Opening of two portrait exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia

The enduring power of portraiture through time will be on display when two major exhibitions open at the Art Gallery of South Australia in July. Large-scale video portraits by a revolutionary artist Robert Wilson will be featured in the Australian premiere and exclusive exhibition, Robert Wilson: Moving Portraits, alongside Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize – a national traveling exhibition celebrating 100 years of Australia’s most prestigious portrait prize. A ticket will allow the public to discover the two exhibitions.

AGSA Director Rhana Devenport ONZM said: “We are delighted to bring Archie 100 to the AGSA, giving local audiences the first-ever opportunity to experience an exhibition of Archibald Prize portraits here in South Australia. At the same time, an exhibition of Robert WilsonThe intricately produced video portraits, never before seen in Australia, present a gripping scene to reflect on our notions of celebrity and the power of the gaze in unexpected ways.

“Visitors will witness the beauty and appeal of portraiture in its many forms in this double-headed offering, from richly painted works from the Archibald Prize to Robert Wilsonof video portraiture,” says Devenport.

Robert Wilson: Portraits in motion

Since the beginning of my theater career, I have been fascinated by stillness and the movement that is in stillness… – Robert Wilson

Exclusively in Australia, the Art Gallery of South Australia presents Robert Wilson: Moving portraits, an anthology of video portraits that unveil the theatrical language of an influential New York director and artist Robert Wilson, organized by Rhana Devenport, Director of the AGSA. Representing famous contemporary artists including Lady Gaga, brad pitt, Isabelle Rossellini, Robert Downey Junior and winona ryderalongside artists, writers and animals, Wilson’s arresting yet imperceptibly slow video portraits blur temporal cinematography with the frozen moment of still photography.

Opening July 9, Moving portraits features over twenty large-scale, high-definition video portraits. Each portrait incorporates a multitude of creative elements – lighting, costume, make-up, choreography, set design and sound – to reflect Wilson’s interest in the body and the power of the gaze, as well as his acute understanding of stillness.

Several of the video portraits refer to pivotal moments in art history and were created through collaborations with renowned artists such as Lady Gaga, who held the same position for seven hours in her recreation of Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ famous 1806 painting, in which a lone tear rolls down her cheek. Another video portrait sees the actor brad pitt standing in the rain, holding a pistol which he slowly raises and aims at the viewer, the tension erupts when the weapon turns out to be a water pistol.

Robert Wilson said, ‘Some of the subjects we have portrayed – brad pitt, Sean Penn – are more themselves; perhaps with the addition of associations I have with them. In others, there are biographical elements. Jeanne Moreau was interested for example in a theatrical project on Mary Queen of Scots. The face of Isabelle Huppert, on the other hand, always reminded me of Greta Garbo. And sometimes, as in the portrait of Princess Caroline, it was interesting to photograph her in a pose her mother Grace Kelly hits Hitchcock’s rear window. All images have multiple layers of hints. They are personal and poetic statements of different personalities.

Other portraits feature untrained animals captured by the video camera in long, uninterrupted shots, such as an elk, a panther, an owl, and a porcupine. Driven by his uncomfortable experiences as a child forced to hunt deer with his father, Wilson reconfigures the gaze of these animals to create moments of connection between the human and animal world.

Internationally acclaimed for his radically inventive theatrical and lyrical direction, Wilson (b. 1941) staged landmark works such as Philip Glassof the contemporary opera Einstein on the Beach, and collaborated with Marianne Faithfull, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, William S. Burroughs, Willem Dafoe, Mikhail Baryshnikov, tom is waiting, Lou Reed, and many more, in a career that has influenced generations of artists in all art forms. Wilson has many productions playing in theaters and opera houses around the world. Although best known for his theatrical pieces, Wilson’s work is firmly rooted in fine art having shown major exhibitions in museums and galleries including the Louvre, Paris; Center Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Acting as thematic touchstones, rarely seen works and new acquisitions from AGSA’s renowned collection will complement each video portrait – from a 2nd-century marble sculpture of Roman Aphrodite to an embroidered garment from the fashion house. Australian Romance Was Born. In addition, each screen plays its own soundscape – drawn from classical, experimental and popular music, to spoken word recordings. In this way, each portrait becomes a rich tableau of artistic media – an otherworldly encounter in a language that is entirely her own.

Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize

The Art Gallery of South Australia is South Australia’s exclusive venue for Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize, a traveling exhibition from the Art Gallery of New South Wales celebrating 100 years of the most prestigious portrait prize from Australia.

Open July 9, Archie 100 features a diverse collection of portraits of Archibald from every decade of the last century, honoring the artists who made the award “the face that arrests the nation.” Arranged thematically, Archie 100 not only reflects how artistic styles and approaches to portraiture have changed over time, but, most importantly, the changing face of our nation.

Archie 100 includes works by some of Australia’s most famous and sometimes controversial artists, including William Dobell, Wendy Sharpe, Ben Quilty, Brett Whiteley and Del Catherine Barton. Local audiences will recognize the works of South Australian artists including Nora Heysen, Tjungkara Ken, Robert Hannaford, Jacqueline Hick, Barbara RobertsonIvor Hele and Vincent Namatjira – the first Indigenous artist to win the Archibald Prize and winner of the AGSA’s Ramsay Art Prize in 2019.

The result of many years of research and a nationwide call to help locate lost portraits, Archie 100 features works from private and public collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Portrait Gallery, National Library of Australia , the State Library of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand said Archie 100 offered a remarkable insight into Australian society and culture.

“Since its inception, the Archibald Prize has attracted nominations from prominent and emerging artists from Australia and New Zealand, as well as famous personalities from all walks of life, from famous faces to local heroes. We look forward to sharing Archie 100 with visitors as it tours Australia and, for the first time, with South Australian audiences.

Exhibition curator and Curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of NSW, Natalie Wilson, said: “Each portrait selected for Archie 100 offers an exciting glimpse into a specific moment in time. Visitors can expect to see and learn about stories of portraits of famous identities from the last century, beautiful portraits of intriguing characters whose names are now forgotten, and works that have not been seen in public since. their first exhibition as part of the Archibald Prize.


First awarded in 1921, the Archibald Prize was created following a bequest from the former trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW and founder of The Bulletin magazine, JF Archibald (1856-1919), whose purpose was to promote portraiture, support artists and perpetuate the memory of great Australians. The public competition, which is judged by the Gallery’s trustees, has been awarded annually (with two exceptions: 1964 and 1980) to the best portrait, “preferably of a distinguished man or woman in the arts, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist residing in Australasia”.


Robert Wilson: Moving portraits and Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize are on display at the Art Gallery of South Australia from July 9 to October 3, 2022. Purchase an exhibition ticket and gain access to both exhibitions. Buy your tickets online at

Photo credits : (1) Robert Wilsonborn in Waco, Texas, in 1941, Lady Gaga: Ms. Caroline Rivière2013, HD video, music by Michael Galasso; Courtesy of RW Work Ltd. (2) Robert Wilsonborn in Waco, Texas, in 1941, Isabelle RosselliniActor2005, HD video, music by Henri René and his orchestra, voice of Robert Wilson; Courtesy of RW Work Ltd.

Photo credits: (3) John Brack, Barry Humphries in the character of Mrs. Everage, 1969, oil on canvas, 94.5 x 128.2 cm; Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council Contemporary Art Purchase Grant, 1975, © Helen Brack.

Opening of two portrait exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia

Christopher S. Washington