Who, what, why: What happened to Rolf Harris's portrait of the Queen?
- 1 July 2014
One of disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris's highest profile works of art was his portrait of the Queen, but where is the painting now?
Questions have been asked about the work amid speculation about Harris facing compensation claims after being convicted of a series of sex attacks.
Harris's oil painting was undertaken as part of a BBC television documentary to mark the Queen's 80th birthday. The monarch sat twice for Harris to paint her over the summer of 2005.
After it was unveiled in December that year, the portrait, which took Harris two months to complete, initially went on public display at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace.
But this was just a six-month display. A Royal Collection spokeswoman says: "It was only loaned to us briefly". She says she did not know where the painting, which is not part of the Royal Collection, ended up.
The BBC, which originally approached Buckingham Palace asking whether the Queen would be willing to sit for the painting, said it was not in its possession.
"We've been asked about this before and the position hasn't changed. The BBC does not have this painting in its collection," a spokeswoman says. She would not address the issue of the painting's ownership.
Harris offered the painting to the National Portrait Gallery, but it was turned down.
The work appears to have been most recently displayed by Liverpool's Walker Gallery, which said it had been part of Harris's private collection. It was on show in 2012 as part of an exhibition of his work, all of which came from private owners.
A Walker Gallery spokeswoman says that after the exhibition finished in August 2012, the painting was returned to Whitewall Galleries, which is understood to have had a commercial relationship with Harris. Harris launched the gallery chain's Liverpool branch in 2011 and a Google search shows that his work was previously listed on the Whitewall Galleries website, although he has now been removed.
Whitewall Galleries has yet to respond to requests for a comment and it is not known whether the painting is in Whitewall's, or Harris's, possession.
Bell Pottinger, the PR firm hired to represent Harris during his trial, could not confirm whether the 84-year-old had the painting in his possession.
It is unclear how much the Queen portrait or any of Harris's other work is now worth. After being valued at £50,000 on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow, a Harris painting of singer Bonnie Tyler failed to meet its £25,000 reserve price with auctioneer John Taylors, in Louth, in 2012.
James Laverack, of John Taylors, said Harris was a "talented artist" but the value of his work would have "dropped considerably" since the abuse allegations first emerged.
"Prices started to rise when he did the Queen's portrait, and he became considered a serious artist rather than just a TV celebrity," says Laverack.
It will be hard to gauge the extent of the value drop until some of Harris's works next goes to auction, he added.
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Reporting by Tom Moseley
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