Tonight Rachel Griffiths embarks on her hunt through 100 years of Archibald history to find one portrait that captures the changing face of the nation.
The opening episode traces the arc of Archibald history: from 1921, when the prize was founded under the cloud of the White Australia policy, through to 2020, when the Archibald was awarded to an Indigenous painter for the first time in its history.
As Rachel is on the hunt for her ‘One’ she meets Natalie Wilson from the Art Gallery, who is on the prowl for 100 portraits for her centenary exhibition. It’s a monumental task – there are 6000-plus Archibald finalists to choose from … but most of them are missing.
To help her on her mission, Rachel meets judges (Ben Quilty), artists (Tony Albert and Vincent Fantauzzo) and sitters (Wendy Whiteley and Asher Keddie) to gauge what makes a good portrait and understand how the cult of celebrity has changed the Archibald.
She goes underground to discover the enigma of J F Archibald, whose will has been hotly contested – most ferociously in 1943 when the dispute landed the gallery in court and pushed WWII off the front pages.
Meanwhile, Natalie issues a call to arms for missing portraits, and races around Canberra finding Archibald gems at new and old Parliament House as her centenary exhibition begins to take shape.
Rachel has seen dozens of epic Archibalds but the 1956 William Dargie portrait of Albert Namatjira resonates with her for artistic and historical reasons. To help her cull her growing list she’s accrued along the way Rachel gathers her two mates: Dr Chris McAuliffe (a bona fide art expert) and Steph Tisdell (no expert but knows what she likes) to scroll through her iPad list.
As they project her favourites onto a cinema screen the team helps her to decide whether to swipe left or right in a bid to narrow her shortlist. And then it’s the 2020 prize as Vincent Namatjira, a great-grandson of Albert, rewrites the history books in an emotional and powerful finale.
Production credits: A Mint Pictures production in association with Magdalene Media. Principal production investment from Screen Australia and the ABC. In association with Screen NSW and Film Victoria. Series Director Ariel White. Series Producer Dan Goldberg. Executive Producers Adam Kay and Rachel Griffiths. ABC Manager Factual Julia Hanna. ABC Managing Editor, Factual Richard Huddleston. Head of Factual and Culture Jennifer Collins.