The 2019 Archibald Prize winner has been announced. Sydney artist Tony Costa has taken it out with his portrait of Lindy Lee, an Australian contemporary artist and Zen Buddhist. The oil painting depicts her in a meditative pose and is the first portrait in the Archibald's 98-year history to feature an Asian-Australian sitter.
Costa has been an Archibald finalist previously, in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He’s also had works in the Wynne Prize, Sulman Prize and Dobell Prize for Drawing. In 2014 he won the Paddington Art Prize for landscape painting.
Lindy Lee uses her work to explore her Chinese roots and Buddhist faith. She’s considered one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists and was an Archibald finalist in 2002, and subject in 2006 and 2012.
Costa says he was inspired to paint Lee after hearing an interview with her at the Art Gallery of NSW. “I was attracted to her wisdom, humility, courage, humour and, above all, her deep focus regarding her art practice,’ Costa said in a statement. “In my portrait of Lindy, I have kept the colour minimal to avoid any visual noise. The challenge for me was to capture the energy of Lindy – the emotional over and above the physical,” Costa added.
The Art Gallery of NSW's director, Michael Brand, said in a statement that the work was chosen for its "close and sympathetic observation".
"Its strong, expressive painterliness and minimal palette project a sense of calm and repose, reflective of Lindy Lee’s Zen Buddhist practice,” he said.
This comes on the back of the announcement last Friday of the Packing Room Prize, which is awarded by the team that unwraps and hangs the Archibald Prize. It was won by Tessa MacKay for her painting of actor David Wenham (Lord of the Rings, 300, Lion).
Costa has beaten 50 other Archibald finalists, including Paul Ryan, Anh Do, Tsering Hannaford and Blak Douglas for the $100,000 prize. Other portraits were of well-known Australians including writer and actor Nakkiah Lui; Paralympian Dylan Alcott; media personalities Benjamin Law, Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb; and Archibald-winning artist Del Kathryn Barton. The Archibald has been awarded annually since 1921 to the best depiction by an Australian resident of a person of note from the worlds of art, letters, science and politics.
The public will be able to view Costa's work, as well as the other shortlisted portraits, from tomorrow, May 11 until September 8 at the Art Gallery of NSW. The exhibition will then travel around NSW until August 2020.