The Art of the Prize

(born 1984) Biopod #2 2018
oil on silver mirror dibond
14 x 9cm $7,000-10,000

It’s crucial in any industry to have the opportunity to gain recognition for outstanding talent. Museums, corporations, and philanthropic groups provide distinguished art awards which we as an industry look to annually to celebrate achievement in the visual arts. While serving as a way to honour the outstanding artistic talent of the day, many would agree that these prizes also act as success indicators for buyers, particularly when considering younger emerging artists who have yet to build up their prices on the secondary market. 

Considered one of Australia’s most engaging art events, The Archibald is an Australian prize for portraiture painting and is generally regarded as the most prestigious visual arts award in Australia. Held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the exhibition features portraiture honouring those who have made an impact on Australian society. The title, currently held by Blak Douglas who won in 2022 for his portrait of artist Karla Dickens, marks him as the second Aboriginal artist to win the Archibald (following Vincent Namatjira, who won in 2020). Adam Cullen, who is also a regular feature in our annual Centum contemporary art auction, won the Archibald prize in 2000 with his portrait of actor David Wenham. Miniature artist, Natasha Bieniek, an eight-time finalist with her portrait of Wendy Whiteley was highly commended in 2016 and more recently, Sally Ross (five-time finalist) had a work selected for the one hundred years of the Archibald Prize exhibition in 2021. Other multi-time finalists include Brent Harris, Abdul Abdullah, William Mackinnon, and Prudence Flint, a seven-time finalist. She also won the Len Fox Painting Award (2016), the Portia Geach Memorial Award (2010), and the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2004. 

Sam Leach, featured in this year’s Centum auction, won the Archibald in 2012 for his portrait of musical comedian Tim Minchin. In the same year, he won the Wynne Prize for his landscape Proposal for Landscaped Cosmos. In doing so he became the third artist only after William Dobell and Brett Whiteley to win the Archibald and the Wynne landscape prize in the same year.

Dedicated to landscape and figure sculpture art, the Wynne prize (est. 1897) is the longest-running art prize in Australia. William McKinnon, Aaron Kinnane, and Blak Douglas, all featured in this auction, have been finalists, with Natasha Bieniek winning in 2015. Bieniek in the same year also won the Portia Geach Memorial Award. Her portrait miniatures were selected for the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2011 and 2012, and in 2013, her work was hung in the University of Queensland’s National Artists’ Self-Portrait Prize.

Kathrin Longhurst celebrated a long career in 2021 when she completed her 18th solo show and has been a finalist in numerous awards including the Archibald Prize, the Darling Prize at the National Portrait Gallery, the Doug Moran Prize, the Sulman Prize, the Percival Portrait Award, the Mosman Art Prize, the Portia Geach Award and in 2021 she won the Archibald Packing Room Prize. 

Other multi-winning artists include Pippin Drysdale whose lifetime of work in the arts was recognised when she was awarded as a Living Treasure in 2015. Of the niche categories, Lawrence Starky was Highly Commended for the Wildlife and Western Art Show in Minnesota.  

While only naming a few above, our Centum contemporary art auction in May encapsulates an award-rich line up of artists that have excelled in their respective categories, assisting buyers to navigate the secondary market using these awards as indicators of success and future potential. We look forward to presenting the 2023 Centum collection to you. 

LUCY FOSTER / Senior Art Specialist 

Banner Image: SAM LEACH (born 1973)
Landscape with Macaw 2019 (detail)
oil and resin on board, 6 panels
149.5 x 99.5cm

March 2023