Not quite the Streisand Effect

There has been a lot of stuff in the media about the laughable attempt by Gina Rinehart to have a painting by renowned, Archibald prize-winning Aboriginal artist, Vincent Namatjira, removed from the National Gallery of Australia. The image of Rinehart is one of numerous portraits in Namatjira’s first major ‘survey’ exhibition. The National Gallery has rebuffed efforts to have the picture taken down and said in a statement that it welcomed public dialogue on its collection and exhibitions1.

Back in 2003, the American entertainer Barbra Streisand attempted to suppress photographs of her enormous residence in Malibu, California. She sued a photographer for violation of her privacy. The $US50 million lawsuit endeavoured to remove an aerial photograph from a public collection of thousands of California coastal photographs. Before the lawsuit, the image had been downloaded only 6 times. The lawsuit inadvertently led to vastly increased public attention, with 420,000 people visiting the site over the following month. Attempted suppression leading to the reverse of what was intended, is now termed the Streisand Effect2.

There is even a Wikipedia entry for the Streisand Effect. Streisand’s lawsuit sought to remove one aerial photograph from the publicly available California Coastal Records Project of 12,000 California coastline photographs, which documented coastal erosion and was intended to influence government policymakers. The photograph of Streisand’s residence was an inconsequential image among the many. The lawsuit was dismissed and Streisand was ordered to pay the photographer’s $177,000 legal fees3.

With Streisand, it was apparently a wish for privacy and as much as possible, to prevent the location of her massive mansion being widely known, whereas for Rinehart, the driver seems to be her vanity, because she didn’t like her portrayal in Namatjira’s painting. Indeed, the Rinehart story has been widely covered, such that it now is listed as an example of the Streisand Effect4.

It has been so widely covered that it has gone beyond Australia and become a global story, with articles from the BBC5, CNN6, and Time Magazineamong others. It has even been the source of mirth on Stephen Colbert’s US television show, with Colbert joking: “I’m no art expert but in this portrait, I believe the artist really captured her expression at the moment she saw this portrait”8. Even more hilarious is that Australian comedian, Dan Ilic, is attempting to raise $30,000 to have the portrait displayed in Times Square, New York9.

While I never complain about a person’s appearance because we have mirrors in our house and the carcass I see every morning is less that inspiring, it is Gina Rinehart’s character that is deeply ugly. She is a climate change denier10, a whiner about paying her employees a living wage11, a funder of the right-wing climate change denying, culture warrior bigots of the ‘think tank’, the Institute of Public Affairs12, she also rails against ‘socialism’ while receiving subsidies in the millions of dollars from the government13, and is an attempted briber of politicians14, an alleged defrauder of her children15, and an alleged blackmailer of her son16. The fact that she is so enamoured of keeping much of her wealth to herself and from her family, such that the family has effectively been destroyed, demonstrates her appalling character.

Some have suggested, tongue-in-cheek that the Streisand Effect be renamed the Rinehart Effect, but it should not be. While Streisand’s effort was seemingly about privacy, Rinehart’s is not. The Rinehart Effect should be a term reserved for such instances based on vanity.




  • JON says:

    I dislike Gina Rinehart (she’s in the same mould as Clive Palmer imo) but those “portraits” – like most of Namatjira’s featured in the media – are what used to be called in art circles “naive”. I can understand her concern – they’re both extremely unflattering – but the attempt to have hers removed from public display has ironically given them far more exposure than they deserve imo. Originally I thought they were caricatures – in which case the naivety might be forgiven, but apparently they’re being called portraits. Quite a few of the VN portraits I saw (The Queen, AdamGoodes, Morrison esp)×1800//national-gallery-of-australia/media/dd/images/20240228_Vincent_Namatjira-13.jpg were almost unrecognisable without the label.
    I understand that appreciation (or otherwise) of “art”, music etc is very personal so I’ll simply say VNamatjira’s art isn’t to my taste, unlike the art of his great grandfather Albert.

    • admin says:

      Yeah, they are not the sort of thing I have on my wall. I like impressionists such as those of the Heidelberg School (Roberts, Streeton etc. well beyond my budget), and the paintings etc. we have on our walls have been gifts from friends or those inherited from our parents, and the occasional one actually painted (or stitched) by friends or relatives.

      • Mark Dougall says:

        I liked it. Like many of his paintings they tell the truth, as he sees it. The SA art gallery had it on display for months without a murmur of concern.

    • Mark Dougall says:

      I reckon it captured the essence of her perfectly Jon. I don’t think it is naive at all. In fact insightful is how I would describe it.

  • JON says:

    mold not mould – a freudian slip perhaps?

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