Black paint smeared over art gallery displaying Rolf Harris paintings


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The Independent Culture

Police are probing reports of threats to a Devon art gallery after black paint was smeared across its shop windows apparently to obscure paintings by Rolf Harris. The Australian-born artist and television entertainer was recently named as one of 12 men held by officers investigating the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Devon and Cornwall police confirmed in a statement they are seeking a male suspect “who used his hands to smear black paint over the shop window” and that the vandalism took place at the Triton Gallery in Torquay between 1am and 2am on Tuesday morning.

Mr Harris, 83, was identified by the press for the first time last week as the man in his 80s who was questioned last year by Operation Yewtree. Mr Harris was interviewed under caution after visiting a South London police station by appointment in November 2012. He was arrested on 28 March, bailed until next month, and has not been charged. Mr Harris denies any wrongdoing.

Triton gallery owner David Phelps confirmed that the vandalism had taken place but said the incident "does not reflect the opinions of members of the public who are coming in here" and that it would not deter him from selling Mr Harris’ paintings.

“Someone has put black paint on the window. It is only superficial and has been removed,” he said. “I don't think my staff are perturbed by what has happened and I am not worried at all. We are going to continue to sell Rolf Harris' paintings. They are continuing to sell well throughout the country irrespective of the allegations.”

He continued: “I have checked with the publishers who have over 60 galleries across the country and they have not had any incidents like this anywhere else.”

Asked if the incident would affect his decision to sell paintings by Mr Harris in the future, Mr Phelps said: “I’m more concerned about what I’m having for lunch, frankly.”

The Independent had not received a response to a request for comment from Mr Harris’ agent Billy Marsh Associates at press time.

The Australian-born entertainer is one of 12 people arrested under Operation Yewtree including the former pop star Gary Glitter, DJ Dave Lee Travis, comedians Freddie Starr and Jim Davidson, and PR guru Max Clifford. All deny any wrongdoing.

Mr Harris has had a 40-year career on British television screens after moving to the UK in 1952 from Perth. He presented Animal Hospital for ten years, Rolf’s Cartoon Club and Rolf’s Amazing World Of Animals. He is also known for his musical career and studied painting at City and Guilds Art School.

He was commissioned by Buckingham Palace to paint a portrait of the Queen which he completed in 2005 to mark the monarch’s 80 birthday.