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Archibald prize 2021: Peter Wegner wins $100,000 prize for ‘brilliant’ portrait of Guy Warren at 100

Peter Wegner has won Australia’s most prestigious portrait prize for his portrait of the artist Guy Warren, who turned 100 in April.

Celebrating its own centenary, the 2021 Archibald prize winner was chosen unanimously by the judges and announced on Wednesday by Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand, who described the painting as “a brilliant portrait”.

Speaking from lockdown in Melbourne via video link, Wegner – who has been a finalist five times – said: “When Michael called, my wife burst into tears, and I was speechless. This is an unbelievable moment in my life. It’s the culmination of years of my time in the studio and validation of my work.

“Guy Warren turned 100 in April – he was born the same year the Archibald Prize was first awarded in 1921. This is not why I painted Guy, but the coincidence is nicely timed,” he continued.

Warren – a celebrated artist who himself won the Archibald in 1985, for his portrait of the artist Bert Flugelman – appeared in person at the Art Gallery of NSW event. He described Wegner as “a damn good painter”.

“Everyone says [the portrait] catches my character, but I don’t know what my character is,” he said.

Wegner’s painting was one of 52 finalists, from 938 entries – the second highest number of entries on record, after last year’s prize. This year’s finalists included portraits of Grace Tame, Ben Quilty, Eryn Jean Norvill and Blak Douglas, with Kirsty Neilson’s painting of Kate Ceberano selected by Art Gallery of NSW staff for the Packing Room prize, which was announced when the finalists were revealed last week. It’s the first year in the Archibald’s history that there was gender parity between the finalist artists.

Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu won the Wynne prize for landscape painting with Garak –Night Sky, which depicts the journey of Djulpan, or the Seven Sisters.

Tasmania-based artist Georgia Spain won the Sulman prize for subject painting for her work Getting Down or Falling Up – a painting which, the artist says, “explores the idea of physical tension and connection captured in moments of conflict or pleasure.

“Limbs reach, push, pull and flail to reflect the feeling of getting up and falling down, over and over again.”

Source: The Guardian