The National Portrait Gallery in Canberra has taken down a photographic portrait of Indonesian president Joko Widodo, which had initially been planned to remain on display until June.


Adam Ferguson’s portrait of Indonesian president Joko Widodo.

The portrait, which was taken by photographer Adam Ferguson, was an entry in this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize. It was taken last September during a cover shoot with Mr Widodo for Time Magazine.

Mr Angus Trumble, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, has issued a statement explaining his reasons for removing the picture from display in the wake of the executions of the Bali nine duo, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran,  on Wednesday morning.

‘My feeling yesterday, on Wednesday morning, was that in view of the circumstances and our operations, and my best assessment of the risk of damage to the work of art, it was necessary to remove it from public display,’ he said. ‘Also, I was swayed by the statements of both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition and of course the position of the parliament and the recall of our ambassador. It’s a temporary measure.’

He said while there had not yet been any incident relating to the work and taking it down had been a preventative measure, he had a responsibility to protect all works in the gallery. ‘My primary responsibility is the care of the works in our collection and the safety of our visitors,’ he added.


The blank space on the wall of the  National Portrait Gallery where  Adam Ferguson’s portrait of  Indonesian president Joko Widodo used to be on display.

Early on Thursday, Adam   Ferguson posted a statement on his Facebook page saying he was saddened to hear the news of Chan and Sukumaran’s executions, but he was ‘perplexed’ by the NPG’s decision. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Ferguson said he would have preferred the image had stayed on the wall as a statement in itself, even if it were to be damaged.

‘I respectfully disagree with the artist, Adam Ferguson, who feels the work should remain on display,’ Mr Trumble stated. ‘Adam and I continue to stay in touch during this fluid period.’