Rejoice, art and fashion enthusiasts alike, for "The Face That Stops A Nation" has made a triumphant return! This year, the event is as much a celebration of style as it is a homage to the artworks that hang on the Gallery walls. The Art Gallery of NSW forecourt buzzed with anticipation as people gathered to honor the most illustrious night in Australian painting prizes – the Archibald, Wynne, and Sulman Prizes. Before we delve into the significance and prestige of these coveted awards, let's take a moment to appreciate the dazzling ensembles donned by the art-loving attendees.
Upon entering the grand foyer of the Art Gallery of NSW, guests were greeted by a kaleidoscope of vivid colours, intricately bejewelled sequinned creations, and the timeless elegance of classic black attire. The eclectic mix of fashion choices showcased the art set's flair for style, ranging from sophisticated all-black ensembles and understated neutral prints to bold colour blocking and chic feminine suiting. These fashionable expressions not only aligned with current trends but also added an extra layer of artistic charm to the night's proceedings.
For those captivated by the sartorial choices of the stylish art aficionados in attendance and yearning to emulate their looks, scroll to the bottom of the article to find Archibald-style inspiration.
Why is the Archibald Prize so revered?
Each year, the prize attracts up to a thousand entrants (this year it was 949) with around 50 (this year it was 57) making the cut as finalists. The subject must be “a man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia.” The prize is so renowned as it draws famous Australian faces and artists together into a machine that makes celebrities of its entrants.
Most art prizes are judged by curators, artists or those educated within the discipline or working in the industry. The Archibald and Wynne prizes are different to other art prizes in that they are judged by a panel of committee members – The Art Gallery of NSW Board of Trustees. The Sulman is judged by a different artist each year. This year it was artist, Nell.
No one can doubt the fact that this much-loved annual exhibition is the most engaging art prize and exhibition in the country (AGNSW even claims it on their website). The winners are broadcast into the homes of Australians on primetime news – no other art prize can claim this. But are these 101 works really the highest calibre of artists painting in this country at the moment? Do a Board of Trustees, most without technical or art knowledge know how to judge art on practicality? I guess the answer doesn’t really matter when $100,000 in prize money and a year of fame the prize provides are up for grabs. Not to mention being catapulted into the canon of art history and popular culture. I’ve heard first hand from Archibald finalists that this prize is their prize. That they spend months of the year dedicated to perfecting their entry, that may or may not be selected for the annual exhibition. These prizes are what painters aspire to.
The Art Gallery of NSW website claims that indeed they have ticked their boxes with more works by female artists this year than ever before. They also have the most artworks exhibited by indigenous artists – at 38 total across the three prizes. This year was also the year that first time entrants to both the Archibald and Wynne walked away with the win. The youngest winner in the prizes 102 year history, 29 year old Julia Gutman won the Archibald Prize with her portrait of singer Montaigne titled 'Head in the sky, feet on the ground'. The Wynne Prize was awarded to Zaachariaha Fielding for their painting of ‘Inma’, which depicts the sounds of Mimili, a small community in the eastern part of the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, South Australia. The Sulman Prize for the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project was awarded to Senior Luritja artist Doris Bush Nungarrayi for her work ‘Mamunya ngalyananyi (Monster coming)’, depicting several Mamus, or ‘cheeky ones’, the ominous and malevolent spirits that terrify Aṉangu.
This year’s selection speaks to bright colours, diversity, and inclusion and the fashion on the night echoed this. 2023 certainly appears as if there has been a shake up in the notoriously conservative selections. Hopefully it’s a change that will continue on into the future.
Irena Oversized Blazer
Irena High Waisted Tailored Pants
Rowan Bone Signature Blazer
Rowan Bone Pants
Dolores Two Piece
NEUTRAL PRINT ON PRINT
Hattie Vacation Shirt
Hattie Drawstring Pant
Livian Mini Dress
Eugenia Kim at Shopbop
Stripe Sweater With Sequin Detail
Cello Knit Top
Gabriella Long Sleeve Knit Maxi Dress
Crochet Knit Shirt
Recycled Leather 90s Pinch Waist Jeans
Written by Joey Hespe & Becky Smouha for Oh Yes Her