A painting of the actor David Wenham by Tessa MacKay has won the 2019 Archibald Packing Room Prize, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has announced. The Prize, worth $1500, is awarded by gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang entries, with head packer Brett Cuthbertson wielding 52 percent of the vote. A first-time finalist, MacKay’s hyperrealist portrait Through the looking glasssees the actor depicted in a café behind a glass pane. This marks the third time that Wenham has been the subject of an Archibald entry – he was depicted just last year by Jordan Richardson and was the subject of Adam Cullen’s Archibald Prize winner in 2000.

Archibald Prize Tessa MacKay’s Through the looking glass, oil on linen, 210 x 330.5 cm © the artist. Photo: AGNSW, Mim Stirling

MacKay said she was “thrilled” to receive the news of her win. “It took a while for the news to properly land with me. I was still processing the fact that I was a finalist.”

“Portraiture provides an opportunity for me to capture my subject’s personality, drawing the viewer’s empathy and curiosity… David’s thoughtful gaze in the middle of the work...