A new king, a failed referendum and endless interest rate hikes are among some of the big news stories of the last year that offer no end of satirical opportunities for artists wanting to enter the 28th Bald Archy Prize.
With $10,000 up for grabs, the Watson Arts Centre in Canberra is accepting entries this month with the usual rogues’ gallery of politicians and popular Aussies expected to fill out the exhibition.
The 27th Bald Archy exhibition has now returned to its spiritual home at Wagga Wagga’s Museum of the Riverina after touring venues across NSW throughout 2023.
Begun in 1994 by the late Peter Batey, the satirical art prize was bequeathed to the museum five years ago.
“We took over the Bald Archy after the passing of the founder,” explained education and public programs officer Angus Cawdell-Smith.
“It had been running for 26 years and it took a break from 2019 and we relaunched last year for the 2023 tour.
“It’s toured all over New South Wales and it’s been a real fan favourite with the public.”
Museum manager Luke Grealy was a long-time friend of Peter Batey and said it was a joy to carry on his legacy.
“He was very passionate about regional arts, so even though we go to a couple of city venues, the focus of the tours is on regional areas,” he said.
“You need to have a laugh and that Australian larrikinism and sense of humour where we enjoy taking the mickey out of each other comes through in the Bald Archy Prize.
“A good satirical portrait can tell you as much as 1000 words on a story or an issue or a subject.”
Angus described the museum’s first year at the helm as “spectacular”.
“I think the thing that people enjoy the most about the Bald Archies is, it makes art fun and accessible,” he said.
“We find that a lot of our visitors sometimes don’t feel super open with art and the Bald Archies is fun. It’s really accessible to the public and it lets people laugh.”
Last year’s entries took a jab at PM Anthony Albanese, portrayed as the South Sydney Rabbitohs mascot, and opposition leader Peter Dutton as the Addams Family’s gloomy teen Wednesday.
The late Olivia Newton-John was memorialised as Mona Livia and disgraced NSW politician Daryl Maguire appeared shirtless and with a love-heart tattoo bearing the name of former premier and secret lover, “Gladys”.
“My favourite this year I think would be Scomopoly, which has been a fan favourite as well,” laughed Angus, indicating the painting poking fun at the former prime minister’s move to appoint himself to oversee five government departments.
The award is judged by the late founder’s pet cockatoo, Maude, and fittingly, it was a portrait of Peter Batey being borne aloft by his feathered friend that won last year.
Luke Grealy said the award was open to all artists, from amateur to professional, and offered a few tips.
“In the tradition of satire, it should make you laugh or smile and it should have the context to tell the story,” he said.
“And also, in Maude’s case, sometimes there’s a certain shade of blue she likes to see.”