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Julia Gutman wins Archibald Prize 2023 for portrait of Montaigne

5 May 2023

Archibald Prize 2023 finalist Julia Gutman 'Head in the sky, feet on the ground'

Winner Archibald Prize 2023, Julia Gutman Head in the sky, feet on the ground, oil, found textiles and embroidery on canvas, 198 x 213.6 cm © the artist, image © AGNSW, Jenni Carter

Sydney-based artist Julia Gutman has won the Archibald Prize 2023 and $100,000 for her portrait, Head in the sky, feet on the ground, of singer-songwriter Montaigne.

The 29-year-old first-time Archibald Prize finalist is one of the youngest winners in the 102-year-history of the prize. Gutman’s win also marks the 13th time the Archibald Prize has been awarded to a woman (11th woman to win) since it began in 1921. 

Gutman was delighted and amazed when Art Gallery of New South Wales director Michael Brand phoned to tell her that she had won this year’s Archibald Prize.

‘I’m so elated and overwhelmed to have won. Shocked, dumbfounded, but very happy. It’s honestly completely surreal. I’m so grateful to be working at a time when young female voices are heard’, said Gutman.

‘So much of my practice is devoted to revisiting, critiquing and contending with the histories housed in institutions. It’s so affirming for that conversation to be recognised in such a public way.

‘Montaigne and I have been friends for a few years and there is a lot of alignment in our practices; we are both interested in creating our own forms and approaches rather than strictly adhering to any one tradition.

‘Montaigne’s work defies genres, while her mercurial soprano has become an indelible part of the fabric of Australian music.’

Gutman is a multi-disciplinary artist who reuses found textiles to produce painted ‘patchworks’ that merge personal and collective histories to explore themes of femininity, intimacy and memory.  She was included in the Primavera 2022: Young Australian Artists exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, was a finalist in the 2021 Ramsay Art Prize and was awarded the Create NSW 2020 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship.

Montaigne is a Sydney-based singer who has become an important figure on the Australian indie music scene. She represented Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2021, and in 2016 won an ARIA award for Best Breakthrough Artist. She is the first female musician to be the subject of an Archibald Prize winning portrait.

On hearing of Gutman’s win, Montaigne said: ‘It’s such an insane honour to be the Archibald Prize winning sitter. I sure didn’t see it coming, not because I don’t believe in Julia’s incredible talent and warm heart, but because you just never think this stuff is going to happen to you. Thank you so much to Julia for seeing me as a worthy sitter for her beautiful vision!'

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said Gutman’s painting was selected as one of 57 finalists and then as the winner from 949 entries for the Archibald Prize.

‘Like many contemporary artists, Julia is interested in the expanded field of painting. In this remarkable tender portrait of a young musician who is making her way in a tough business, we see an intimacy and vulnerability that is truly compelling. I congratulate Julia on creating this magnificently worthy winner,’ Brand said.

The Archibald Prize and the Wynne Prize winners are decided by the Art Gallery’s Board of Trustees. Board president David Gonski said, ‘I congratulate all of the finalists in the 2023 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes. This year, the trustees were impressed with such a high standard of works, but the winning artists captivated us all. The decision about this Archibald Prize winner was unanimous.’ 

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes and the Young Archie competition are generously supported by presenting partner ANZ.

Mark Whelan, Group Executive, Institutional at ANZ was delighted to hear Julia Gutman had been named as the winner of the Archibald Prize 2023. Whelan said: ‘To be awarded the Archibald Prize is a significant achievement and we congratulate Julia. The Archibald Prize is one of Australia’s most distinguished and celebrated awards, which showcases the depth of Australia’s artistic talent and makes it widely accessible. We are proud to have supported this iconic exhibition for 14 years.’

Wynne Prize 2023 finalist Zaachariaha Fielding ‘Inma’

Zaachariaha Fielding Inma 2023 © the artist

Zaachariaha Fielding wins the Wynne Prize 2023

First-time Wynne Prize finalist Zaachariaha Fielding has won the Wynne Prize 2023 for his painting Inma, which depicts the sounds of Mimili, a small community in the eastern part of the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, South Australia.  

Fielding was ecstatic when Art Gallery of New South Wales director Michael Brand delivered the news that Inma won this year’s Wynne Prize. Fielding said: ‘I feel like dancing right now. The work is music, and I am music. My work is a celebration and is a song in itself and the sound comes from my community.

