Bald Archys come of age

IT’S a happy 21st birthday this year for the Bald Archys, the satirical art award invented by former theatre director and Coolac identity, Peter Batey, as an antidote to the notorious Archibald Prize.

Peter Batey admires a few in the Palmer line-up.
Peter Batey admires a few in the Palmer line-up.
“CityNews” caught up this morning with Batey and Sara Hogwood Watson Arts Centre as they opened this year’s entries from all around Australia for the award, whose winner will be named in Canberra this Friday.

Val Johnson’s “Annabel’s Kitchen.”
Val Johnson’s “Annabel’s Kitchen.”
It was nostalgia time as Batey recalled the early days when figures like Jeff Kennett and the late Kerry Packer dominated the field.

Canberra’s press gallery will not be disappointed this year, and indeed one of their own, Annabel Crabb, appears in Canberra artist Val Johnson’s “Annabel’s Kitchen.” In Batey’s view the lineup is slightly less political than usual this numbering among its front runners as subjects ABC TV gardening personality Costa Georgiadis, racing identity Gaye Waterhouse and cricketer Mitchell Johnson.

He notes that not a single member of the Federal opposition is portrayed, suggesting, he says, that they had not yet registered with the wider public.

Tony Sowersby, “The Minister for Women introducing his family to a passing prince.”
Tony Sowersby, “The Minister for Women introducing his family to a passing prince.”
Looming larger than life (so much so that Batey and Hogwood contemplated having a  “Palmer’s Court” section) is the capacious figure of politician/magnate Clive Palmer, who has totally eclipsed Gina Rinehart this year. As we were snapping away, three additional Palmer portraits appeared from the brown paper wrappings. “They always look around for something topical, like Clive Palmer,” Batey sighed.

“The Queen of Racing” by Kristen Wiadrowski
“The Queen of Racing” by Kristen Wiadrowski
Another popular figure was federal education Minister Christopher Pyne, portrayed variously as Queen Marie Antoinette and Jack-in-the-Box.

While the standard media were oil and acrylic on stretched canvas, one portrait of Pyne was inscribed on a black T-shirt and a picture of Costa featured three-dimensional facial hair.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott appeared in many guises, including as a family man in a portrait by Archys veteran Tony Sowersby.

Tony Sowersby, “Let them eat cake at recess.”
Tony Sowersby, “Let them eat cake at recess.”
Batey told “CityNews” that this year Archibald Prize would not be announced by the Art Gallery of New South Wales until July, so he had decided to get in early, with a Canberra announcement at noon this  Friday.

A logistical problem presents itself because the award is always judged by Coolac resident Maude the sulphur-crested cockatoo, who will only get to see the entries on Batey’s laptop.

Sarah Hogwood with a hairy Costa portrait.
Sarah Hogwood with a hairy Costa portrait.
While numerically it would seem that a Clive Palmer portrait has a good chance, the enigmatic Maude will make up her own mind. As Batey was asking rhetorically, “will Maude decide that he [Palmer]is Australia’s chief buffoon or Australia’s next PM?”

The 2014 Bald Archy Prize and show, at Watson Arts Centre, Aspinall St Watson, until March 2, Watson Arts Centre. Entry $4. The award will then travel to Italian Forum in Leichhardt and to nine regional galleries.

“Surprise,” by L. Hatchwell
“Surprise,” by L. Hatchwell

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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