• News
  • Jun 03, 2024

Australian Billionaire Demands Portrait Removal, Gifts Another

Left to right: ALIX KORTE, untitled painting of Gina Rinehart, 2019, and a portrait of Rinehart from VINCENT NAMATJIRA‘s, Australia in Colour, 2021, acrylic on linen. Courtesy Gina Rinehart’s website and the National Gallery of Australia.

During a Senate estimates hearing on May 31, the National Gallery of Australia, Caberra’s (NGA) board revealed that the nation’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, gifted the institution a portrait of herself. The news follows her demand that the gallery remove a separate, and reportedly “unflattering,” portrait of her by Western Aranda artist Vincent Namatjira. 

The gifted portrait’s existence came to light when board members at the hearing stated that the NGA is processing a deed from Hancock Prospecting, which Rinehart owns. A statement released by the mining company on June 2 claims that the chief executive’s wife, Perth-based artist Alix Korte, gifted the portrait of Rinehart to Australia’s National Portrait Gallery (NPGA) back in 2019. But the NPGA has since denied this, asserting that Rinehart herself gifted the work to the institution. Regardless, many have questioned why the portrait has not been admitted to its collection after five years. 

NPGA director Bree Pickering stated that the delay stems from there being caveats to the complimentary painting. “There were some conditions that came along with that gift that meant those conditions are currently under negotiation,” he said at the Senate hearing. “Because of those conditions, we haven’t been able to formally accept . . . the work into the collection.” 

The conditions in question were not made public, but it was implied that they dictated how the work could be displayed. This micromanagement of Rinehart portraits, dating back to 2019, foreshadowed what was to come: in April, Rinehart reached out directly to Nick Mitzevich and Ryan Stokes, the director and chair of the NGA, respectively, requesting that the museum take down Namatjira’s painting. They refused. 

The mining heiress’s attempt to censor the work appears to be have had the opposite effect. Since news broke that the NGA had received nearly 50 “complaints” about the painting (many of which likely came from Hancock Prospecting), the Guardian reports that the museum’s visitor numbers have increased by 24 percent. 

Camilla Alvarez-Chow is an editorial assistant at ArtAsiaPacific. 

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