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Artist responds after billionaire demands gallery remove unflattering portrait of her: ‘I paint the world as I see it’

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An Australian artist has responded to criticism levelled by mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, who reportedly demanded his painting of her which she deems unflattering be removed from display at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Her portrait appears alongside many others, including Queen Elizabeth II, AFL player Adam Goodes and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, in an exhibition by acclaimed Archibald Prize-winning Indigenous artist Vincent Namatjira.

Namatjira’s work is known for his paintings that are caricatures of people in almost cartoonish like forms.

One of King Charles, for instance, shows him in the Australian desert in full regalia with seemingly no neck.

Vincent Namatjira (pictured) has responded to criticism levelled by mining billionaire Gina Rinehart.
WireImage

“I paint the world as I see it,” Namatjira said on Thursday.

“People don’t have to like my paintings, but I hope they take the time to look and think, ‘why has this Aboriginal bloke painted these powerful people? What is he trying to say?’ I paint people who are wealthy, powerful, or significant – people who have had an influence on this country, and on me personally, whether directly or indirectly, whether for good or for bad.

“Some people might not like it, other people might find it funny, but I hope people look beneath the surface and see the serious side too.”

Rinehart demanded Namatjira’s painting of her which she deems unflattering be removed from display at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, 2024

Nine Newspapers have reported that a dozen complaints have come into the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) about the portrait of Australia’s’ richest woman including some from athletes she sponsors through her company Hancock Prospecting.

Reportedly one accused the NGA of “doing the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party” with the portrait of Ms. Rinehart.

On the NGA website, Ms. Rinehart is listed as a “friend” of the gallery as she has donated up to $7,000.

Namatjira’s work is known for his paintings that are caricatures of people in almost cartoonish like forms. National Gallery of Australia

The NGA has refused to move the painting, which will be on display until July 21.

It was hung in March as part of the Vincent Namatjira: Australia in colour exhibition which features 21 pieces of his work.

“Since 1973, when the National Gallery acquired Jackson Pollack’s Blue Poles, there has been a dynamic discussion on the artistic merits of works in the national collection, and/or on display at the gallery,” the NGA said in a statement.

“Some people might not like it, other people might find it funny, but I hope people look beneath the surface and see the serious side too,” Namatjira said. WireImage

“We present works of art to the Australian public to inspire people to explore, experience and learn about art.”

In 2022, Ms. Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting firm ripped up to $15 million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia.

The furore erupted when Indigenous player Donnell Wallam was said to be uncomfortable wearing a uniform with the Hancock Prospecting logo.

Nine Newspapers have reported that a dozen complaints have come into the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) about the portrait of Australia’s’ richest woman.
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, 2024

This was reportedly due to comments made by Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock in the 1980s. He infamously suggested in 1984 Indigenous Australians should be sterilized to “breed themselves out” in coming years.

After the unease in the team about Hancock’s involvement became public, the firm scrapped its sponsorship deal saying it did “not want to add to netball’s disunity problems”.

Ms. Rinehart’s Roy Hill company will also stop sponsoring Netball WA and team the West Coast Fever.

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