The value of paintings by Rolf Harris has plummeted in the wake of his convictions for indecent assault. Experts believe that artwork by the entertainer could fetch just 10% of its previous value at auction.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com Mark Stacey, television antiques expert and auctioneer for Reeman Dansie, said: “The market for his paintings now would be very difficult. Auctioneers would possibly not want to catalogue his work in light of what’s happened, and the collectors won’t particularly want to be seen.”
It is a massive turnaround for a formerly prolific and popular artist. Stacey continued: “We all grew up with him, didn’t we? It wasn’t unheard of for a good Rolf Harris painting to make £20-£30,000 or more. My personal feeling is that for the foreseeable future you would be lucky if you got 10% of that now.”
Harris’s work always divided critics, with Brian Sewell describing his portrait of the Queen as “as bad a portrait as there has ever been of anybody”, but he remained a highly collectable artist due to his television stardom.
When a portrait of Bonnie Tyler painted by Harris appeared on Antiques Roadshow in 2011, expert Philip Mould valued it at £50,000. At the time he said: “He is considered, in a funny sort of way, to be a young old master. There are people queuing up just waiting for the next Rolf Harris.”
Asked how the market for Rolf Harris artwork might have changed today, Mould was more conservative, stating: “This unexpected turn of events will clearly not be helpful in supporting a market for Rolf Harris.”
It is not just private collectors who may now be lumbered with worthless Harris paintings. At public events, the entertainer often painted live in front of an audience, before donating the finished piece to his hosts. Many such paintings are now held in public collections across the country.
‘Korean Monk’ was painted and donated to The National Library of Wales in 2007, at an event celebrating Harris’s family ties to Merthyr Tydfil. Dr Paul Joyner, a curator at the library, explained: “It isn’t on display. I don’t think that painting has ever actually been on display. We haven’t got any plans to display it, and considering the situation at the moment we’d be less likely to be drawing attention to it.”
Asked whether the library may sell the painting off, Dr Joyner replied: “We’ve never actually sold off pictures that have been given to us at the collection. It may well be in the future that might change, but not as it stands at the moment.”
Other institutions listed as owning Rolf Harris paintings either did not reply to enquiries or could not find the artwork in question. One NHS trust claimed: “We did have it but we’ve no longer got it. It’s not on display in the hospital and we have no idea where it has gone. It has not just disappeared, but no-one actually knows where it has gone.”
And it’s not only Harris’s lesser works that have vanished. His portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, for which her majesty sat twice, appears to have disappeared. After being commissioned by the BBC and hung in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, the picture was placed on public view at Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery until August 2012. Mr Harris was first questioned as part of Operation Yewtree three months later. Since then the BBC, Royal Collection and Walker Art Gallery have all claimed no knowledge of the painting’s whereabouts.