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 of groundbreaking artist Robert Wilson will be featured in Australia’s first and exclusive exhibition, Robert Wilson: Moving portraits, alongside Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize – a national traveling exhibition that celebrates the 100 years of Australia’s most prestigious portrait award. 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. Simultaneously, an exhibition of Robert Wilson’s intricate video portraits, never before seen in Australia, presents a gripping scene on which 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 the richly painted works of the Archibald Prize to the video portraiture of Robert Wilson,” said Devenport.

Robert Wilson: moving portraits

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

In an Australian exclusive, the Art Gallery of South Australia presents Robert Wilson: Moving portraits, an anthology of video portraits that uncover the theatrical language of influential New York theater director and artist Robert Wilson, curated by the director of the AGSA Rhana Devenport. Depicting famous contemporary artists, including Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt, Isabella Rossellini, Robert Downey Jr and Winona Ryder, alongside artists, writers and animals, Wilson’s striking yet imperceptibly slow-moving 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 keen understanding of stillness.

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

Robert Wilson says, ‘Some of the subjects we’ve 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 is interested for example in a theatrical project on Mary Queen of Scots. Isabelle Huppert’s face, on the other hand, always reminded me of Greta Garbo. And sometimes, like in the portrait of Princess Caroline, it was interesting to photograph her in a pose that her mother Grace Kelly strikes in 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) has staged landmark works such as Philip Glass’s contemporary opera Einstein on the Beach and has collaborated with Marianne Faithfull, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, William S. Burroughs, Willem Dafoe, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Tom Waits, 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 acclaimed 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 Kathryn Barton. Local audiences will recognize the works of South Australian artists including Nora Heysen, Tjungkara Ken, Robert Hannaford, Jacqueline Hick, Barbara Robertson, Ivor Hele and Vincent Namatjira – the first Indigenous artist to win the Archibald Prize and winner of the Archibald Prize. art Ramsay of the AGSA 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 portrait stories 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 Wilson, born in Waco, Texas, in 1941, Lady Gaga: Ms. Caroline Rivière, 2013, HD video, music by Michael Galasso; Courtesy of RW Work Ltd. (2) Robert Wilson, born in Waco, Texas, in 1941, Isabelle Rossellini, actress, 2005, HD video, music by Henri Rene and His Orchestra, voice by Robert Wilson; Courtesy of RW Work Ltd.

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

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

William E. Bennett