Cartoon Gallery Extension Kicks Off With Sold Out Bill Leak Exhibition

The Bill Leak Exhibition was sold out. Photo: David Tune.


THE first major event in the new and extended National Cartoon Gallery was an exhibition of the work of well-known cartoonist, Bill Leak, who passed away in 2017.

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The exhibition opening night sold out and the audience was treated to nibbles and drinks as they perused the art works and the gallery extension.

Half of the new extension was taken up with prints of Mr Leak’s cartoons and the other half contained caricatures he had drawn along with cartoons by his son, Johannes, who took over from his father at ‘The Australian’ newspaper after he died.

The exhibition was opened by Gallery Director, Margaret Cameron, before Fred Pawle, a journalist and friend of Mr Leak’s, talked about the great cartoonist’s life and body of work.

Mr Pawle will soon publish a biography of Bill Leak called “Die Laughing”.

He recalled a number of anecdotes about Mr Leak, including his struggles with alcoholism.

Mr Pawle said that Bill despised ‘frauds’, which he believed meant most politicians.

He told the audience that Bill was offended by being called ‘Willy Leak’ by primary school students during a school visit.

According to Mr Pawle, when Graeme Richardson saw the portrait he had commissioned from Leak for $16,000, he exclaimed, “I might be fat and ugly but I’m not that fat and ugly.”

“Yeah mate, but one day you will be,” retorted Bill.

Mr Pawle said that Bill Leak’s legacy ‘took a hit’ in his last two years because of the reaction to some of his cartoons.

Possibly Mr Leak’s most controversial cartoon, ‘What’s his name then?’, in response to an ABC Four Corners program about the Don Dale juvenile detention centre in the Northern Territory, was part of the exhibition, along with others that had courted controversy over the years.

All depictions of Mr Leak’s works were printed and framed by gallery volunteers.

The Chair of the Gallery, Mr Paul McKeon, told the audience, “The new gallery is going to be a great asset for Coffs Harbour and I hope you will support us during the coming years,”


By Andrew VIVIAN

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