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Australia’s Richest Woman Seeks Removal of Her ‘Unflattering’ Portrait

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Gina Rinehart, whose estimated net worth is US$30.6 billion, seeks by a portrait of her painted by award-winning Aboriginal artist Vincent Namatjira.

Western Australian mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has expressed disapproval of a portrait of her, painted by award-winning indigenous artist Vincent Namatjira, and has requested the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) to remove it from their exhibition.

She approached the gallery’s director Nick Mitzevich and chair Ryan Stokes in April to lobby for it to be taken down.

Her portrait is one of 21 works that form a larger collection, “Australia in Colour,” by the former winner of the Archibald Prize. Others in the exhibit include Queen Elizabeth II, AFL player Adam Goodes, and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The gallery acquired it as part of its 40th-anniversary celebrations in 2022.

Mr. Namatjira is known for painting people with almost cartoon-like appearances. His work is understood as an attempt to change people’s perspectives by using satirical humour as a commentary on power. The gallery bills the show as one that takes a “wry look at the politics of history, power, and leadership from a contemporary Aboriginal perspective.”

Before going on show in Canberra, the collection of paintings was displayed from October 2023 until January 2024 during the exhibition’s initial run at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

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The South Australian gallery has confirmed it was not pressured to remove the portrait.

Dozens of Complaints From Reinhart-Supported Athletes

However, it is reported that the NGA has received around a dozen complaints, including some from athletes that Ms. Rinehart sponsors through her company, Hancock Prospecting.

Reportedly, one accused the gallery of “doing the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party” by displaying the work, though Ms. Rinehart recently praised the Chinese government for “doing a better job than our government.”

Hancock Prospecting, Ms. Rinehart’s 20 billion dollar mining business, has also reportedly made multiple such requests, saying it was concerned that the unflattering nature of the portrait could jeopardise the company’s standing.

After it was revealed in 2023 that Ms. Rinehart’s father, Lang Hancock, had said in 1984 that Indigenous Australians should be sterilised to “breed themselves out,” Indigenous netballer Donnell Wallam asked that her uniform not carry the Hancock Prospecting logo. That led to Ms. Rinehart withdrawing her $15 million (US$10 million) sponsorship of Netball Australia.

She later established a $3 million fund to reward athletes who won gold medals or set world records in swimming, artistic swimming, rowing, and volleyball.

Gallery Stands Firm

The gallery, however, refuses to remove the work and it will remain on display until July 21.

“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,” it said in a statement.

Gina Rinehart attends day seven of the Australian National Swimming Championships at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre in Sydney, Australia, on April 9, 2015. (Matt King/Getty Images)
Gina Rinehart attends day seven of the Australian National Swimming Championships at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre in Sydney, Australia, on April 9, 2015. (Matt King/Getty Images)

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

In 2020, Mr. Namatjira became the first Aboriginal artist to win the Archibald Prize with his portrait of former AFL player Adam Goodes. He is the grandson of famed watercolourist Albert Namatjira, but grew up unaware of this until he was an adult, when he was astonished to discover his artistic legacy and the significance of his family name.

Ms. Rinehart is listed as a “friend” of the NGA on its website, meaning she has donated up to $9,999. She has been contacted for comment through Hancock Prospecting, but has so far not responded.

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