A portrait of actor David Wenham by artist Tessa MacKay has won the 2019 Packing Room Prize.

The $1500 Packing Room Prize is selected by gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang entries with the head packer commanding 52 percent of the vote.

Tessa Mackay’s ‘Through the looking glass’ (oil on linen, 210 x 330.5 cm) has won the Packing Room Prize.
Credit:© the artist

Following the retirement of veteran head packer Steve Peters, new man Brett Cuthbertson last year selected the instantly recognisable portrait of Jimmy Barnes by young Sydney artist Jamie Preisz.

This year Cuthbertson opted for the Wenham portrait titled Through the Looking Glass, an entry that arrived on the very last day.

MacKay, a first time finalist, met Wenham through her writer-director husband Roderick who spoke on behalf of Wenham who was filming a Netflix series in Prague.

Finalists for the Archibald (portrait), Wynne (landscape or figurative sculpture) and Sulman (genre, subject or mural) prizes and the Young Archie were also unveiled.

The Archibald carries $100,000 prize money for the winning artist with entries to be painted in the past year, from at least one live sitting. The Packing Room Prize reflects popular sentiment but no winner has gone on to win the main prize.

Among the 51 finalists for Australia's oldest and arguably most popular art prize are leading lights of Australian contemporary art, former Archibald Prize winners Euan Macleod, Del Kathryn Barton, and Nigel Milsom.

Like Barton, Vincent Namatjira, Mirra Whale, and Tsering Hannaford were finalists for the second year in a row.

Highly commended last year, Namatjira painted fellow Indigenous artist Tony Albert, renowned for his fascination with kitsch ''Aboriginalia''.

Most finalists were either self-portraits or of sitters from the art world.  Imants Tillers painted Greg Inglis while Jun Chen's portrait of Li Cinxin, director of Queensland Ballet, captures ''Mao's Last Dancer'' in rehearsals. Vietnamese born artist, comedian, and author Anh Do painted artist, director and a founder of the Yellow House Artist Collective, George Gittoes.

ABC identities and friends Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales were captured separately by artists Jordan Richardson and Mirra Whale.

Musician Megan Washington was painted by Loribelle Spirovski with baby, while artists Katherine Edney and Natasha Bieniek painted themselves in advanced stages of pregnancy.

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