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The Bald Archy Prize - the book and vale Peter Batey



by Peter Batey and Fran Henke

  The Bald Archy Prize was born in 1994 to take the Mickey out of pretentious portrait prizes, to bring new gallery goers to city exhibitions and country venues, to enjoy, to recognise, chat among themselves, and to laugh - responses often frowned on in major galleries. 'In Yer Face' looks at the growth of the Bald Archys from a one-off celebration to become Australia's most popular touring exhibition.

   The book was stirred by the Charlie Hebdo murders in January 2015. It was designed to show the significant role humour in art has played in Australia since J.F. Archibald established The Bulletin in 1880. Archibald's legacy was a portrait prize but we submit, the Bald Archy Prize is the prize he really wanted!

   'In Yer Face' describes the evolution of the Bald Archys and in an essay, 'The Fine Art of Disrespect', gives satirical portraiture its place in art. A former arts journalist for The National Times and The Australian, now author and publisher, Fran worked with Australia's leading cartoonists developing an appreciation for our 'black and white' tradition, also interviewing leaders in the art world such as Sidney Nolan, Brett Whitely and even in London, Elmyr de Hory, a notorious forger. As a portrait painter, she was a regular finalist in the prize too.

  As a theatre director, the late Peter Batey launched Fran's first book (as Frances Kelly) in 1976, so they went back a long way, informing her tribute to Peter in the book: 'The Legend of Peter Batey'. Peter wrote his hilarious account of how the prize came into being in an extended Foreword. There is also a rare interview with the Bald Archy's judge, the elegant and well-informed sulphur-crested cockatoo Maude.

Peter Batey sadly died on June 14, 2019. He bequeathed the collection of winning portraits to the Museum of the Riverina at Wagga. Copies of In Yer Face are available there. Wagga Wagga City Council resolved to continue running the annual Bald Archy Portrait prize with entries currently being received for a 2024 show.

Fran's blog 'Country funeral for an Australian Legend' can be found at:


 Above, co-authors Fran Henke & Peter Batey at the launch luncheon

in Sydney.

 Je Suis Ahmed/Je Suis Charlie, 2015,

 Fran Henke

This collage was created in January, 2015, after the murders in Paris. The appalling event in the offices of Charlie Hebdo really offended me. I felt it struck at the heart of our freedom as writers and artists and became the trigger for the book. Auctioned to support the prize.

Barry Humphries - behind the Mask.jpg

Right: Fran's portrait of Barry Humphries, finalist, sold.

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