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Reg Richardson AM
, 2014

by Mitch Cairns

oil on linen (frame: 124.8 cm x 104.4 cm depth 4.5 cm, support: 122.5 cm x 102.0 cm)

Reg Richardson AM, charity fundraiser, grew up in Broken Hill, and left school at fifteen for an office job with the Zinc Corporation mine. Moving to Sydney, he worked for a time with transport company TNT, where he met Greg Poche before both men were fired. Poche went on to found Startrack Express, and become one of Australia’s wealthiest men. Richardson became involved with diverse businesses, including information storage and management, service industries, wholesale pharmaceutical distribution, property development and investment. Having persuaded Poche to donate $40 million toward a purpose-built facility for melanoma research, Reg Richardson was appointed the chairman of the Melanoma Institute Australia in 2007. Richardson further encouraged Poche to donate $10 million to toward the establishment of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at the University of Sydney and together the two men founded the Poche Indigenous Health Network, with research units at Flinders, Melbourne, Western Australia and Queensland universities. A lifelong Catholic and supporter of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Richardson is also a very significant art collector who has served on the boards of the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of NSW Foundation as well as the Mercy Foundation, St Vincent’s Hospital and the Ted Noffs Foundation. His own charitable contributions combine with those he has coaxed from others to comprise some $140 million for the public good; now, Richardson’s passion is encouraging well-to-do Australians to follow his philanthropic lead.

Mitch Cairns, painter and cartoonist, completed his undergraduate study at the National Art School, Sydney in 2006, halfway through his three years as studio assistant to the late Adam Cullen. Immediately after graduation he began participating in group shows in Tasmania, Sydney and Melbourne; soon, he co-founded an artist-run space, The Cosmic Battle for Your Heart, which operated from 2009 to 2011. Cairns’s awards include the Brett Whiteley Traveling Art Scholarship, which included a residency at the Cité internationale des arts, Paris in 2013, and he has been a finalist in many leading art prizes. He was named the Archibald runner-up in both 2014 and 2015, first with this portrait of Richardson and secondly with a portrait of an older artist, Peter Powditch. Reg Richardson first acquired Mitch Cairns’s work while Cairns was still at art school. ‘In making this portrait,’ the artist stated alongside his Archibald entry: ‘I tried to depict something of the way Reg conducts himself. His manner is characterised by an air of casual distinction in which education, wit and anecdote sit comfortably without pretension. He is both affable and compelling; a tireless champion for all that he believes in. I hope this portrait, like Reg, is somewhat humble yet at the same time resonant with magnitude.’ Richardson wears his trademark red and green glasses (made in Adelaide, and adopted in tribute to the Rabbitohs) and red and green socks.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with assistance from the Circle of Friends 2015
Accession number: 2015.123