News & Commentary, Visual Arts

Mitch Cairns wins Archibald Prize 2017

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Mitch Cairns has been announced as the winner of the 96th annual Archibald Portrait Prize for his portrait of his partner, artist Agatha Gothe-Snape. The Sydney-born artist had been considered a front-runner by many industry experts.

Cairns and Gothe-Snape have collaborated previously, and their work was both seen in this year’s The National: new Australian Art.

In his artist statement, Cairns said: “In this painting, Agatha is both an active subject and a recalcitrant muse embracing and resisting simultaneously any idea of what it is to be fixed. Ultimately this is what is most attractive about Agatha. She embodies an uncompromising agency whilst having the grace to accept the ready complications inherent within our life as artists.

“I composed this portrait with love in the full knowledge of its inevitable and palpable quake.”

The winner of the $100,000 prize is selected by the Art Gallery of NSW’s Board of Trustees, led by its president David Gonski. The Board also highly commended Jun Chen’s portrait of Ray Hughes.

Cairns’ portrait was selected from the 43 Archibald Prize finalists, drawn from 822 entries.

Many of the subjects this year were artists, either in self portraits or painted by others, but there were also portraits of actors (including two of John Bell), musicians, and even one of retiring Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs. Twenty-four of the portraits were of men, 18 were of women, and one featured both a man and a woman.

Forty percent of the portraits selected this year were first-time Archibald finalists. And while the Archibald achieved gender parity with its finalists in 2016, just 14 of the painters selected as finalists this year were women.

Peter Smeeth’s portrait of Today host and former magazine editor Lisa Wilkinson took out the $1500 Packing Room Prize, announced earlier this month. The winner of the $3500 ANZ People’s Choice Award will be revealed on Wednesday, October 4.


The winners of the Wynne and Sulman prizes were also announced at today’s event.

The Wynne Prize for “the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours or for the best example of figure sculpture by Australian artists” went to Betty Kuntiwa Pumani for her painting of Antara, her family’s country in South Australia.

The Sulman Prize for “the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project by an Australian artist” went to Joan Ross for her artwork, “Oh history, you lied to me“, which tackles Australia’s colonisation.

[box]The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize finalists are on exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW until October 22.

The Archibald finalists can be seen online here[/box]

16 responses to “Mitch Cairns wins Archibald Prize 2017

  1. Love the work when I look at it it makes my work look so damn good..I am sure my work is destined for greatness.

  2. A stunning :’omage’ to Modigliani, Picasso, Kandinsky, Georges Braque, et al, which, given the refreshing originality
    might first read as a contradiction of terms.

    I have not seen the other contestants’ works but this is scintillant in its tonal complexity and its visual simplicity.

    C’est complet!

  3. Bugger the “image to Kandinsky etc. and a wanky artist statement, this has very little soul. Must annoy the other artists who strove to give us the character of their subject.

    1. There is no need for personal abuse, Duncan. And it’s ‘omage’, Duncan. As for wanking, Duncan I guess, as a fellow male, you do a bit of that too!

  4. I don’t mind it as a picture. I don’t know the person who’s the subject, but it doesn’t actually look like much of a portrait. Nice composition though.

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