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  4. Visitors to Australian gallery surged 24% after billionaire Gina Rinehart objected to her unflattering portrait, director says

Visitors to Australian gallery surged 24% after billionaire Gina Rinehart objected to her unflattering portrait, director says

Nathan Rennolds   

Visitors to Australian gallery surged 24% after billionaire Gina Rinehart objected to her unflattering portrait, director says
  • Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart asked for a portrait of her be removed, reports said.
  • Rinehart wanted Vincent Namatjira's painting of her taken down from Australia's National Gallery.

Visitors to the National Gallery of Australia have surged by 24% since reports first emerged that the country's richest person had tried to get an unflattering portrait of her taken down, the gallery's director has said.

Speaking at a Senate estimates hearing, meetings where Australian senators examine how the government is spending taxpayers' money, on Friday, gallery director Nick Mitzevich said: "We're expecting the visitor numbers to continue to be dynamic."

It comes after Gina Rinehart, 70, the billionaire mining magnate, and associates from her company, Hancock Prospecting, approached the gallery several times to try to get her portrait removed from an exhibition by the renowned Indigenous artist Vincent Namatjira, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

But their attempts to remove the painting backfired quite spectacularly, with news outlets worldwide picking up the story and sharing images of the portrait — a classic example of the "Streisand effect."

The term became popular following singer Barbra Streisand's attempt in 2003 to suppress the use of a photo showing her Malibu home.

Streisand filed a lawsuit against the photographer behind the image, which was one of around 12,000 photos he had posted on www.californiacoastline.org.

But the case was eventually dismissed, with Streisand having to pay $177,000 in legal fees and see the photo garner far more attention than it otherwise would have had she not taken legal action.

According to the National Gallery of Australia's website, Namatjira is known for "producing paintings laden with dry wit" and "has established himself in the past decade as a celebrated portraitist and a satirical chronicler of Australian identity."

In a statement shared by the gallery, Namatjira said: "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?'" he wrote. "'What is he trying to say?'"

"Some people might not like it, other people might find it funny, but I hope people look beneath the surface and see the serious side too," he added.

The estimates hearing was called to discuss Rinehart's donation of an approved portrait of herself to Australia's National Portrait Gallery.

The Portrait Gallery's director, Bree Pickering, told the hearing that the portrait was not hanging in the gallery because Rinehart had attached conditions relating to how it should be displayed, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

When asked whether Australia's richest woman was happy with this portrait, Pickering added, "The gift came from her, so she's quite happy with it."

She did not disclose the nature of the conditions laid out by Rinehart.

Rinehart is the daughter of iron ore magnate Lang Hancock. Following his death in 1992, Rinehart became the executive chairwoman of Hancock Prospecting.

She has a net worth of $20.2 billion, per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

One of the company's main assets is the Roy Hill iron ore mining project.

The project is located in Western Australia's Pilbara region and currently delivers "60 million tonnes per annum of iron ore to international markets," according to the official website.




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