Times Square and multiple petitions: the Gina Rinehart portrait drama explained.

Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, has done a Barbra Streisand.

In her bid to remove a portrait of herself from the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra, Rinehart has instead put the spotlight on the very portrait she wanted axed.

The mining magnate and heiress, estimated to be worth over $30 billion, reportedly wasn't a fan of the portrait painted by an Indigenous artist as part of his current exhibition at Australia's largest art museum.

Getting messier and messier by the day, here's the news story explained.

The exhibition in question.

Vincent Namatjira is the artist who painted Rinehart's portrait. He is a celebrated Indigenous portraitist who is well known for his satirical chronicles of Australian identity.

The exhibition is titled "Vincent Namatjira: Australia in colour," and it's available for the public to see at the NGA in Canberra until July 21.

Watch: the saga even made the news on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Post continues below. 

Video via YouTube.

It features several portraits of prominent figures relevant to Australian culture such as Rinehart, Cathy Freeman, Adam Goodes, the late Queen Elizabeth II, Scott Morrison, Julia Gillard, King Charles and many more. In Namatjira's typical style, the portraits are an exaggerated depiction of all the subjects' features. 


They are caricatures of sorts. Rinehart's portrait follows this artist style. 

The NGA has described the exhibition as one that takes a "wry look at the politics of history, power and leadership from a contemporary Aboriginal perspective".

Gina Rinehart tries to have the portrait removed from display.

Last week it was reported that Rinehart has been calling for this portrait of her to be removed from display at the NGA. 

Rinehart directly contacted NGA's council director and chair to ask for the removal of her portrait. Sydney Morning Herald also reported that associates of her company have lodged numerous petitions to the gallery.

These associates have reportedly accused the NGA of "doing the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party" by displaying her image in an unflattering way. 

Rinehart is listed on the NGA's website as a "friend" of the gallery for donating between $4,999 and A$9,999  in the most recent fiscal quarter.

Rinehart has not publicly commented on the painting, nor the subsequent media attention.

The portraits by Vincent Namatjira. Image: National Gallery of Australia


Gina Rinehart's history on Indigenous issues.

Rinehart recently claimed the West Australian government's changes to Indigenous heritage laws — after Rio Tinto's destruction of an ancient site at Juukan Gorge in 2020 — would force homeowners to get heritage approval to build granny flats in their backyards. This is not the case.

Last year, Rinehart was in the news following disputes with Netball Australia. She withdrew her $15 million sponsorship after Indigenous player Donnell Wallam asked for her uniform not to include the Hancock Prospecting logo.

Wallam was protesting against the comments made by Hancock Prospecting's founder, which we unpack below. 

Rinehart refused to apologise for the comments from the founder of her company, and she cancelled her funding for Netball Australia after players refused to wear her company's logo.


Rinehart's father, Australian magnate Lang Hancock, has a significantly checkered past when it came to his racist comments made towards Indigenous people. He is the founder of Hancock Prospecting, which Rinehart took over.

In an infamous 1984 interview Hancock said: "[Aboriginal people] that have been assimilated into, you know, earning good living or earning wages amongst the civilised areas, those that have been accepted into society and they have accepted society and can handle society, I'd leave them well alone.

"The ones that are no good to themselves and can't accept things, the half-castes — and this is where most of the trouble comes — I would dope the water up so that they were sterile and would breed themselves out in future and that would solve the problem."

Hancock also benefited when he laid claim to lands that Aboriginal people had occupied for thousands of years.

He previously said: "Nothing should be sacred from mining whether it's your ground, my ground, the Blackfella's ground or anybody else's. So the question of Aboriginal land rights and things of this nature shouldn't exist."

Rinehart has never publicly condemned the racist words of her father. 

Indigenous writer Natasha Lucas wrote for Mamamia: "It may not have been Rinehart's words, but her silence now speaks volumes."

Rinehart has drawn praise from some Indigenous leaders though, following her multi-million dollar donations to various relevant foundations.


Olympic swimmers, who are funded by Gina Rinehart, back the mining magnate.

It's been reported that complaints have also come from athletes that Rinehart sponsors.

Sydney Morning Herald reported that an Olympic gold medallist and one of the top officials in Australian swimming co-ordinated a group of around 20 Aussie swimmers to campaign against the portrait.

In response to the reports, Olympic gold medallist Kyle Chalmers confirmed: "Being on the pool deck at the national championships, it was definitely the talk of the swimming pool and everyone throwing their support behind our patron that makes everything possible for us.

"I think she just deserves to be praised and looked upon definitely a lot better than what the portraits have made her out to be. Without her sponsorship, we would actually have nothing."

A comedian wants the portrait featured at New York's Times Square.

Australian comedian Dan Ilic announced he was fundraising to display the portrait of Rinehart on a billboard in New York's Times Square. Imitation artworks of what the portrait would look like if on billboards in the iconic location have since flooded social media. 


"The person who was seeking for it to be removed has a unique place in Australian culture and politics, and uses their power for things that are very much in line with their interests," Ilic said to The New Daily

"Us, using our own power as a community to try and leverage a lot of little people's contributions to this celebration of great Australian art, is a great thing."

The National Gallery of Australia responds.

The NGA has said they won't back down, and will keep the portrait on display until the exhibition's end date.

In a public statement shared widely, the NGA said it "welcomes the public having a dialogue on our collection and displays".

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

The National Association for the Visual Arts also issued a statement, saying they feel passionately about defending artists and their right to "create art about any subject and by any means".


"While Rinehart has the right to express her opinions about the work, she does not have the authority to pressure the gallery into withdrawing the painting simply because she dislikes it."

Guardian cartoonist Fiona Katasukas told the ABC's The World Today the portrait is an artistic interpretation. 

"If you go through his collection of work it doesn't stand out as being offensive or odd, it's part of his style, Scomo is in there, that's not flattering, same with Gillard," Katasukas notes. 

The Arts Minister Tony Burke has also defended NGA's decision to reject Rinehart's request to remove the painting.

The artist responds. 

Vincent Namatjira released a statement which said, "I paint the world as I see it".

"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?' I paint 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."

He continued: "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."

Feature Image: National Gallery of Australia/Getty.