Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Bald Archy exhibition returns to Swanpool

Founder of the Bald Archy prize and former Benalla resident Peter Batey returns with the travelling exhibition of the 2014 finalists.

LIBBY PRICE July 9, 2014 3:30am

Founder of the Bald Archy portrait prize Peter Batey with his favourite from this year's exhibtion, Poet Les Murray

For the second year in a row the Bald Archy painting exhibition has returned to Swanpool.

Founder and director of the Bald Archy portrait prize Peter Batey was born in Benalla and brought the exhibition to the district last year when the school he attended, Benalla High School, celebrated its centenary.

The Benalla Art Gallery controversially rejected the exhibition which Mr Batey said ‘‘... was great publicity. When the Swanpool people came to me and said they’d hold it, I said the space isn’t big enough but you don’t have the right lighting. They rang back and said they’d got a grant to light it, so it was on.

‘‘Last year we had huge attendances, no doubt due to the controversy.’’

The Bald Archy is judged by Mr Batey’s pet sulphur-crested cockatoo, 32-year-old Maude.

‘‘If she bobs up and down three times in front of the painting, it’s a finalist. If she screams obscenities which you couldn’t print in your esteemed newspaper, she dislikes it. She knows as much about judging art as the entire board of the Art Gallery of NSW.’’

This is the 21st year of the $10000 prize and there are a record 50 paintings on show.

‘‘This year a really good style is emerging with big, bold faces,’’ Mr Batey said.

Maude’s choice was the portrait of cricketer Mitchell Johnson entitled Wrecking Balls (Ashes to Ashes) by Newcastle artist Judy Nadin. But Mr Batey’s favourite is the Xavier Ghazi portrait of poet, Les Murray, entitled Les Murray Poet Extraordinary ... (It Rhymes).

Mr Batey hopes he will eventually find a permanent home for all of the winning paintings at the National Portrait Gallery.

‘‘The Bald Archy is a deliberate act of anarchy against the particularly pompous Archibald prize for portraiture and my frustration at the way arts money is spent across regional Australia to supposedly promote arts when it’s wasted on things like a $1500 grant to teach kids how to decorate their bikes,’’ he said.

The exhibition opened at the Swanpool and District Memorial Hall on Friday, July 4 and will run until July 20.

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