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Archibald Winner Makes History

The 2019 Archibald Prize has gone to a portrait featuring an Asian-Australian sitter, for the first time in the competition's 98-year history.

Painted by Sydney artist Tony Costa, the image captures Zen Buddhist Lindy Lee, who is also a leading contemporary artist in her own right.

Costa, who was also a finalist in 2015, 2017 and 2018, said he was "overwhelmed, honoured and thrilled" by the news.

“I am very aware of all those who have come before me as Archibald Prize winners and I am humbled, to say the least," he said.

“What matters to me is not visual accuracy but feelings above all else.  In a nutshell, that’s what I do."

READ MOREHere Are Some Of The Archibald Prize Finalists In 2019

Costa decided to feature Lee after listening to an interview she gave at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

"[I] found myself agreeing with many of her ideas," Costa said.

"I was attracted to her wisdom, humility, courage, humour and, above all, her deep focus regarding her art practice."

Lee, who was an Archibald finalist herself in 2002, has also appeared as a subject in 2006 and 2012.

The portrait was chosen from among 51 artworks, which included 11 self-portraits alongside portraits of public figures such as ABC personalities Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales, Benjamin Law and Dylan Alcott.

'Dylan' acrylic and aerosol on canvas, by Kirpy. Image: Supplied
'Leigh' (detail) oil and acrylic on board, by Mirra Whale. Image: Supplied

The $50,000 Wynne Prize for landscape painting or figure sculpture went to Indigenous artist Sylvia Ken, while the $40,000 Sulman Prize for subject, genre or mural, went to Sydney artist Maclean Edwards.

First-time entrant Tessa MacKay was awarded the Packing Room Prize last week.

Her photo-realistic portrait of actor David Wenham, titled 'Through the looking glass', was a no-brainer for head packer Brett Cutherbertson.

As soon as I saw it, I was like, 'that's the one I want -- thank God!'" Cutherbertson said.

'Through the looking glass': Image: AGNSW

The public exhibition of finalists in the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes will open on Saturday at the Art Gallery of NSW, before going on a tour of regional NSW and Victorian galleries in September.

Contact the author vquested@networkten.com.au