Archibald prize 2024: Laura Jones wins $100,000 for portrait of Tim Winton

<span>Laura Jones’ portrait of Tim Winton, which has won the 2024 Archibald prize.</span><span>Photograph: Jenni Carter/Art Gallery of NSW</span>
Laura Jones’ portrait of Tim Winton, which has won the 2024 Archibald prize.Photograph: Jenni Carter/Art Gallery of NSW

Laura Jones has won the 2024 Archibald prize for her portrait of the Australian author Tim Winton.

Announced at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on Friday, the winning work was chosen unanimously by the judges from 1,005 entries and 57 finalists. Jones is just the 12th woman to win the prize since the Archibald started in 1921.

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Accepting Australia’s oldest and most celebrated portraiture prize, the artist said she grew up studying Winton’s novel Cloudstreet, which had “enchanted generations of Australians”.

“I hope that my painting reminds everyone what an incredible and inspiring human being [Winton] is,” said Jones, who first met the writer in 2017 at an environmental advocacy event, where they spoke about “our shared love of the environment”.

Jones added: “He has worked so hard to save Ningaloo Reef and he said about Ningaloo that it’s a place that could teach us how to get things right.”

Winton was not present at the ceremony, but had called to congratulate Jones on Friday morning.

“He made a joke that he thought he looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he does. We all do and I hope that we can all unite for the environment,” Jones said.

The AGNSW director, Michael Brand, praised Jones’s portrait for its sensitivity and ability to convey a strong connection between the artist and the sitter.

“Laura’s bold but tender depiction of Tim’s face captures his vulnerability, while his figure melds into the background of wonderful watery brushstrokes,” Brand said in a statement.

“He is very present in the painting, making it a most deserving winner.”

As only the 12th woman to win the Archibald prize, Jones said: “As a little girl in Kurrajong, I dreamed about being an artist. I’ve been lucky enough to make that dream come true. More than any other event today shows that I wasn’t completely crazy.”

The $100,000 prize is awarded to the best portrait of a person “distinguished in art, letters, science or politics” painted by an Australian resident and has been running since 1921.

The Archibald prize is announced each year alongside the $50,000 Wynne prize for landscape painting and figurative sculpture, and the $40,000 Sulman prize for genre, subject and mural painting.

A record 2,371 entries were received across the three prizes this year, with the highest number of First Nations entrants in both the Archibald and Wynne categories ever recorded. More than half of the artists hung across all three categories were first-time finalists.

Also announced on Friday, Pitjantjatjara artist Naomi Kantjuriny won the $40,000 Sulman prize for genre, subject and mural painting, for her work Minyma mamu tjuta. The painting depicts mamu, which are a form of spirit.

Kantjuriny could not travel to the AGNSW to receive her prize, but in a statement she said she was “so happy” and paid tribute to Tjala Arts, the art centre in Amata where she works.

“The story of the mamu is a story we sing and dance to. Mamu are good and bad spirits, sometimes they hold scary stories that teach lessons to the grandkids, sometimes they are funny and joyful stories that make us all laugh. Mamu also protect us from illness and danger. Our culture is in everything we do, and I hope culture will be celebrated at Tjala Arts forever, but today is a happy day,” she added.

Artist Djakaŋu Yunupiŋu won the $50,000 Wynne prize for landscape painting and figurative sculpture for her painting Nyalala gurmilili, painted with natural pigments on bark. The painting depicts miwatj, or “sunrise side” in Yolŋu Matha, which is the first light that reaches north-eastern Arnhem Land as the sun rises.

Yunupiŋu, a Yolŋu elder based in Yirrkala in the Northern Territory, was also not present at the AGNSW but said in a recorded message: “I am one of seven sisters. There are only three of us left now. The songs of this painting were given to me by our father, Muŋgurrawuy. It shows the songs of the seven sisters in the stars crying. Now I am crying. But this time with happiness.”

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Last week the Victorian artist Matt Adnate collected the $3,000 packing room prize – selected by gallery staff who hang the paintings – for his portrait of Indigenous rapper Baker Boy.

All three exhibitions will go on public display at the AGNSW from 8 June, with visitors invited to vote for the $5,000 People’s Choice award, to be announced on 8 August.

The 138 finalists across all three prizes will be exhibited at the AGNSW from 8 June to 8 September, before going on tour to selected regional areas in NSW and the NT.