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Winner: Archibald Prize 1978

Brett Whiteley Art, life and the other thing

oil, photograph and mixed media on board

3 panels: 244 x 198 cm overall

In 1978 Brett Whiteley became the first artist to win all three prizes – Archibald, Wynne and Sulman – in the same year.

Critics were divided by this brutally honest self-portrait by Whiteley, which won the artist the Archibald Prize for a second time. (His first win was in 1976.)

The elongated image in the centre references the infamous debate over William Dobell’s Archibald-winning portrait of Joshua Smith of 1943. It is flanked on one side by a baboon howling with anguish as a ghostly hand delivers it a syringe (a reference to Whiteley’s heroin addiction), and on the other by a photograph of Whiteley.

The work is now in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW.