of Kurdish-Iranian writer and refugee Behrouz Boochani by Angus McDonald has been awarded the 2020 Archibald prize people’s choice award.
McDonald made contact with Boochani on Manus Island in 2018, while he was creating a short film about the detention centre where Boochani was held for six years. Boochani has now been granted asylum in New Zealand, where he sat for the portrait.
McDonald said he was thrilled with the award.
“It’s the highest compliment to receive the vote of the public, for me as the artist but I suspect even more for Behrouz, who despite never even setting foot on the mainland, has earned the respect, admiration and even the love of so many Australians,” McDonald said.
“I’ve depicted Behrouz directly engaging the viewer as a strong, confident and peaceful man who survived an ordeal and is now free. Despite all he has been through, Behrouz remains dedicated to his work and is open, gentle and kind.”
Boochani said he was happy with McDonald’s win and says the portrait resonated with the public as a symbol of “hope and resistance”.
“Angus spent so much time to understand the different layers of my story and travelled to New Zealand so we could spend time together.
We had a long conversation on the elements of injustice. He as an artist captured what was important to me with his deep insight and remarkable skills. This work represents me as a person that exists, not a person who was created by media or what people want to see.”
The people’s choice award carries a $3,500 prize.
Finalist works for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2020 are on show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until 10 January.