Archibald prize 2020: first-time entrant Meyne Wyatt wins packing room prize for self-portrait

This article is more than 5 months old

Actor and Wongutha-Yamatji man is first Indigenous artist to win any of the prizes in the Archibald’s 99-year history

Meyne Wyatt poses for a photo with his packing room prize-winning self-portrait, entitled Meyne, at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney on Thursday.
First-time Archibald prize entrant Meyne Wyatt poses with his packing room prize-winning self-portrait, entitled Meyne, at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney on Thursday. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

First-time Archibald prize entrant Meyne Wyatt has broken new ground to win the packing room prize for his self-portrait.

The Wongutha-Yamatji man is the first Indigenous artist to win any of the prizes on offer at the Archibald prize in its 99-year history.

Already a widely recognised actor, Wyatt made headlines when he performed a powerful four-minute-monologue from his play City Of Gold on ABC’s Q&A in June.

The Western Australian-born, Sydney-based artist, writer and actor said he was “absolutely ecstatic and truly humbled by this wonderful honour”.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales head packer Brett Cuthbertson said it was unusual for a self-portrait to win the prize, which comes with $1,500.

“I have been known to say that artists who enter a self-portrait have no hope of winning ... but in this case I made an exception to my rule,” he said.

“When Meyne came into the gallery to deliver his entry he said he hadn’t painted in some time and the work was just a Covid project. I loved the story and was really impressed with the result.”

Meyne Wyatt's monologue on racism on Q+A: 'Silence is violence. Complacency is complicity' – video

Wyatt’s painting was selected from 55 finalist works from a record number of entries and is only the second self-portrait to win the packing room prize in its 29-year history.

“Most of all I want to thank my mum, who encouraged me to enter the Archibald prize in the first place and gave me the courage to be so bold,” Wyatt said. “In a way, that is the essence of the painting and what it reflects – to be bold.”

Wyatt’s mother Susan Wyatt is also an artist and was an Archibald finalist in 2003.

Finalists for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes were also announced on Thursday.