This morning, the finalists for the 2022 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes were revealed at the Art Gallery of NSW. And, as per tradition, the Packing Room Prize – awarded by the team that unpacks the Archibald entries as they come in – was also announced. This year, the prize was won by Claus Stangl, for his 3D-style portrait of filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi. It’s the second time Stangl has been an Archibald finalist, and the fourth time he has entered.

“This year the sitter that I’ve chosen, in this world full of war and Covid that is pretty miserable at times, is a guy [that] has a vision and a twisted sense of humour we all need right now,” said head packer Brett Cuthbertson, who gets 52 per cent of the Packing Room voting rights. “The artist has been a finalist here before, but he’s hit the big time now.”

“I’ve really loved his work for years,” Stangl said of Waititi. “It’s the light in the dark, it’s the levity we need. I first came across him when I watched Boy in 2010, an amazing film, an absolute charm. He brought that charm to the sitting … he’s a guy who’s completely comfortable in front of the camera, as well as working behind the lens. He just basically performed and did … the charismatic thing he has.”

After more than 40 years with the gallery, Cuthbertson is retiring, making 2022 the last time he’ll judge the Packing Room Prize. The prize has been awarded since 1991, and is typically bestowed upon paintings with well-known sitters – recent winners have included portraits of Jimmy Barnes and actors David Wenham and Meyne Wyatt.

This year, the Archibald (awarded for portraits of those involved in the arts, letters, science or politics), Wynne (landscape) and Sulman (best subject painting, genre painting or mural project) prizes saw the highest number of entries ever from Aboriginal artists, and a 50/50 gender parity. The vast majority of entries came from NSW.

Well-known public figures who sat for Archibald finalists this year include artist Patricia Piccinini, Western Sydney drill group Onefour, Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett, actor Lisa McCune, artist Karla Dickens, author Helen Garner, presenter Yumi Stynes, journalist Laura Tingle, drag performer Courtney Act, Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott and writer and broadcaster Benjamin Law (well, his butt). Artists whose works made the cut include Daniel Boyd, Yvette Coppersmith, Anh Do, Blak Douglas, Solomon Kammer, Vincent Namatjira, Wendy Sharpe and Emily Crockford.

The winners of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes – and of $100,000, $50,000 and $40,000 respectively – will be announced next Friday, May 13.

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2022 exhibition will run from May 14 to August 28 at the Art Gallery of NSW. It’ll then tour to Melbourne, the Blue Mountains, Grafton, Wagga Wagga, Lake Macquarie and Dubbo.