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Canberra Today 13°/17° | Monday, March 4, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Bald Archy Prize gets a new lease on life

Cecilia Smith’s Keep off the Grass, Michaelia Cash.

The 28th Bald Archy Prize is up and running at Watson Arts Centre from Friday – and it has a new lease on life.

Fears were held that the notorious satirical art prize would fade from existence when founder Peter Batey died unexpectedly in 2019, but the prize has been picked up by the Museum of the Riverina in Wagga Wagga.

Premiering in its natural milieu, Canberra, the prize exhibition, curated by Watson Arts Centre, will enjoy an extensive tour following its ACT run.

As I walked through the exhibition yesterday,  sulphur-crested cockatoo, Maude, from Coolac, NSW, the chief and only judge of the awards, was spotted scratching around among the entries for a winner of the $10,000 prize.

Margaret Barwood’s The Gist of Daniel, Daniel Andrews

Behind her, hoping to pick up an aesthetic tip or two, was a small gaggle of art lovers wondering whether Maude would choose the most skilled representational artist, or the most “in-yer-face” painting, or the one with the most up-to-date social commentary.

The answer to these questions will not be known until March 15 when the winners are announced, but in the meantime, Canberrans are expected to flock to the exhibition, as they have in past years.

Always a barometer of the social climate in Australia, the prize has its heroes and villains, who come and go.

This year opposition leader Peter Dutton takes out first prize in one of those areas with no fewer than seven representations by five artists. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese rates just half an entry – perhaps he is harder to caricature than his opposite number.

Former Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is also under the spotlight and eccentric Queensland politician Bob Katter is given a  full length portrait.

James Brennan’s Kerr-Pow! Sam Kerr

Sports identities dominate this year’s line-up, topped by women’s soccer luminary Sam Kerr, but also featuring golfer, Cameron Smith,  soccer player Mackenzie Arnold, Aussie Rules TV presenter Tony Armstrong and cricketers Pat Cummins and Jonny Bairstow.

Former Qantas boss Alan Joyce appears three times, while screen stars Paul Hogan, Margot Robbie and Shaun Micallef are also on the walls.

The 2024 line-up is remarkable for its solid mix of gender, but even more so for its merciless look at Australia’s female politicians. Gone are the Hansons and Lambies of yesteryear, now replaced now by anti-Voice battlers Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Lydia Thorpe, and some disturbingly dark representations of the Coalition’s Michaelia Cash and Labor’s Tanya Plibersek.

The Bald Archy Prize 2024, Watson Arts Centre,  until March 17. Winner announcement on March 15.

Batey’s enduring gift of Bald Archy humour

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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