Killer's portrait to hang in victim's hometown

PREVIOUS SHOWING: Gallery patrons view the 'Mongrel Mob Portraits' at the Gow Langsford Gallery in Auckland.
Tobias Kraus

PREVIOUS SHOWING: Gallery patrons view the 'Mongrel Mob Portraits' at the Gow Langsford Gallery in Auckland.

A Wellington killer's imposing portrait will star in a ratepayer-funded exhibition in the victim's hometown.

The exhibition Mongrel Mob Portraits features Rogue chapter member Shane Harrison, who was convicted last year, with Dillin Pakai, of murdering 25-year-old Petone father Alonsio Matalasi.

Harrison's hooded image is part of New York-based photographer Jono Rotman's exhibition at City Gallery Wellington. It will run from March 14 to June 14.

CONTROVERSY: Shane Harrison, a convicted murderer, is featured in the exhibition.
Jono Rotman/Supplied

CONTROVERSY: Shane Harrison, a convicted murderer, is featured in the exhibition.

Gallery director Elizabeth Caldwell said Matalasi's family understood the project and were supportive of it.

But his father, Iafeta, said this week that many family members were unhappy Harrison's portrait would hang in the gallery.

It would be "ideal" if Harrison's portrait were removed from the exhibition, though he accepted that would not happen.

The photographs were also exhibited in May at the Gow Langsford Gallery in Auckland, and he criticised the inclusion of Harrison's portrait at the time.

However, he said he had since met Rotman and the artworks no longer had "any significance" for him.

"I wouldn't let anything touch me any more, especially things to do with Shane Harrison.

"I'm just building a brick wall between me and everything.

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"Compared to the trauma of losing my son, nothing will hurt me."

As the "boss-man" of his extended family, he encouraged his relatives to follow his lead in trying to understand Rotman's artistic concept.

Matalasi said he told Rotman: "If you want to do it, go ahead and do it, I'm not going to say anything about it any more.

"He knows what I feel about it, and I'm not going to ask him again not to do it, because it would be a waste of time for me to ask him again."

He would not be going to see the exhibition. "It's not my thing."

A statement published by the gallery this month said Rotman did not aim to glorify gang members, although it said the photographs were shot with traditional portraiture techniques usually reserved for heroes, royals and politicians.

Rotman was quoted as saying: "Should these guys only be shown in bad photographs or police mugshots?"

Caldwell acknowledged some visitors would be offended by the exhibition.

"Different people get upset about different things . . . We're being careful and sensitive around helping people to choose if they don't want to [see it]."

The exhibition would be held on the first floor and information outside would inform visitors about the content.

The gallery would welcome any gang members who wanted to attend the exhibition.

Caldwell would not increase security ahead of the show.

She urged ratepayers concerned about a public gallery hosting the show to remember that City Gallery returned $3 for every dollar of ratepayer funds spent.

"We're helping the ratepayer triple their investment in us."

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said the exhibition glorified gang lifestyles.

"A large percentage of the crime in this country is committed by gangs. A lot of them don't work, they're bludging the taxpayer. I don't think that's a lifestyle we should be promoting in this country."

Wellington's publicly funded galleries courted controversy in 2012 when the Dowse in Lower Hutt displayed a video that only women were allowed to view. The exhibition sparked a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

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 - The Dominion Post

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