Ben Quilty

Ben Quilty (born 1973 in Sydney) is an Australian artist and social commentator, who has won a series of painting prizes: the 2014 Prudential Eye Award, 2011 Archibald Prize and 2009 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. He has been described as one of Australia's most famous living artists.

Ben Quilty
Ben Quilty and Dog (cropped).jpg
Ben Quilty

Sydney, Australia
Known forPainting, contemporary art
Awards2014 Prudential Eye Award
2011 Archibald Prize
2009 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize
WebsiteBen Quilty

Early life and educationEdit

Quilty grew up in Kenthurst in Sydney's north-west.[1] Quilty lives and works in Robertson, New South Wales. He was educated at Kenthurst Public School and Oakhill College, where he exhibited his HSC artwork in ArtExpress 1991. Subsequently, Quilty was selected as the recipient of the Julian Ashton Summer School Scholarship. After high school, Quilty followed his interest in art and obtained a Bachelor of Visual Arts in Painting from Sydney College of the Arts at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1994.

He then studied visual communication, design and women's studies at Western Sydney University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts. He also obtained a Certificate in Aboriginal Culture and History.

Style and subjectsEdit

Quilty is known for his distinctive style of oil painting and a range of topics which includes portraits (he won the Archibald Prize for his portrait of artist and friend Margaret Olley), examination of masculine culture, expression of psychological interiors, and others which show his engagement with a range of social issues, such as the death penalty, asylum seekers, and massacres of Indigenous Australians.[2][3]


Quilty's works have been exhibited at the Australian National University Drill Hall Gallery (8 November 2013–15 December 2013) (solo),[4] the 2014 Adelaide Biennial (1 March 2014–11 May 2014) (group),[5] the Saatchi Gallery (4 July 2014–3 August 2014) (solo),[6][7][8][9][10] 2014 Melbourne Art Fair (13 August 2014–17 August 2014) (group),[11] Galerie Allen, Paris (17 September 2014–11 October 2014) (solo),[12] Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong (7 November 2014–10 January 2015) (group),[13][14] and (16 January 2015–1 March 2015) (solo),[15] Bendigo Art Gallery included works from the Saatchi exhibition (12 December 2014–1 March 2015) (solo),[16] the Art Gallery of South Australia (11 November 2016–29 January 2017) (group),[17] and at the National Gallery of Victoria (15 December 2017–15 April 2018) (group).[18]

From March 2019, a survey exhibition of Quilty's work curated by the Art Gallery of South Australia's Lisa Slade was held first at AGSA in Adelaide,[3] followed by the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The exhibition included works from his time in Afghanistan, Greece, Serbia and Lebanon and celebrated his connection to artist Margaret Olley[19] as well as including new Rorschach-based works documenting the Myall Creek massacre and an hitherto unrecorded massacre in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY lands) in South Australia, titled Irin Irinji.[3] In October 2019, the Art Gallery of New South Wales hosted the exhibition, coinciding with the release of the documentary Quilty – Painting the Shadows, made by Catherine Hunter, on ABC Television on 19 November 2019.[20][2]


Examples of Quilty's work are held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Golden Soil, Wealth for Toil (2004), acquired 2005, Fairy Bower Rorschach (2012), acquired 2012, and Self Portrait, the Executioner (2015), acquired 2015),[21] the Art Gallery of South Australia (Self portrait (as Cook ...) (2011), and Self portrait (as Cook with sunglasses) (2011)),[22] the Bendigo Art Gallery (Kuta Rorschach No 2 (2013), acquired 2014),[23] the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery (Torana (2007), and Skull Rorschach (2009))[24] the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (Van Rorschach (2005), acquired 2007),[25] the Parliament of Australia (Lead Shot Rorschach (2013)),[26] and the Queensland Art Gallery (Sergeant P, after Afghanistan (2012)).[27] Newcastle Art Gallery Cullen 'before and after' (2006).[28] In December 2018, a Christmas Tree created by Quilty and artist, Mirra Whale from refugees' discarded lifevests, was displayed in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne.[29]

Awards and prizesEdit

A multiple finalist, Quilty won the Archibald Prize in 2011 for his portrait of Australian artist Margaret Olley.[30] It was his seventh entry to the prize.[31]

In 2009, he won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Australia's most lucrative portrait prize, for a painting of Australian musician Jimmy Barnes.[32] His painting Dead (Over the Hills and Far Away) won the National Artists Self Portrait prize in 2007.[33]

Quilty was awarded a Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2002.[1]

