NAVA defends Vincent Namatjira’s artistic freedom amid demands for removal from NGA

NGA Vincent Namatjira Australia in Colour 2021The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) stands firmly behind the artistic freedom of leading Western Aranda artist Vincent Namatjira OAM amidst demands for the withdrawal of his work from a major survey exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA).

“Freedom of Expression is a universal human right highly valued by artists,” said NAVA Executive Director Penelope Benton. “NAVA asserts that artists, as historians, commentators, and critics of society, should be free to create art about any subject and by any means, provided it is within the law.”

Namatjira’s work exemplifies this freedom, offering a critical exploration of Australia’s complex colonial history and its ties to the British Empire through subversive wit and caricature. His series of caricatures, including one featuring Gina Rinehart, provides a pointed critique of power dynamics in our society.

“Artistic expression is a fundamental aspect of Australian cultural life and it must include the freedom to exhibit, perform or distribute works that may be unpopular, shocking, or disturbing,” continued Benton.

“While Rinehart has the right to express her opinions about the work, she does not have the authority to pressure the gallery into withdrawing the painting simply because she dislikes it.”

“NAVA emphasises that exerting pressure on galleries for removal of artwork sets a dangerous precedent for censorship and the stifling of creative expression,” said Benton.

NAVA stands in unwavering support of the NGA and its commitment to fostering an environment where artists can present their work without undue interference.

“We believe that the diversity of artistic expression should be protected and celebrated, ensuring that all artists can continue to offer their unique and critical perspectives on our society,” said Benton.

NAVA strongly advocates for artistic freedom, opposing censorship that limits this right within legal boundaries. Artists must not face unreasonable constraints on their freedom of expression.

Vincent Namatjira: Australia in colour continues at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, until 21 July 2024. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Vincent Namatjira, Western Aranda people, Australia in Colour, 2021, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased in celebration of the National Gallery of Australia’s 40th anniversary, 2022 © Vincent Namatjira/Copyright Agency