‘I am going to write an amazing song about this experience. My heart is so full. I can’t wait to tell my family. This is a memory that I was able to document which happened in Paralpi. It’s a place that’s like the Sydney Opera House for the APY Lands! It’s where people come to embrace and celebrate children, teaching them how to move and mimic their clan emblem, and, for Mimili, this has always been the maku (witchetty grub).’ 

‘The atmosphere of this work is full of sound, movement and teaching. All of the communities are coming together, sharing their storylines. However, this platform is only for children. This is for the babies and it’s about them being taught by the masters, their Elders.’ 

Fielding presents Mimili through a childhood lens, recalling observations of inma (song and dance) and movement.  

Fielding is an interdisciplinary artist from Mimili. He literally weaves Pitjantjatjara language into this work, using the teaching between grandchildren and grandparents as a stylistic element to outline and define his view of Country. As lead vocalist of Electric Fields, Fielding co-writes with producer Michael Ross, merging neo-soul-pop with ancient culture. Singing in Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and English, the duo has received 22 awards over the past six years. Fielding is also a sitter in the Archibald Prize 2023, in a portrait by Michael Simms.  

The Wynne Prize is Australia’s oldest art prize and is awarded annually for the best landscape painting of Australian scenery or for the best example of figure sculpture by Australian artists.

Sulman Prize 2023 finalist Doris Bush Nungarrayi ‘Mamunya ngalyananyi (Monster coming)’

Winner Sulman Prize 2023, Doris Bush Nungarrayi Mamunya ngalyananyi (Monster coming), synthetic polymer on linen, 198 x 273.5 cm © the artist, image © AGNSW, Jenni Carter

Doris Bush Nungarrayi wins the Sulman Prize 2023

Senior Luritja artist Doris Bush Nungarrayi has won the Sulman Prize 2023 and $40,000 for her work Mamunya ngalyananyi (Monster coming), depicting several Mamus, the ominous and malevolent spirits that terrify Anangu.

A first-time finalist, in both the Sulman and Wynne Prizes 2023, Nungarrayi is the second Aboriginal artist to win the Sulman Prize.

Mamus or ‘cheeky ones’, as Nungarrayi refers to them, are typically seen to have large haunting eyes, straight hair standing upright, and can shapeshift into many different forms, including the human figure. The mamu usually hide in underground dwellings or inside hollow trees.

Nungarrayi was born in Ikuntji/Haasts Bluff, 250 kilometres west of Mparntwe/Alice Springs and lives in Papunya in the Northern Territory. She paints vivid memories, stories and dreams from her life.

The Sulman Prize is awarded for the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project by an Australian artist and is judged by a guest artist each year. This year’s Sulman Prize judge was artist Sydney artist Nell, who selected 45 finalists.

‘I really love how each figure in Doris Bush Nungarrayi’s painting has an individual character that is simultaneously scary and cheeky. Yet collectively, these shapeshifters look like they are popping off the canvas and coming toward me, just as I am magnetically drawn to them. Mamunya ngalyananyi (Monster coming) is a clear and powerful painting and a very deserving winner of the 2023 Sulman Prize,’ said Nell.

All finalists in the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2023 will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW from 6 May to 3 September 2023.

Archibald Prize 2023 will travel to six venues in Victoria and regional New South Wales, offering audiences outside Sydney the opportunity to see the finalists in the Archibald Prize 2023:

Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery | 15 September – 5 November 2023

South East Centre for Contemporary Art, Bega | 18 November 2023 – 7 January 2024

Goulburn Regional Art Gallery | 19 January – 2 March 2024

Hawkesbury Regional Gallery | 15 March – 28 April 2024

Tamworth Regional Gallery | 11 May – 23 June 2024

Glasshouse Port Macquarie | 5 July – 18 August 2024

This year marks the first time Australia’s oldest art prize, the Wynne Prize, will tour regionally since it began over 125 years ago. Wynne Prize 2023 will tour to four venues in regional New South Wales:

Bank Art Museum Moree | 22 September – 19 November 2023

Mudgee Arts Precinct | 1 December 2023 – 28 January 2024

New England Regional Art Museum | 9 February – 7 April 2024

Wagga Wagga Art Gallery | 20 April – 16 June 2024

Note to editors

Since this text was published, Montaigne has publicly stated that they identify as non-binary and use they/them pronouns.

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