His paintings have just earned me £7m at one show. Can you tell who it is yet?

Why, it's Rolf Harris of course, and prices for his work have risen tenfold since 2000 at his sell-out exhibition
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The Independent Online

Rolf Harris, the broadcaster once known for his daubed paintings and the catchphrase "Can you tell what it is yet?", has joined the ranks of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst as one of the UK's most bankable artists.

Just four years after he staged his first art exhibition in Britain, his works now fetch up to £125,000 each - commanding 10 times the prices they fetched in 2000.

His latest exhibition, at the Halcyon Gallery in central London, will raise more than £7m through sales of original canvases and limited-edition prints. Already at least £1.3m of the £1.6m-worth of paintings on sale, which include nudes, landscapes and portraits, has been snapped up.

Harris's credibility with collectors has come at a time when he is enjoying further success with his BBC1 series Rolf on Art, in which he reinterprets the works of the masters. It has become the most-watched arts programme on British TV. The most recent run of shows featured an audacious effort to create a mammoth reproduction of Constable's Haywain in Trafalgar Square during a live broadcast.

The 74-year-old presenter trained as an artist in the 1950s, coming to Britain from Australia to study at the City & Guilds of London Art School in Kennington. He exhibited in the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition before being sidelined by a career in TV and the pop charts, with hits such as "Two Little Boys".

During the 1970s he used his art background to create giant stylised paintings with household paint and decorating brushes. But later success with his Animal Hospital programmes, which ran for a decade, meant he had little time to devote to his art.

Harris began to concentrate on his painting again after being offered an exhibition at the Halcyon's Birmingham space. The gallery's managing director, Paul Green, said: "We were introduced by a mutual friend, I went to visit him at his home and I was gobsmacked, to put it mildly.

"The whole house was based around art. His work, in true Rolf fashion, was stuffed all over the place. Then we went out to his carport and there were paintings sitting outside with cobwebs, footprints, slugs and whatever.

"A lot of people in the art world will dismiss Rolf, but they are simply wrong. He has great talent."

Mr Green said he had no doubts the entire run of prints for the latest exhibition, worth more than £6m in total, would sell out. They range from £215 to £695, and some at £525 each have already sold out.

"It's nothing short of a phenomenon," Mr Green added. Last year an American buyer, unaware of the painter's celebrity or reputation, bought one of Harris's works, Flower Seller at the Elephant and Castle, for £95,000.

Harris said he had long had the impression many viewers would have wanted to own some of the large works that became his trademark on TV. However, these were often done on washable backgrounds which were cleaned after recording, or even thrown away.

"I think the paintings that I'm doing now are a chance for people to get an image of mine that they like and hang it on their wall," he said.

He no longer stores works at his home but has added a studio. "Every time I can see a few hours free, I'm up there painting again and it's wonderful."

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