Rolf Harris: How will this mornings allegations affect the art market?


News broke today that Rolf Harris, a much loved and admired figure, was arrested following Operation Yewtree. The operation launched by Scotland Yard questioned the 83 year old on allegations of sexual abuse, Harris denies the allegations, and the abuse is not thought to be linked to the Jimmy Saville scandal. Shockingly the investigation seems to have been going on since September last year when Harris was first questioned by police, since then there has been a press blackout with newspapers unable to publish the story for legal reasons. With these developments surfacing, what impact will this have on the  Rolf Harris brand, particularly his art work? Should Whitewall Gallery who currently stock works by Harris and collectors who have already purchased his works, worry about the affect these could have on the price and saleability of these works, or could it even have the opposite affect?   

Rolf Harris, his music, books, art and overall brand has made him one of Britons best loved and celebrated entertainers. His long career has spanned almost half century, including a long stint at the ‘BBC’ appearing on Animal Hospital. His art has been exceptionally popular since the start of his career, perhaps his most famous catch: “Can you guess what it is yet?”, was used whilst drawing his famed works. Today his work sells for a high sum and Whitewall Gallery a leading gallery with branches all over the country, sells original works and prints by the artist. Walking past the gallery this morning I couldn’t help but notice Harris’s works had been moved into the front window, I can’t help but feel this was a deliberate move by the gallery. This scandal may be a blessing in disguise for the gallery and investors, should he turn out to be cleared of all charges, the press intention will have only pushed Harris further into spotlight, advertised his brand further and vindicated a very much loved figure. Such publicity could see an increase in sales and perhaps even push prices up. This good publicity would of course be welcomed, but what about the other side of the coin? The alternative of course is that Harris’s long career could ultimately be tainted by the story, should the scandal develop further the likelihood is that he will become notorious and unpopular, leading to a fall in both sales and a decrease in the price of his works.


Above: ‘Ghost City in the gums’ by Rolf Harris, released 2004.

Considering the nature of his arrest and the public’s attitude regarding such allegations following the Saville scandal, what is the correct course of action in such an event? Although nothing has been set in decided in court, a formal arrest has been made and potentially his name has already been tainted, especially since the story was covered up for such a protracted period of time. I was speaking to a lady on the subject just this morning who came in the gallery, she was shocked by the news and admitted that it was making her think twice about the way she perceived the artist. The same lady also lamented over the scandal surrounding Lance Armstrong, a once life long fan, she recently binned all his books and any other related material on the biker. It just goes to show the damage that can be done through losing trust in someone you once held to such a high standard. Should we follow the same example she did with Armstrong? It’s almost certainly to early to say, but ethically and morally it will probably seen to be the appropriate course of action. With this idea in mind though, shouldn’t we also be throwing away other artists with similar backgrounds? It has become popular knowledge now that Michelangelo enjoyed the company of young boys and many of Picasso’s muses were very young girls.  

The art market is an ever fluctuating place and the effect this scandal will have on the collectability of Harris’s work is yet to be seen. What ever the outcome, it is likely a question-mark will always now be hanging over the entertainers head. His work will most likely remain on the walls of collectors and galleries for the time being. We must though be careful of the precedent set in the wake of this, if the value and perceived ability of Harris’s ability to produce excellent pieces of art is affected by his personal life, should we not also re-asses the quality of collectibility of more historic artists with even darker backgrounds?

14 thoughts on “Rolf Harris: How will this mornings allegations affect the art market?

  1. All his work should be removed. Everyone is commenting/thinking about him, put yourself in the shoes of the people that it has happened to and imagine if they were one of your children… If he had not committed anything then all this news would not have been released… It’s a shame that he has got away with it for so many years. Who would believe a person not famous against someone who is.. People would only would have said that they are after publicity. Company’s etc… should not be allowed to make money through this kind of crime…

    • In England we have a belief that a person is innocent until proved guilty. Trial by the media and even CPS assurances (like they’ve never made a mistake before) aren’t enough which is why we have trial by jury. Just a thought.

    • What do you mean “got away with it”? He may well be totally innocent and has not done anything at all. Any one of us could be falsely accused of a crime and it would not mean we actually did it, let’s not make the man guilty before he has even had a trial.

  2. I think the point you leave out when you make a comparison of Michangelo and the company of boys… Is your talking about a period of time when life expectancy was no older than 35 and quite uncivilised. Anyone who is charged and convicted of the exploitation and indecent assault of children is a monster and if convicted was a wolf in sheeps clothing. How do you try and justify any such action. For the CPS to charge Rolf knowing his reputation doesn’t come lightly and is quite worring about much loved man! And if convicted and you still want to hang that painting in your home you might as well promote peodophilia… And what the heck why not buy a work of art by Hitler… I can’t see the difference… Both monsters!!

    • A ridiculous emotionally driven statement… Promoting paedophilia!!!! What a load of ridiculous nonsense. Regardless of crime and regardless of how evil the individual, some of his paintings are remarkable. I agree, both monsters but this would not sway me from buying either of their artwork

  3. I have met Rolf on a number of occasions and I find these allegations very hard to believe and it puzzles me how they could be proven after all these years, surely it’s one persons word against another’s and there are some very strange people in this world.
    Hopefully the jury will arrive at the right conclusion and he can return to what he does best, wonderful art and inspiring people with his exuberant personality

    • Well, having known about the evidence, a confession in form of a letter sent by Rolf to the Father of the victim proves beyond doubt that he is completely innocent in all of this and because of his public persona, he can never do no wrong. These swine’s are everywhere.

  4. As with all very public court cases in this manor…there is a great deal of mud slinging..and history has shown that even if the
    erson is found inocent mud sticks. We have several paintings by rolf and have met him, wefind it hard to believe such allergations but if they are true then then so be it and he must pay for the crime. But if he is innocent will the papers and mud slingers be so forward as to shout his praise..I doubt it somehow. The letter regarding his relationship with a teenager that went on for many years, anyman could have done this and not broken the law..think about this..he admitted it, and even wrote a letter to this really the actions of a serial abuser..?

  5. Given this mornings verdict I doubt you will be able to give away prints, the originals may have some residual value. I can’t help feeling your comparisons with Picasso sound both hollow and desperate.

  6. The children’s hospital I worked in had some of his pieces on display and shortly after the story broke they were removed. Today’s judgement will surely reduce the value of his work to firewood. Interesting thing is he moved in similar social circles to other high profile child rapists/ abusers that have been in the press recently. The chain of abuse goes higher up than we will ever be allowed to officially know. It is an interesting area to look into though. Some of the names involved will blow your mind.

  7. I have 3 pieces of his Art work , all I love greatly and they will remain on my wall, this however does not lessen the fact that having grown up with him during my life time I am more than disappointed by his now known behaviour , a very sad tragic fact which cannot be ignored !

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