Great art is provocation

There is a furore over a portrait of Australia’s richest woman, Gina Reinhardt, in the National Gallery of Australia, one of many images of the power brokers of the global stage painted by Indigenous artist Vincent Namatjira.

Apparently, Gina doesn’t like the painting and would like it removed.

The artist has asked people to consider why he paints pictures of the people he paints. It is a question worth pondering. 

Meanwhile, Swimming Australia, sponsored by the billionaire Gina, wrote a letter asking for the portrait to be pulled down from the Australian National Gallery.

The whole episode is a clear example of how alive the colonising impulse lives in today’s world. 

Gina Reinhardt, made rich to the point of obscenity by extraction of “Natural” resources, decimating land that has nourished people for 65,000 years in the process, seeks to use her considerable political power to get an artist, representing the people she has profited off more than any other group, to remove an image she dislikes. 

And those she sponsors join the party. Swimming Australia should be ashamed of itself. I get that they do not want to lose their sponsorship. But this is the very intersection point every one of us faces at some point. Do we stand for integrity, or do we capitulate to fear? The swimmers behind the protest need an education on privilege, racism and integrity.

Great art is provocation. Great art asks us to pause and think longer and deeper.

Those at effect of the horrors of colonisation, patriarchy and autocracy have historically used art as an expression of protest. It is often the only medium that is allowed. 

We have far to go as humanity to confront the ever-present, often subtle, codes of the colonial, exploitative mindset. It is the water we swim in and the air we breathe. 

Photo Taken December 17th 2023