Tony Albert Wins Australian Art Award with Controversial Piece

We Can Be Heroes (2013–14)Photo: ABC Australia

The Australian artist Tony Albert has won the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, one of Australia’s most prestigious art awards, The Guardian reported.

The 33 year-old Sydney-based Aboriginal artist pocketed the $50,000 prize for his photographic series We Can Be Heroes (2013-14). The series consists of 20 portraits of male Aboriginal high school students, as well as the artist himself, each with a red target painted on their chest.

The work was inspired by the 2012 police shooting of two aboriginal teenagers aged 14 and 17 that sparked protests around Australia. “Young Aboriginal men, friends of the boys … actually tore their shirts off during the protest and had targets drawn on their body,” Albert remembers.

“Headlines or articles about Aboriginal people are almost always negative or have negative connotations attached” said the artist, “so I wanted to work with these young men about how, in the face of adversity, we respond to the target that is always going to be there? How are we going to wear it and how can we present ourselves and be proud and defiant?”

Award Judge Tina Baum, curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra selected Albert from 306 entries. The works of the 65 finalists are on show at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

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