When should the art be separated from the artist? That’s the question the local government in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt asked this week when it voted not to sell a painting donated by convicted sex addict Rolf Harris.
- Wheatbelt council has voted not to sell a painting donated by convicted pedophile Rolf Harris.
- The Shire of Quairading removed the artwork from 2014
- The painting divided the community, with some wanting it destroyed
At the request of one of his classmates at Perth Modern School, Quairading painted a bush landscape in front of a packed crowd at the local town hall. the disgraced entertainer in 1983.
Local governments and other institutions rushed to tear down Harris’ artwork and paint over the mural in 2014 after he was found guilty of indecently assaulting four young women in England between the years 1968 and 1986 for the 92-year-old.
The Quairading piece has been in storage since then, but the council recently received an offer from a private buyer willing to pay $3,000 for the painting.
Local residents were divided over the painting
Community feedback was then sought on what to do with the artwork, and about half of the 75 people who responded said they wanted to keep the painting on display.
Supporters say it’s a nostalgic piece, and many have fond memories of being amazed when the painting unfolded before their eyes.
A report submitted to the council said that the majority of 50 percent of those who responded to the preservation of the work did not want “a well-known actor and a lifetime of trauma in children” to the painting will be “celebrated” on display.
Some of the neighbors suggested that the painting be sold to an art dealer before being sold, and that the proceeds be donated to a good cause.
Others wanted the piece destroyed.
Shire of Quairading chairman Peter Smith said the council had decided the painting should not be sold.
“We as a council have taken it as a community asset and because of the equitable distribution, we have decided that it should not be sold and should be kept for future generations,” he said.
“We are here to make decisions on behalf of our community.” It is only right that it be kept as an asset of our community.
Mr Smith acknowledged that many people liked the artwork, but said the painting would not be placed in the town hall.
“I think it’s a beautiful painting, but I don’t agree with anything [Harris’s] previous event,” he said.
Quairading is not the only Wheatbelt town to receive art from Harris, and the Shire of Dalwallinu’s decision to re-hang the painting following his conviction has attracted significant opposition. The painting was removed from public view.
The City of Greater Geraldton has an artwork by Harris at the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery, but Mayor Shane Van Styn said there are no plans to move it, display or sell it.
In 2015, Harris was stripped of the honor given to him by Queen Elizabeth II when his last royal painting was unveiled in 2005.
The ABC reported in September that the painting’s current whereabouts are unknown, and that it was last seen in public at Liverpool’s Walker Gallery.
A homewares store in Caulfield painted a British Paints by Harris advertisement and Madame Tussauds Sydney has removed a portrait of the entertainer after community backlash.
Harris was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison, but was released after serving only three years.