Two portrait exhibitions open at the Art Gallery of South Australia

The enduring power of portraiture over time will be seen when two major exhibitions open at the Art Gallery of South Australia in July. Large format video portraits by pioneering artist Robert Wilson are presented in the Australian premiere and exclusive exhibition Robert Wilson: Moving portraits alongside Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize – a national touring exhibition celebrating 100 years of Australia’s most prestigious portrait award. One ticket gives the public access to both exhibitions.

AGSA Director Rhana Devenport ONZM said: “We are delighted to present Archie 100 at AGSA and to offer local audiences the first opportunity to experience an exhibition of Archibald Prize portraits here in South Australia. At the same time, an exhibition of Robert Wilson’s painstakingly produced video portraits, never before seen in Australia, provides a compelling stage on which to reflect on our notions of celebrity and the power of the gaze in unexpected ways.”

“Visitors will experience the beauty and allure of portraiture in its many forms in this dual-headed offering, from the richly painted works of the Archibald Prize to Robert Wilson’s video portraits,” says Devenport.

Robert Wilson: Moving Portraits

From the beginning of my career in theater 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 revealing the theatrical language of influential New York theater director and artist Robert Wilson, curated by AGSA Director Rhana Devenport. Wilson’s arresting but imperceptibly slow video portraits feature acclaimed contemporary performers including Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt, Isabella Rossellini, Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder alongside artists, writers and animals, blurring time-based cinematography with the frozen moment of still photography.

Opening on July 9th, Moving Portraits features more than twenty high-resolution, large-format video portraits. Each portrait incorporates a variety of creative elements – lighting, costume, makeup, choreography, scenography and sound – to reflect Wilson’s interest in the body and the power of the gaze, as well as his keen understanding of stillness.

Some of the video portraits refer to defining moments in art history and have been created in collaboration with renowned performers such as Lady Gaga, who occupied the same position for seven hours in her re-enactment of Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ famous 1806 painting, on with a single tear rolling down her cheek. Another video portrait shows actor Brad Pitt in the rain, holding a gun, which he slowly raises and aims at the viewer. The tension releases when the weapon turns out to be a water pistol.

Robert Wilson says, “Some of the people we’ve portrayed – Brad Pitt, Sean Penn – are more like themselves; perhaps with the addition of associations I have with them. Others have biographical elements. For example, Jeanne Moreau was interested in a theater project about Mary Queen of Scots. Isabelle Huppert’s face, on the other hand, always reminded me of Greta Garbo. And sometimes, as with the portrait of Princess Caroline, it was interesting to photograph her posing with her mother, Grace Kelly, in Hitchcock’s rear window. All images have multiple levels of innuendo. They are personal, poetic statements by different personalities.’

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

Internationally acclaimed for his radically innovative theater and operatic direction, Wilson (born 1941) has directed seminal works such as the contemporary opera Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass and has collaborated with Marianne Faithfull, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, William S. Burroughs and 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 seen numerous productions in theaters and operas worldwide. Although Wilson is best known for his plays, his work is firmly rooted in the visual arts and has had major exhibitions in museums and galleries including the Louvre, Paris; Center Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

As thematic touchstones, rarely seen works and new acquisitions from AGSA’s acclaimed collection will complement each video portrait – from a second-century Roman marble sculpture of Aphrodite to an embroidered garment by Australian fashion house Romance Was Born. In addition, each screen casts its own soundscape – from classical, experimental and popular music to voice recordings. In this way each portrait becomes a rich tableau of artistic media – an otherworldly encounter in a language that is entirely Wilson’s own.

Archie 100: A Century of Archibald Prize

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

Archie 100 opens on July 9th and presents a diverse collection of Archibald portraits from every decade of the last century to celebrate the artists who made the Face Stopping the Nation award. Arranged by topic, Archie 100 reflects not only how artistic styles and approaches to portraiture have changed over time, but more importantly, the changing face of our nation.

Archie 100 features work by some of Australia’s most celebrated and sometimes controversial artists, including William Dobell, Wendy Sharpe, Ben Quilty, Brett Whiteley and Del Kathryn Barton. Local audiences will recognize work by 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 AGSA’s Ramsay Art Prize in the Year 2019 won .

Archie 100 is the result of years of research and a national appeal to help find 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 and State Library of New South Wales, National Gallery of Victoria and Art Gallery of South Australia .

The director of the Art Gallery of NSW, Dr. Michael Brand said Archie 100 offers remarkable insights into Australia’s society and culture.

“Since its inception, the Archibald Prize has attracted entries from both prominent and emerging artists from Australia and New Zealand, as well as celebrated figures 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 commented: “Each portrait chosen for Archie 100 offers an exciting insight into a specific moment in time. Visitors can expect to see and discover stories of famous identity portraits from the past century, magnificent portraits of intriguing characters whose names have now been forgotten, and works that have not been shown publicly since they were first exhibited as part of the Archibald Prize .’


First awarded in 1921, the Archibald Prize was created following a legacy from former trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW and founder of The Bulletin, JF Archibald (1856-1919), whose aim was to promote portraiture to artists support and perpetuate the memory of great Australians. The open competition, judged by the gallery’s curators, was awarded annually (with two exceptions: 1964 and 1980) to the best portrait painted “preferably of a man or woman eminent in the arts, literature, science or politics of any artist based in Australasia”.


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

Photo credit: (1) Robert Wilson, born 1941 in Waco, Texas, Lady Gaga: Mlle. Caroline Riviere, 2013, HD video, music by Michael Galasso; Courtesy of RW Work Ltd. (2) Robert Wilson was born in Waco, Texas in 1941. Isabella Rossellini, actress, 2005, HD video, music by Henri Rene and His Orchestra, voice by Robert Wilson; Courtesy of RW Work Ltd.

Photo credit: (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 from the Australia Council’s Visual Arts Board Contemporary Art Purchase Grant, 1975, © Helen Brack.

Two portrait exhibitions open at the Art Gallery of South Australia

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