Julia Gutman Wins Archibald Prize 2023 for Portrait of Montaigne

Friday, May 5, 2023
Julia Gutman Wins Archibald Prize 2023 for Portrait of Montaigne

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.

Image : 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

Stephanie Cime

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