BENALLA’S mayor has rejected a claim that snobbery is behind her city’s art gallery refusing to host a satirical portrait exhibition.
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The Benalla Art Gallery has turned down the opportunity to host the Bald Archy, a mocking take on the famous Archibald portrait competition administered by the Art Gallery of NSW.
Since beginning in 1994, winning paintings have depicted a nude Bert Newton, Julian Assange urinating on an Uncle Sam hat and John Howard wiping his hands as a naked Pauline Hanson reclines on a nearby bed.
Bald Archy founder and director Peter Batey said he had offered to stage a touring show at Benalla’s public gallery next year, but had been knocked back because of fears the satirical display would hinder the prospects of an Archibald Prize exhibition being hosted by the city.
“It’s definitely arts snobbery,” Mr Batey said.
“They think it’s vulgar and it’s not real art.
“‘It couldn’t be in our lovely gallery’ that’s what they’re saying.
“I’m amazed because I thought that approach had disappeared.”
Mayor Barbara Alexander denied snobbery sparked the refusal, accepting “they’re all caricatures of the Archibald Prize and they probably have their merit”.
“It’s not a snobbery thing, we have exhibitions from school children and all walks of life from the community,” Cr Alexander said.
“We’re not being snobbish, we have a program we’re following; there’s always a process we follow.”
Cr Alexander said she believed Benalla was “making a pitch for the Archibald and we don’t want to jeopardise that”.
A spokeswoman for the Art Gallery of NSW said Benalla was seeking to host a display in 2016-17 and a Bald Archy show would not affect it.
The council’s chief executive, Tony McIlroy, cited the art gallery’s exhibition schedule for next year being complete as the reason for refusing the Bald Archy.
Mr Batey said he was kept waiting from July to September without being told next year’s line-up was full and asked why the art gallery’s website did not list exhibitions beyond March.
“My point is when was the last time Benalla had a contemporary exhibition that had appeal right across the board?
“Something that is not only entertaining and amusing but making particularly clear statements about social and political events in Australia.”
Mr Batey said the gallery could have made $10,000 from a three-week Bald Archy exhibition, based on the waiving of a $4000 hosting fee and a $5 admission charge.