Gina’s gallery grumble: Rinehart art stays despite billionaire’s demands

“Does anyone really like how they are portrayed by someone else?” Controversial Gina Rinehart art to remain at exhibition in Canberra.


Art is subjective, and to be honest artists can really only work with the tools and the subject at hand.

So, does anyone really like how they are portrayed – artistically in any form of medium – by someone else?

And surely it’s a privilege to have your portrait painted by a renowned award-winning artist and displayed in one of the most prestigious galleries in the country whether you like it or not?

These and more questions came to mind as Australia’s richest woman, mining magnate Gina Rinehart demanded that her portrait be pulled from the wall at an exhibition in the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra.


How did it unfold?

On the 2nd of March the exhibition for Vincent Namatjira OAM, Australia In Colour opened at the gallery. Namatjira, the great-grandson of Albert Namatjira – perhaps our most famous and most important First Nations artist – has made a name for himself the last 10 years as a celebrated portraitist. He’s also a keen satirist of the Australian identity, and pokes his sharp brush often at those in history, politics, leadership and power.

It is his first survey or overview exhibition charting his career.

The Rinehart portrait, depicting her with a double chin, is just one of 21 portraits in the set, which includes Queen Elizabeth, Jimi Hendrix, Julia Gillard, and the artist himself. They are all in the familiar distorted style of Namatjira.

Reportedly, Rinehart and members of her team at Hancock Prospecting have repeatedly approached the gallery with their demands to pull it down.

Both Namatjira and the NGA have rejected the request.


What they say:

“Since 1973, when the National Gallery acquired Jackson Pollocks’ 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. We present works of art to the Australian public to inspire people to explore, experience and learn about art.”
—NGA statement to CNN

“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.”
—Vincent Namatjira’s statement last Thursday

“I think if you have seen the show […] you will have a context for the way in which Gina is depicted and for the kind of storytelling inherent in the show. Portraiture is not a photographic art, it is an art of expression, an art of creating a sense of identity, a sense of an individual.”
—Lisa Slade, assistant director at the Art Gallery of South Australia (where the work was previously on show) to ABC Radio Adelaide

Due to her various sponsorships of sports teams and sporting events, an Olympic champion and a state swimming organisation have also pushed for the removal.

No such luck.

The exhibition is open until the 21st of July.


Vincent Namatjira OAM is an Aboriginal Australian artist based in Indulkana, part of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara region in South Australia. He has received numerous art awards and, after several nominations, made history in 2020 as the first Aboriginal person to win the Archibald Prize.



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