After a hugely successful run spanning more than three months, the curtains have now closed on Wagga’s Best of the Bald Archy Prize exhibition.
Museum of the Riverina manager Luke Grealy said the exhibition did wonders for tourism, with thousands of people coming through the museum’s doors from all over the region and further.
“Last year we had 3227 visitors, but this year there were 5359 people through, which was about 30 per cent more,” Mr Grealy said.
“I probably had half a dozen conversations with visitors that told me this exhibition was pulling people in to Wagga for the night – we had people travelling from Adelaide, Gerringong, Deniliquin, all ringing the museum to ask what else they could do in Wagga.”
Mr Grealy said the exhibition went down a treat with their visitors, who were asked to vote for their favourite artwork.
“There were twice as many votes for the painting of the Danish Royal Family, where they’ve got the Tasmanian Devil and she’s breastfeeding,” he said.
“We also got a few people telling us it was in poor taste, but for me it doesn’t feel disrespectful towards them, it actually makes me feel warmer towards them because it’s about Aussies loving to take the mickey.”
This year’s exhibition was an Australian-first, bringing together the past 25 winners of the Bald Archys in a look back at some of the best and most irreverent portraits of the last few decades.
The Bald Archys have particular strong roots in the Riverina, with Peter Batey OAM putting together the very first collection in Coolac all the way back in 1994.
Mr Grealy said Batey’s tongue-in-cheek spirit was still alive and well in the exhibition to this day.
“It’s like a history lesson with a laugh, and Peter Batey is the master of this – we’ve got to be able to laugh at ourselves and at each other,” he said.