After three years, Bald Archy Prize is again

Peter Batey pictured shortly earlier than his loss of life with Mark Tippett’s “Unveiling”. Photograph: Helen Musa

AFTER a hiatus of greater than three years for the reason that loss of life of its founder, Peter Batey, the Bald Archy Prize is again once more.

The “in-yer-face” (that’s the title of a ebook about it) satirical artwork award was conceived as an antidote to the Archibald Prize and first ran in in 1994,as a part of his Coolac Competition of Enjoyable. I’ve lined each Bald Archy since that.

Now, after settlement with the executors of Batey’s will, each the gathering of first prize-winners and the award itself have been taken over by the Museum of the Riverina in Wagga Wagga.

However befitting the political nature of the prize, it is going to as soon as once more be launched in Canberra on the Watson Arts Centre on February 10, after which it is going to take off on a NSW to locations as far afield as Sydney and Brewarrina.

The exploits of Batey have been acquainted to readers through the years. A cantankerous contrarian, recognized for his sharp tongue and acerbic wit, he was an actor, director, playwright, arts administrator, set and lighting designer, competition director and self-publicist.

However he additionally gave of his finest to the Riverina area, by way of his common pages Wagga’s “Each day Advertiser” and “The Land”, and as an outspoken member of the Gundagai Shire Council.

Canberra artist Valda Johnson’s 2015 Bald Archy entry, “The Adventures of Jacqui Lambie” element.

At all times one to courtroom controversy, the boy from Benalla was initially best-known for his exploits within the theatre. As a member of Melbourne’s well-known Union Repertory Firm he was the primary particular person to play Roo in an early growth of “The Summer season Of The seventeenth Doll”.  He was the supervisor of Canberra Rep within the ’60s, then the inaugural inventive director of the SA Theatre Firm earlier than reaching fame because the producer-director of Reg Livermore’s legendary hits, “Betty Blokk Buster Follies” and “Wonderwoman”.

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However after a spat with Livermore, Batey purchased a restaurant the old-fashioned home in Coolac, close to Gundagai and erected a makeshift stage in his backyard the place, over the following 12 years, he introduced performers together with Don Burrows and the Canberra Youth Orchestra.

There, too, with Maude, an area sulphur crested cockatoo of nice longevity, he based the Bald Archy Prize, which shortly attracted entries from main information cartoonists and satirical artists from across the nation.

When the enjoyable ran out in Coolac, he took the present first to Tuggeranong Arts Centre then later Watson Arts Centre, attracting nationwide consideration through the journos on the Home On The Hill.

Fashionable Bald Archy topics through the years have been the late Kerry Packer, Pauline Hanson, Julian Assange, Jacqui Lambie, many prime ministers, cricketers, and TV personalities, altering yearly, because the prize grew to become a barometer of public opinion.

Batey used his entrepreneurial expertise to get the present into Queensland and rural Victoria, and in 2018, secured substantial funding from millionaire plastic surgeon and hotelier Jerry Schwartz, as soon as the topic of a Bald Archy entry, who additionally opened the doorways to new exhibition venue, notably the Sofitel Darling Harbour Resort. However he negotiated unsuccessfully with a number of nationwide establishments for a everlasting residence for the prizewinning portraits.

At his funeral in July 2019, which I attended, there was appreciable anxiousness as to what would occur to the gathering, which Batey had stipulated ought to go to a public establishment.

There’s been a cheerful ending. The Museum of Riverina, hosted by Wagga Wagga Metropolis Council, has jumped on the alternative to have such a cultural drawcard.

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Museum supervisor Luke Grealy, a long-time pal of Batey, mentioned he believed the museum had the workers and knowhow to proceed the prize and exhibit the winners, each for the enjoyment of the general public and to a level for revenue, since wherever it goes, internet hosting galleries can cost a modest entry charge.

Grealy mentioned he believed the bequest can be used effectively by the museum, which is within the technique of a serious enlargement.

One in every of Batey’s co-executors, David Rolls, instructed “CityNews: “Peter was passionate in regards to the Riverina… I do know he can be very happy with final result.”

Maude continues to preen her feathers because the chief decide of the prize because it continues into a brand new life. It’s welcome information in a cultural sector the place even identities as vibrant as Batey very often fade into oblivion.

2023 Bald Archy Prize, Watson Arts Centre (Canberra Potters), 1 Aspinall Road, Watson, February 10-March 12.




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Ian Meikle, editor