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Bald Archy Prize heading for immortality

Batey astride Maud in “Never a Dull Moment” by Marty Steel

A HEAVENLY vision of Bald Archy founder Peter Batey riding aloft the airborne figure of chief judge, cockatoo Maude, cements the impression that the revitalised  notorious satirical art prize is heading for immortality in its 27th year.

After the death of Batey in 2019, the administration of the Bald Archy Prize was handed to the Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga, which has assumed responsibility for running the prize in perpetuity and now Australia’s satirical painters and cartoonists are back again capturing the good, the wise and the not-so-great — with a sting in the tail of their paint brushes.

“Rabbitoh Man” by James Brennan

This morning (February 9) I caught up with staff at Watson Arts Centre, where the Archy has been unveiled for many years, putting the finishing touches to the hang of what turns out to be a modestly-sized showing, although Luke Grealy, manager of the Museum of Riverina, said he was  certain entries would soon  starting mounting again now that the word was art that the Bald Archy was alive and kicking.

The exhibition features familiar stars as subjects, such as Dame Edna Everage, King Charles III, media mogul Rupert Murdoch and gardening guru Costa Georgiadis, but is relatively short on politicians this time round, with only limited portrayal of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – it often takes caricaturists a while to get the hang of new PMs.

“Kiss My Ar..! I’m Rich” by Xavier Ghazi

Some artists are familiar. Rocco Fazzari, who won the first Bald Archy Prize in 1994, is back with a nice regional touch – a portrait of  disgraced former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

Regular Bald Archy entrant Xavier Ghazi  has done a fearsome job on mining magnate Gina Rinehart in his work, “Kiss My Ar..! I’m Rich”

Detail of “Pell” by Simon Schneider

Simon Schneider joins in the after-life motif with his portrait of deceased Cardinal George Pell, complete with a couple of typical Archy flourishes at the top of the painting.

As usual, there was a mixture of gross in-your-face caricature and genuine portraiture, a mixture, the late Batey embraced, fearing that people might take the competition too seriously – and that would defeat it whole purpose.

2023 Bald Archy Prize, Watson Arts Centre, 1 Aspinall Street, until March 12. Winner will be announced when the exhibition travels to Sydney in March.


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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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