Bald Archy exhibition, Watson Arts Centre

2 Feb

There’s the Archibald Prize… and then there’s the Bald Archy Prize. Both prizes focus on the best portrait, but the Bald Archy lacks the seriousness of the Archibald, with its emphasis on Australians portrayed in satirical form. While it started off as a joke, the Bald Archy has become a popular competition in its own right, and is first exhibited in a town which also doesn’t take itself too seriously…

The first thing I love about the Bald Archy is that it’s not shown near the centre of Canberra – instead, we’re taken out to Watson, where the paintings are hung in the (thankfully airconditioned) Watson Arts Centre.

Watson Arts Centre, on Aspinall Street

The Watson Arts Centre, on Aspinall Street, is also home to a pottery gallery


It’s a cheap entry – $5 for adults, and $4 for concession – for a good half hour of entertainment. We’re handed little paper slips to vote for our People’s Choice after we’ve viewed the exhibition.


And that’s where my photos end, because there’s no photography allowed inside the exhibition.

But here’s what I can tell you:

  • There are 50 portraits on display, ranging from teeny tiny, to rather large. One is made of a whole range of different materials, and another is painted on a t-shirt.
  • The portraits are available for purchase; the cheapest looked to be the teeny tiny one ($150), and the most expensive $10,000 (!).
  • The winning portrait for 2014 is of Mitchell Johnson on a wrecking ball, by Judy Nadin (a previous winner). It really is brilliant; a deserving winner (and only $2000…).
  • The most popular Australians to paint are mostly for obvious reasons: Mitchell Johnson, Clive Palmer, Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne. I’m  surprised with how many paintings there are of Gai Waterhouse, Reg Mombassa, and Costa from Gardening Australia fame.
  • Strangely, there’s no more than a handful of portraits of Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd – combined.
  • Some of the portraits are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny – I daresay there aren’t too many galleries which have smatterings of giggles interrupt the laughter.
  • My favourite portrait is called ‘Golden Gai Time’ – a clever portrayal of Gai Waterhouse as half Gai, half horse.
  • Boyfriend’s favourite portrait is Clive Palmer as a pug – another clever take on ‘PUP’ (or ‘pup’).

Date: Sunday, 2 February 2014

Where: Watson Arts Centre, Aspinall Street, Watson.

Cost: $10 for the two of us

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? This Canberra Times article gives a sneak peek at some of the portraits; the official website is here. The Baldy Archy is on display daily until 2 March, from 10am to 4pm. Then, it goes on tour.


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