Nick Stathopoulos began thinking seriously about Wayne Tunnicliffe as a potential Archibald sitter on his second (or third) visit to the Arthur Streeton retrospective in 2020, which Tunnicliffe curated for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where he is head curator of Australian art.
‘I wanted to know more about the person behind the exhibition, as it was so impressive. What better way to get to know someone than to have them sit for you?’ says Stathopoulos.
Wanting to visually connect Tunnicliffe to the Art Gallery without it being too obvious, Stathopoulos initially imagined a blurry, wintery image of the building in the background. However, Brett Whiteley and Matthew Dillon’s giant matchstick sculpture, Almost once 1968, 1991, proved more visually appealing, especially when coupled with his sitter’s bright red scarf. Although Stathopoulos didn’t realise it at the time, Tunnicliffe also oversees the Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills, Sydney – an unintentionally perfect connection.
An Archibald finalist on seven previous occasions, Stathopoulos won the People’s Choice in 2016 with a portrait of Sudanese refugee and lawyer Deng Adut.