Australia’s Richest Woman Demands Gallery Remove Her Unsightly Portrait

Reuters and National Gallery of Australia
Reuters and National Gallery of Australia

Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, Australia’s wealthiest woman, has reportedly launched a campaign to pressure the National Gallery of Australia into removing a portrait of her drafted by the award-winning aboriginal artist Vincent Namatjira.

Rinehart reportedly appealed to the gallery herself, demanding the artwork be removed because of its “unflattering” depiction of her.

Despite donating up to $10,000 to the gallery, located in Australia’s capital of Canberra, Rinehart had her efforts rebuffed by gallerists. She then embarked on a campaign to have those in her orbit pester the gallery with the same demand, which included dispatching associates at Hancock Prospecting and professional athletes sponsored by Hancock, The Sydney Morning-Herald reported.

That included Hancock execs accusing the art gallery of “doing the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party” by displaying her image in an unflattering way, the Herald reported. Rinehart has recently praised the Chinese government herself, claiming its doing better than Australia, and it’s unclear what “bidding” the art gallery is allegedly doing.

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It’s easy to see why Rinehart, 70, would hate the portrait. The work shows her having an aghast look on her face, with no clear jawline, an enlarged forehead, and disproportionate nostrils. Despite pushing for its removal behind the scenes, she has not spoken publicly about the portrait.

In a statement, the National Gallery said it stood behind the artwork and would keep it on display.

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

Namatjira’s exhibit was billed as being one that takes a “wry look at the politics of history, power and leadership from a contemporary Aboriginal perspective.” Rinehart, as controversial as she is wealthy, has spoken against the passing of Indigenous heritage laws previously.

Pending a change of heart by the gallery, Rinehart’s unsavory portrait will remain hanging for all to see—alongside images of Queen Elizabeth II and 19 other prominent people—until July 21.

The National Gallery’s website lists Rinehart as a friend of the National Gallery, meaning she donated between $5,000 and $10,000 of her $30 billion net worth to the institution. It’s unclear if that giving was a one-time donation or an annual gift, but the gallerists in Canberra likely won’t see a dime more in the future from her.

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