Sam Kerr for PM? The year the Bald Archy forgot about politics and turned sporty

Karen Hardy
February 2 2024 - 5:30am

Perhaps it says something about the national zeitgeist that Matildas star Sam Kerr appears more often in this year's Bald Archy Prize than the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

WATCH: The past year has arguably delivered some of the best Aussie sporting moments in recent history.

Kerr has been captured doing her trademark backflip in portraits by Judy Nadin and James Brennan. Her teammates Mackenzie Arnold and Mary Fowler are also present in the exhibition.

Albanese appears once, alongside Peter Dutton in Sharyn Jones' Monopoly, because "we sometimes feel ... politicians are using us as the playing pieces", says the artist statement.

Luke Grealy, manager of the Museum of the Riverina, convenors of the Bald Archies. Pictures by Elesa Kurtz
Luke Grealy, manager of the Museum of the Riverina, convenors of the Bald Archies. Pictures by Elesa Kurtz

In its 28th year, the prize has always been full of humour, dark satire, comedy and caricature and 2024 is no different.

There's a full team of sports identities: golfer Cameron Smith, with a birdie nesting in his resplendent mullet; former AFL player turned ABC commentator Tony Armstrong, by leading cartoonist Steve Panozzo; Australian cricket captain Pat Cummins features in two, in Brennan's Like Taking Ashes from a Baby, he sits on a throne, with nappy-clad Englishmen cricketer Jonny Bairstow and journalist Piers Morgan at his feet.

Matildas Mackenzie Arnold, Sam Kerr and Mary Fowler, alongside partner Nathan Cleary, feature in portraits by Tricia Reust, Judy Nadin and Mark Tippett. Picture by Elesa Kurtz
Matildas Mackenzie Arnold, Sam Kerr and Mary Fowler, alongside partner Nathan Cleary, feature in portraits by Tricia Reust, Judy Nadin and Mark Tippett. Picture by Elesa Kurtz

After the passing of founder Peter Batey in 2019, the administration of the Bald Archy Prize was handed over to the Museum of the Riverina in Wagga. Museum manager Luke Grealy says it's like Christmas when the unpacking is done, not knowing who the subject matter might be.

"You never know what to expect, or who might be painted, or how they've been captured, and that's why this is such a different exhibition every year," he says.

Bob Katter, Let There be a Thousand Blossoms bloom, by Marty Steel. Picture by Elesa Kurtz
Bob Katter, Let There be a Thousand Blossoms bloom, by Marty Steel. Picture by Elesa Kurtz

The politicians are still represented.

"Marty Steel's portrait of Bob Katter waving bananas like a gun slinger just made me laugh," says Grealy.

"And I love Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley as dashboard ornaments, we're thinking about getting them made as merchandise to sell."

Exit Via the Giftshop, by John Skillington, and The Gist of Daniel, by Margaret Barwood. Picture by Elesa Kurtz
Exit Via the Giftshop, by John Skillington, and The Gist of Daniel, by Margaret Barwood. Picture by Elesa Kurtz

Ingrid Jaugietis' portrait of Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, The Heart of the Matter, references the Voice Referendum alongside religious iconography.

"Is the artist eulogising or criticising, I'm not quite sure," says Grealy. "But that's what good art does, makes you question everything about it."

George Miller, Dan Andrews and Peter Dutton appear in portraits. Picture by Elesa Kurtz
George Miller, Dan Andrews and Peter Dutton appear in portraits. Picture by Elesa Kurtz

Grealy is proud the museum has been able to continue Batey's legacy by taking the exhibition on its regional tour. Last year, about 17,000 people visited the exhibition as it toured Canberra, the Riverina and surrounding districts.

"Art can often be seen as elitist but the Bald Archy makes art accessible," he says.

"People come in and go, there's Sam Kerr, there's Scotty Cam, there's Paul Hogan, all in this year's list, and they can relate to it.

They call me Bruce, by Mark Tippett. Picture by Elesa Kurtz
They call me Bruce, by Mark Tippett. Picture by Elesa Kurtz

"I remember last year, one Saturday morning I went to the supermarket, the petrol station and the butcher and staff at all three of them told me they'd seen the exhibition."

The exhibition remains at the Watson Arts Centre until March 17 before it heads on its regional tour to Brewarrina, Deniliquin, Corowa and Temora.

The winner, who receives a $10,000 prize, is announced on March 15.

Karen Hardy

Karen Hardy

Canberra Times lifestyle reporter

I've covered a few things here at The Canberra Times over the years, from sport to education. But now I get to write about the fun stuff - where to eat, what to do, places to go, people to see. Let me know about your favourite things. Email: karen.hardy@canberratimes.com.au

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