14 February 2023

Museum of the Riverina helps to get satirical art back 'In Yer Face' with the Bald Archy Prize

| Chris Roe
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Luke Grealy

Museum of the Riverina manager Luke Grealy is proud to be continuing Peter Batey’s Bald Archy legacy. Photo: Chris Roe.

There are few things Aussies enjoy more than poking fun at people in power and, thanks largely to Wagga’s Museum of the Riverina, Australia’s premier satirical art prize is back after a three-year hiatus.

The latest Bald Archy Prize takes a jab at prime ministers and other politicians and celebrates our heroes, such as Olivia Newton-John as ”Mona Livia” and NSW Health chief Dr Kerry Chant portrayed as a superhero.

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“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,” says museum manager Luke Grealy.

“A good satirical portrait can tell you as much as 1000 words on a story or an issue or a subject.”

Kerry Chant illustration

NSW Health’s Dr Kerry Chant wears a cape in this year’s Bald Archy Prize. Photo: Supplied.

Begun in 1994 by the late Peter Batey, the $10,000 award caricatures and satirises Australian icons and institutions, including Australia’s most famous portrait prize, the Archibald.

“It takes 11 galahs to judge the Archibald but only one cockatoo to judge the Bald Archy,” Peter Batey famously declared in 2016, citing his pet bird, Professor Maude Cockatoo, “the world’s premier avian art critic.”

READ ALSO Archibald Prize comes to Wagga

The Bald Archy has maintained a long association with the Museum of the Riverina and Luke says he’s proud to continue his friend’s legacy.

“When Peter passed away in 2019, he bequeathed the Bald Archy and the collection of winners to the Museum of the Riverina,” he explains.

“Not only do people visit the Bald Archie who wouldn’t normally go into a museum or a gallery, but there’s also diversity among people entering.

“You’ve got complete novices having a crack, through to accomplished, long-term artists like Rocco Fazzari, Xavier Ghazi and James Brennan and those sorts of guys who are highly trained.”

Daryl Maguire illustration

Rocco Fazzari won the inaugural prize in 1994 and returns with a portrait of Wagga’s Daryl Maguire. Photo: Supplied.

Well-known newspaper illustrator and satirist Rocco Fazzari won the first Bald Archy in 1994 and is back in the mix this year with a cheeky portrait of a shirtless and tattooed Daryl Maguire.

“It’s always nice to keep the elites in check and you can really have fun with this,” says Rocco, musing on what makes a good entry.

“It has to be humorous without it being over-the-top rude or defamatory, but the most important thing is to be topical and relate to a fairly recent news event.”

Olivia Newton-John drawing

Mona Livia by Judy Nadin. Photo: Supplied.

Luke agrees, adding that Professor Maude has made her preferences pretty clear.

“She said in an interview for the book that in some years you get multiple paintings of someone, like a prime minister, that just doesn’t do anything except exude hatred and she can’t stand hate portraiture,” he explains.

“So in the tradition of satire, it should make you laugh or smile and it should have context to tell the story.

“And also, in Maude’s case, sometimes there’s a certain shade of blue she likes to see.”

Peter Batey illustration

Bald Archy founder Peter Batey and Maude captured by artist Marty Steel. Photo: Supplied.

The 27th Bald Archy opened last week at the Watson Art Centre in Canberra and next month will head off to tour nine venues across NSW, before wrapping up in Wagga over the Christmas break.

Luke says it’s the partnerships with the Watson Art Centre and galleries across the state that have contributed to the Bald Archy’s return.

“It’s wonderful to be carrying on Peter’s 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 says.

“A lot of these little regional galleries use the Bald Archy as a valuable fundraiser because of the crowds that it draws.”

The winner of the $10,000 Bald Archy Prize 2023 will be announced at the ibis Sydney Barangaroo on Tuesday, 21 March.

You can find more details on the tour here.

You can also see the collection of past winners at the Museum of the Riverina in Wagga’s old Council Chambers.

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