2023 Prize Winner

2023 Bald Archy Prize for caricature portraits announced, with “shock” winner

In a “shock” move, Australia’s tallest poppies were snubbed in the announcement of this year’s Bald Archy Prize for caricature portraits.

Considered Australia’s premier satirical art prize (even if slightly less famous than the Archibald Prize), the Bald Archy Prize celebrates the lighter side of art and the larrikin Australian spirit.

The famous and infamous personalities were plentiful among the 22 finalists, but in the end, Albo, Scomo, Dutton, George Pell, Gina Rinehart, Ash Barty, Costa and even King Charles failed to take the crown in this year’s hard-fought competition.

The winner, instead, went to a portrait by Marty Steel of the founder of the Bald Archy Prize, Peter Batey who passed away in 2019.

Peter Batey OAM was a distinguished arts administrator and pioneer of contemporary Australian theatre. After a long and successful career, Peter relocated to Coolac, a small town near Gundagai, where he contributed significantly to the regional community and created the Festival of Fun, of which the Bald Archy Prize was a key part.

Throughout his career in theatre, Peter produced and directed some 130 professional productions across Australia and the world. He is known for directing all five major Reg Livermore stage shows, revolutionising Australian commercial theatre in the mid-70’s. Batey has also been publicly acknowledged by Barry Humphries for his contribution to the creation of the character Dame Edna Everage.

His love of humour led to his creation of the Bald Archy Prize in 1994. His reason? “It was meant to amuse – apparently a problem with people who believe audible laughter shouldn’t be permitted in an art gallery, let alone unsolicited conversation with a complete stranger.”

Marty Steel, Never a Dull Moment, 2023

Marty Steel, Never a Dull Moment, 2023

The portrait is by Marty Steele with the caricature titled (fittingly): Never a Dull Moment. The caricature depicts Bald Archy founder Peter Batey riding aloft the airborne figure of chief judge, cockatoo Maude.

Marty Steele wins a $10,000 prize, provided by Sydney hotel entrepreneur, Dr Jerry Schwartz. Marty is a Brisbane based portrait artist and a Bald Archy finalist in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

After the death of Batey in 2019, the administration of the Bald Archy Prize was handed to the Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga, which has assumed responsibility for running the prize in perpetuity and now Australia’s satirical painters and cartoonists are back again capturing the famous and infamous characters that dominated the headlines in 2022.

Not surprisingly, given that 2022 was an election year, Albo’s ascension to the PM throne, Scomo’s deposing, and Dutton’s new ‘voice’ as Liberal leader provided key themes for this year’s finalists.

Other dominant power figures represented include Gina Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch and King Charles, with Australia’s very own claim to royalty – Dame Edna – sharing the canvas.

Subjects weren’t restricted to politicians though, with celebrities such as the late Olivia Newton-John, Costa Georgiadis and Maggie Beer making the cut. And sporting stars – as ever – are included in the collection, with Daryl Maguire, Wayne Bennett, and Ash Barty framed for posterity.

While the Bald Archy Prize has sometimes been held in contempt by the ‘art elite’, the fact that the competition has been operating for almost 30 years is testimony to the competition’s popularity and relevance.

Hotel owner and developer, Dr Jerry Schwartz, is sponsoring the Bald Archy exhibition which starts at Ibis Sydney Barangaroo (until 14 April, from 10am – 4pm) before moving to major NSW and Victorian regional locations:

Find out where the Bald Archy is touring on our Tour Info page.