SYDNEY-BASED Jewish artist Julia Gutman has won the coveted Archibald Prize for 2023, taking home $100,000 for her portrait Head in the sky, feet on the ground.
The 29-year-old, who graduated from Sydney’s Moriah College in 2011, is one of the youngest winners in the history of the Archibald and the 11th woman to win the prize since it began in 1921. She joins fellow Jewish women winners Judy Cassab (1960 and 1967), Wendy Sharpe (1996) and Yvette Coppersmith (2018).
Gutman was “elated and overwhelmed” to hear she had won the Archibald, saying she was amazed when she received the phone call from Art Gallery of New South Wales director Michael Brand.
“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,” she said. For the first time ever, there were more works by women than men in the Archibald finalists.
Accepting the award last Friday, Gutman said she had “dreamt about it since I was 12 years old”.
As with Gutman’s other works, the portrait featuring singer-songwriter Jessica Cerro, best known by her stage name Montaigne, was created using found textiles and embroidery alongside oil on canvas.
“I’m so grateful to be working at a time when young female voices are heard”
Much of Gutman’s works explore themes of femininity, intimacy and memory, which is why for her Archibald entry she wanted to work with someone she knew well.
“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,” Gutman said.
Montaigne is the first female musician to be the subject of an Archibald Prize-winning portrait.
Gutman’s painting was selected from 949 entries and as the winner from 57 finalists, in a unanimous decision by the gallery’s board of trustees.
“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,” board president David Gonski said.
Gutman is the granddaughter of Sydney Jewish community stalwart, the late Margaret Gutman, a former executive director of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies who devoted decades of service to the NSW Jewish and broader community.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark said, “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies warmly congratulates Sydney-based artist Julia Gutman for winning this year’s prestigious Archibald Prize. On behalf of the board and the entire community, we wish Julia a hearty mazal tov on her incredible achievement.”
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein said the Australian Jewish community was “overflowing with pride” following Gutman’s win.
“Her whole family, the Gutman family, have a right to be enormously proud of her. In fact, all of Australian Jewry is overflowing with pride today,” he concluded.
Jeremy Jones, AIJAC’s director of community and of international affairs, added, “I have been familiar with and a huge fan of Julia Gutman’s work for a number of years. She is hard-working, creative, an inspirational communicator and a truly deserving Archibald winner.”
Moriah College wished Gutman and her family mazal tov on her “extraordinary achievement”.
“The importance of creative subjects and design thinking in education today cannot be underestimated. We’ve seen subjects such as visual arts and design & technology receiving increasing appreciation, and we are so proud of Julia for inspiring the next generation of young budding artists and creative entrepreneurs.
“We look forward to following Julia’s future success through the many opportunities that will undoubtedly come her way,” principal Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler said.
This year’s Archibald finalists also featured a portrait of advocate and activist Ronni Kahn, founder and CEO of food rescue charity OzHarvest by two-time Archibald finalist Marie Mansfield.