Billionaire's Attempt to Hide Portrait Blows Up in Her Face

Vincent Namatjira's portrait of Gina Rinehart might now be destined for Times Square
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2024 4:10 PM CDT

Australia's richest woman just met the Streisand effect. Unhappy with a portrait of her featured in the National Gallery of Australia, mining billionaire Gina Rinehart sought to have it removed, the Guardian reports. But the portrait is not only staying put, it's now been shared by media around the world, including late-night TV shows in the US. That's meant a huge boost to the Indigenous artist behind the "Australia in Colour" exhibition, which opened at the NGA in March. Vincent Namatjira said he paints "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," per CNN.

Rinehart joins the late American singer Charley Pride and the late Queen Elizabeth II as one of 21 individuals portrayed. The mogul is apparently the only one to complain. Rinehart, who previously called on the poor to stop drinking so much and work more, reportedly asked the gallery's director to remove the portrait—in which she appears with a shocked expression, a drooping mouth, and a large double chin—prompting allegations of censorship, per 9News. The gallery refused the request before acknowledging a "noticeable increase" in online and in-person visitors, per the Guardian. Google Trends shows a "worldwide gain in traction of the search term 'Gina Rinehart,'" per the Guardian. Aussie comedian Dan Ilic has even raised $17,000 of a $30,000 goal to fund putting the portrait on a Times Square billboard.

Rinehart may not be happy with all this—her website showcases a more flattering portrait of her "in her preferred environment"—but for Namatjira, it means massive recognition of his work. His paintings, exploring themes of wealth, power, history, and country, are infused with "evident humor," per the Australian Financial Review. But "I am very serious about what I do," the recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia and the Archibald Prize for portraiture told the outlet in October. "I use my paintbrush as a weapon." In a statement amid the hubbub, he notes that "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?'" (More Australia stories.)

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