The Bald Archy Prize was founded in 1994 in a small village outside Gundagai, by experienced arts administrator and successful theatre director, Peter Batey OAM, as part of an arts festival named the Coolac Festival of Fun, to avoid discrimination by those afraid of a cultural image.
“the exhibition that brings people into galleries they’ve never been in before…”
Classical music, jazz, spoken word, and comedy, performed by some of Australia’s most-admired professionals were all included in the program, the Visual Art context being supplied by the Bald Archys, a spoof of the more austere and revered Archibald Prize.
Although created as something of a joke, the Bald Archy Prize has become an icon on the Australian art calendar (albeit an eccentric one), particularly because of the absurdist nature of the event, calling for irreverent comic and satirical images of well-known Australians.
Not long after he was appointed Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Ron Radford commented of the country’s most noted portrait competition, “Let’s not kid ourselves the Archibald is about art. The Archibald isn’t (the AGNSW’s) most important exhibition, just their most important circus.”
For 23 years, Peter Batey has been making the same point with the Bald Archy, but perhaps more vividly. “The nation is awash with art competitions and prizes,” he says. “So much so that it’s got to the stage where if you haven’t won one, even at the local country show, you are regarded as being at the bottom of the heap” (read Peter Batey bio) here.