Official war artistEdit

From 11 October until 3 November 2011, Quilty was attached to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) observing their activities in Kabul, Kandahar and Tarin Kowt. His task was to record and interpret the experiences of Australian service personnel who are deployed as part of Operation Slipper. After his return, Quilty spent six months producing work for the Australian War Memorial's National Collection. Such work is in the tradition of war artists that began in World War I with artists Arthur Streeton, George Lambert and Frederick McCubbin.[34][35] Quilty's experiences as a war artist and the work he produced as a result of it was explored in the ABC TV's Australian Story program "War Paint" screened on 3 September 2012.[36]

He has been described as one of Australia's most famous living artists.[3]

Honours and awardsEdit


  1. ^ a b Low, Lenny Ann (17 March 2007). "The hot seat: Ben Quilty". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  2. ^ a b Jefferson, Dee (20 November 2019). "Ben Quilty paints trauma of Myall Creek and other Australian massacre sites in Rorschach landscapes". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Delaney, Brigid (10 March 2019). "Ben Quilty on empathy, angry art, backlash and that Jesus photo". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  4. ^ "Trigger-happy: Ben Quilty". Drill Hall Gallery, ANU. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Ben Quilty, Studio View, 2013". Art Gallery of South Australia. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Ben Quilty 4 July–3August 2014". Saatchi Gallery. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  7. ^ Kit Messham-Muir (9 July 2014). "Ben Quilty at the Saatchi Gallery … things just got interesting". The Conversation Media Group Ltd. Retrieved 30 November 2017. Ben Quilty is the first Australian artist to hold a solo show at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
  8. ^ Anna Delprat (10 July 2014). "Ben Quilty exhibits solo show at esteemed Saatchi Gallery, London". NewsLifeMedia. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  9. ^ Lenny Ann Low (3 July 2014). "Ben Quilty flies solo at Saatchi Gallery in London". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  10. ^ Maresa Harvey (14 July 2014). "Review of Ben Quilty, Saatchi Gallery London". Aesthetica Magazine Ltd. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  11. ^ Robert Nelson (14 August 2014). "Melbourne Art Fair: Discovering the Commercial Soul". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 November 2017. Almost escaping his own mannerism as a painter, Ben Quilty at Tolarno Galleries has taken an amazing turn into cultural significance, and with a similarly baroque sensibility, through the medium of ceramics.
  12. ^ "Ben Quilty: 17th September, 2014 – 11th October, 2014". Galerie Allen. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  13. ^ "Embodied". Visual Arts Calendar Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 24 August 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  14. ^ "Emodied". Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  15. ^ "Ben Quilty: Straight White Male". Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  16. ^ "Ben Quilty". Bendigo Art Gallery. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  17. ^ "Sappers & Shrapnel: Contemporary Art and the Art of the Trenches". Art Gallery of South Australia. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  18. ^ "NGV Triennial". National Gallery of Victoria. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  19. ^ QAGOMA. "Quilty". Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Quilty". Art Gallery of New South Wales. 28 October 2019. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  21. ^ "Ben Quilty". Art Gallery NSW. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  22. ^ "Australian: Q". Art Gallery of South Australia. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  23. ^ "Kuta Rorschach No 2". Bendigo Art Gallery. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  24. ^ "CRAG 30th Birthday: Divide and Context". Goulburn Mulwaree Council. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  25. ^ "MCA Collection: New Acuisitions 2007". Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Archived from the original on 5 July 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  26. ^ "Length and Breadth: new acquisitions from the Parliament House Art Collection". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  27. ^ "Strength, Fragility, Trauma and Resolve". Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. 24 April 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  28. ^ "LEAVING A LEGACY Margaret Olley's gifts to Newcastle". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  29. ^ Eltham, Ben (15 November 2018). "Ben Quilty transforms St Paul's Cathedral's Christmas tree into refugee tribute". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  30. ^ Westwood, Matthew (16 April 2011), "Margaret Olley leaves her hat on for Ben Quilty's win", The Australian, retrieved 16 April 2011
  31. ^ "Robertson artist's Archibald entry". ABC Illawarra. 1 April 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  32. ^ "Ben Quilty portrait of Jimmy Barnes wins $150,000 Moran prize". The Australian. 10 March 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  33. ^ "First self portrait prize handed out". ABC Local. 20 October 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  34. ^ "Ben Quilty Official War Artist" (Press release). Canberra: Australian War Memorial. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
  35. ^ Hawley, Janet (4 February 2012). "Tour of Duty". Good Weekend: 13, 14–15, 17.
  36. ^ Transcript of "War Paint", Quilty's "Australian Story" on ABC television

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Sam Leach
Archibald Prize
for Margaret Olley
Succeeded by
Tim Storrier