Frame of shame: what to do with Rolf's painting

QUESTIONABLE ART: One of disgraced Australian entertainer Rolf Harris’s paintings has had pride of place in a small rural Taranaki hall for 41 years. 
QUESTIONABLE ART: One of disgraced Australian entertainer Rolf Harris’s paintings has had pride of place in a small rural Taranaki hall for 41 years. 

For 40 years, it has had pride of place in a Taranaki community hall. Now the future of a painting of the Three Sisters pinnacles is in doubt, because it was created by disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris.

Harris drew the towering rock stacks, off the north Taranaki coast at Tongaporutu, from a photograph after being presented with it at the New Plymouth Opera House in 1973.

He was there as a guest of the Tongaporutu women's division of Federated Farmers.

Former Tongaporutu hall committee member Gay Andrews recalled his visit, and watching him create the painting in his rapid broad-brush style. "I can remember him up on the stage and we were all cheering when he was painting.

"It's sad for our painting," she said of Harris's conviction this week for assaulting four girls in Britain between 1968 and 1986.

Some residents of the small community are uncomfortable about keeping the painting in the wake of the 84-year-old's entertainer's downfall. Their discomfort is shared by other owners of Harris paintings around the world - and they are likely to find it harder to dispose of them after eBay said it was reviewing the sale of his works on its auction website.

Harris whipped up many original paintings on stages all around New Zealand on his many visits over the years. An auction of one of them failed to reach its $8000 asking price when it was put on Trade Me last month.

The unnamed Auckland woman selling the Australian bush scene said yesterday that she had always disliked the brightly coloured painting, which had hung in her lounge until she took it down recently and put it in storage.

"It's bright orange and nothing else is orange in the lounge, so it doesn't go with anything. I just got sick of looking at it."

Her husband watched Harris paint it at an event in Auckland in 1991 and bought it at the subsequent auction.

Publicity around Harris's sex charges prompted her to think it might boost interest in selling it, the woman said. "I looked on the internet and saw one had sold for £40,000, but I have no idea of its real value, so just picked a figure out of mid-air."

Overseas, some galleries had erased any trace of Harris from online catalogues, and private collectors had voiced horror at keeping his works.

A London auction house predicted the value of his paintings would plummet, after previously selling for thousands of pounds, although other shops had experienced a surge in interest for his work.

In Australia, monuments to Harris were being removed, and his boyhood school in Perth planned to pull down paintings of his that hang on its walls.

On Monday, Harris was found guilty of all 12 charges of assaulting four girls, including one aged only 7 or 8, after an eight-week trial at Southwark Crown Court in London.

The Dominion Post