Artist’s portrait of Montaigne wins $100k Archibald Prize

Photo of Australian pop singer Montaigne
Image: Jess Gleeson/SBS

Julia Gutman’s stylised portrait of Australian pop star Montaigne has won the 2023 Archibald Prize.

The Archibald Prize is Australia’s prestigious art prize and is awarded each year to a portrait depicting someone “distinguished in art, letters, science or politics.”

This year’s Archibald narrowed 949 entries down to 57 finalists, including some portraits of queer Aussies.

The 29-year-old artist’s winning work is titled Head in the sky, feet on the ground. Julia is the youngest – and only the 11th female – to win in the art award’s 102-year history.

Montaigne, whose real name is Jessica Cerro, is also the first female musician in a winning Archibald entry.

The Sydney artist has won $100,000 and said she was “elated and overwhelmed” to score the top prize.

“Shocked, dumbfounded, but very happy,” she said.

“It’s honestly completely surreal. I’m so grateful to be working at a time when young female voices are heard.

“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.”


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A post shared by Art Gallery NSW (@artgalleryofnsw)

The Sydney artist is friends with Montaigne and said there was “lot of alignment” in their approach to art.

“We are both interested in creating our own forms and approaches rather than strictly adhering to any one tradition,” she said.

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

Montaigne said after the win, “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.”

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand described Julia Gutman’s Archibald Prize winning portrait as a “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,” he said.


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A post shared by Julia Gutman (@julia__gutman)

First Nations artist Zaachariaha Fielding scores Wynn prize

Meanwhile, the $50,000 Wynn Prize – for Australian landscape painting or figurative sculpture – was awarded to Zaachariaha Fielding.

Zaachariaha is known as one-half of queer electropop group Electric Fields. He won the Wynn Prize for his painting Inma (below), which means “song and dance”.

The painting depicts “the sounds of Mimili”, his family’s community in the eastern part of the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in South Australia.

“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,” he said.

“I am going to write an amazing song about this experience. My heart is so full. I can’t wait to tell my family.”

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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