Abbott leaks provocateur for his official portrait

After cartoonist Johannes Leak triggered a Twitterstorm earlier in the year with a hamfisted depiction of US vice-president Kamala Harris which drew criticisms of racism, it was always going to take someone with nerves of steel to give Leak his next high profile gig.

Step forward Tony Abbott who has handpicked Leak to paint his official portrait to be hung in the National Portrait Gallery. Leak, a cartoonist at The Australian, who is the son of that paper’s late celebrated cartoonist and provocateur Bill Leak, scored the government contract earlier this month via the Historic Memorials Commission to paint the former prime minister’s official portrait. And department documents show he’ll be paid more than $40,000 for the honour too.

Tony Abbott has selected the artist to paint his official portrait to be hung in the National Portrait Gallery.Credit:Getty Images

Perhaps sensing the commission might ruffle some feathers inside the more progressive wings of the federal government’s bureaucracy, the Department of Parliamentary Services wouldn’t offer much information about the gig on Tuesday. A spokeswoman declined to tell CBD who Leak would be painting, but offered this comment: “The process to produce official portraits involves the subject of the portrait selecting an artist. Their selection is then approved by the National Portrait Gallery prior to the contract being awarded,” a spokeswoman said.

“The subject of official portraits is formally announced when the portrait is unveiled.”

Abbott, a good friend of Leak Sr and Jr, did not return CBD’s calls, nor did the usually chatty Johannes, who produces cartoons for The Australian’s editorial page.

The last prime minister to have their portrait completed was Julia Gillard. Her realist portrait by Vincent Fantauzzo was unveiled in 2018.

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