American comedian Stephen Colbert takes aim at Gina Rinehart portrait

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The unflattering portrait that billionaire mining heiress Gina Rinehart wanted removed from display at the National Gallery of Australia has gone global.

The painting of Australia’s richest person appears in an exhibition by acclaimed Archibald Prize-winning Indigenous artist Vincent Namatjira, who is known for his paintings that are caricatures of people in almost cartoonish like forms.

Nine newspapers reported last week Rinehart had demanded the removal of the work in April, which was then followed by complaints from associates of her company, Hancock Prospecting, and athletes she sponsors.

It only took days for the portrait to appear on the highest-rated late-night talk show in America, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

“In news from Down Under, a billionaire has called for the removal of an unflattering portrait of her from the National Gallery of Australia,” the comedian reported on his show.

“The woman in question is a controversial mining billionaire named Gina Rinehart, seen here.” He showed a photo of her and continued: “But come on I mean how unflattering could this portrait possibly –”

The painting was then shown on screen, prompting laughter from the live audience.

“OK, OK, OK, I got to say I’m no art expert but in this portrait I believe the artist really captured her expression at the moment she saw this portrait,” Colbert joked.

The clip has been viewed more than half a million times on YouTube alone, and also reshared across social media.

“Well done Gina and the Australian swim team. The portrait is now international,” wrote one person.

“So her strategy seems to have worked wonders because only 2.5 million Americans saw this live …” said another.

The matter has also made international headlines on major outlets like US-based CNN and British public service broadcaster BBC.

Aussie swimming superstar Kyle Chalmers is one of the athletes behind the push to have the artwork removed.

“I think she just deserves to be praised and looked upon definitely a lot better than what the portraits have made her out to be,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Without her sponsorship, we would actually have nothing.”

The NGA has refused to move the painting, which will be on display until July 21.

It was hung in March as part of the Vincent Namatjira: Australia in colour exhibition which features 21 pieces of his work.

“Since 1973, when the National Gallery acquired Jackson Pollack’s Blue Poles, there has been a dynamic discussion on the artistic merits of works in the national collection, and/or on display at the gallery,” the NGA said in a statement.

“We present works of art to the Australian public to inspire people to explore, experience and learn about art.”

Namatjira said he paints the world as he sees it.

“People don’t have to like my paintings, but I hope they take the time to look and think, ‘why has this Aboriginal bloke painted these powerful people? What is he trying to say?’ I paint people who are wealthy, powerful, or significant – people who have had an influence on this country, and on me personally, whether directly or indirectly, whether for good or for bad,” he said.

“Some people might not like it, other people might find it funny, but I hope people look beneath the surface and see the serious side too.”

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