Council takes down Rolf Harris artwork

A WORK of art created by disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris has hastily been removed from Griffith City Council's foyer this week.

The decision to take the painting down was made on Tuesday after a London jury found Harris guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault against four girls.

The Harris original was painted before a live audience at the Griffith Regional Theatre in 1989 and was bought at a charity auction by businessman Paul Mackay and later donated to council.

Griffith City Council general manager Brett Stonestreet confirmed the artwork had been removed.

"In light of the charges it has been removed from the foyer," he said.

"It has been under review because of the court case, but now a decision has been made we've taken it down.

"It will go into storage and it certainly won't be on public display." Valued at more than $40,000, the painting is no stranger to controversy.

It was at the centre of Griffith's biggest art scandal when it went missing from the Griffith Visitors Centre.

At the time it was presumed stolen, with police questioning several council employees and even raiding a Griffith residence in search of the missing artwork.

But council was left red-faced when in July 2009 staff stumbled across the 2x1 metre piece in the theatre's basement.

An insurance company had to be reimbursed for $13,000.

It finally went back on public display in August 2010 and in recent years has been hanging in council's foyer until it was removed this week.

Well-known former local artist Jennifer Forster said she thinks council has done the right thing by taking it down.

"Obviously I am horrified and don't condone what he has done," she said.

"But as an artist I don't think he should lose his place in the art world. He really put Australia on the map. I grew up watching him and he influenced me as a young artist. He made me think that anything was possible as an artist.

"I think that it would be a shame not to see his works ever again. That painting is still a legitimate piece of artwork and as an artist I don't think it diminishes what he has done for Australian art."

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