In the centenary year of the Archibald Prize, The Art Gallery of New South Wales has announced that Kathrin Longhurst has won this year’s Packing Room Prize for her striking portrait of iconic Australian singer Kate Ceberano.

Kate, Kathrin LonghurstKate By Kathrin Longhurst

Longhurst’s painting is one of 52 finalists named for the 2021 Archibald Prize, which is celebrating its 100th year, have first been awarded in 1921. This year saw 2144 entries, with 938 entries for the Archibald, 546 entries for the Sulman Prize, and 660 entries for the Wynne Prize. This is the second highest number of entries, with 2020 receiving 2565 entries across the four prizes (including the Young Archibald Prize).

“I first spoke to Kate in early 2020 about collaborating on a portrait. She had seen my work at the home of mutual friends and asked if I was interested in painting her next album cover because she liked the way I portray women as strong and powerful,” said Longhurst. “I painted her larger than life, looking fiercer and stronger than ever before.”

This is not the first time the German-Australian artist’s work has been featured in the competition; Longhurst was a finalist in the 2018 Archibald Prize and the 2012 Sulman Prize. This is the third time a painting of Ceberano has been featured in the competition. Peter Robertson’s 1994 portrait also won the Packing Room Prize, while Christine O’Hagan’s portrait was a finalist in the 2010 Archibald.

The 2021 competition saw a new landmark for gender parity across the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes. For the first time, more finalists across all three prizes are women. Female subjects also outnumber male, but this is not the first time this has occurred. 

The Packing Room Prize is a cash prize awarded by the AGNSW gallery staff, who unpack and hang the entries. Head Packer Brett Cuthbertson, who holds 52 percent of the vote, has worked at the gallery for some 40 years.

“Kathrin’s work fits my criteria. It’s a portrait of a well-known celebrity and it looks like her! I met Kate Ceberano many years ago and Kathrin has really captured her likeness. As soon as I saw the work, I thought ‘that’s it’,” said Cuthbertson.

Limelight’s regular cartoonist, Peter Berner, was also named as a finalist in the Archibald, with a portrait of himself pouting.

Archibald Prize finalist Peter BernerStop pouting, you’ve had your turn by Peter Berner

‘I’ve seen many expressions depicted in portraits: contemplative, heroic, humble, knowing, wry, comic, sad… but never pouting,’ said Berner.

Other subjects of this year’s finalists include 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame, painted by Kirsty Neilson, New South Wales Governor Margaret Beazley by Tsering Hannaford, and journalist Kerry O’Brien James Powditch. As in past years, the entries included a large number of portraits of other artists, including 100-year old Guy Warren, as well as many self-portraits. 

Among other finalists include Sydney artist Oliver Watts who painted a portrait of Australian actress Eryn Jean Norvill as Dorian Gray in Sydney Theatre Company’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Jeremy Eden’s portrait of actor Firass Dirani.

Finalists for the Archibald, Wynne, and Sulman Prizes will be displayed at the AGNSW from 5 June to 26 September before travelling regionally through NSW and Victoria from October. Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize, a retrospective of the competition’s 100 years, will also be exhibited at the AGNSW. More information about this year’s prizes can be found here

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