Abbott conspicuous by absence in 2016 Bald Archys

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THE Bald Archy show is back in town, but it was a near thing.

The Canberra Games, by Val Johnson
The Canberra Games, by Val Johnson
Panic spread around rural Coolac just this side of Gundagai when Maude the sulphur-crested cockatoo, flew the coop, but happily, as founder of the Bald Archy Peter Batey told “CityNews” today, after squawking around in the gumtrees for a day or so she flew back home to resume her duties as chief judge of the notorious satirical art award.

That and Batey’s unexpected fall in the cockatoo cage looked set to put a damper on an otherwise wonderful year in which he and long-time friend Fran Henke published a pictorial history of this antidote-prize to the Archibald, under the title “In Yer Face.”

We popped in on Watson Art Centre this morning to watch the 2016 crop of “in your face” paintings being unwrapped, wondering who would be the favourites of the year, In the past we’ve seen figures like Pauline Hanson, Shane Warne, Rupert Murdoch and Princess Mary hit the high spots.

May the Remorse be with you, by Judy Nadin
May the Remorse be with you, by Judy Nadin
Biggest surprise of the day is that that although Malcolm Turnbull, Bronwyn Bishop and Clive Palmer are much-painted, not a single portrait of former PM Tony Abbott has been submitted.

Artist James Brennan, whose shocking nude portrait of the Danish Royal Family raised eyebrows several years ago, has been at it again, and his classically inspired portrait of Mr Turnbull and the Queen is likely to enrage many.

Apart from the politicians the Archys feature the usual array of notable celebrities, this year including Margaret and David, Adam Goodes and Lee Lin Chin.

Of course we won’t know which one Maude will select until mid-July at the Italian Forum in Sydney.

Counterintuitively, the totally irreverent Bald Archy has for some years now actually coordinated with the venerable Archibald, so that the winning announcements are made in swift succession. “The Archibald Prize appeared particularly pompous,” Batey has written, “with the fun theme in mind, I hit on the idea of lampooning that esteemed event.”

The Breakup, by James Brennan
The Breakup, by James Brennan
He’s still not above a swipe at the ‘staid’ board of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, describing Maude as having “similarly-little apparent qualification” to judge.

Canberrans have always held the Bald Archys close to their hearts, and our own local artists, painters like Trevor Dunbar, Val Johnson and Margaret Heseltine, have been among the first to get their entries in over the years, so it’s no surprise that our journalists were the first ever to report on an award that now hits the high spots in even the big tabloids. As well, with some clever manoeuvring by Batey, The Archys will also enjoy a tour to Gundagai, Deniliquin, Corowa, Swan Pool, Temora, Coffs Harbour, and for the first time, Brisbane.

St. Goodsey and the Boogan by Murray Grellis
St. Goodsey and the Boogan, by Murray Grellis
The 23rd Bald Archy prize exhibition, at Watson Arts Centre, Aspinall Street, Watson, February 12 to March 14, 10am, 4pm daily, entry $5/$4.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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