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Richard Bell

A White Hero for Black Australia - 2014

synthetic polymer paint on Belgian linen
100.0 x 150.0 cm
Estimate Upon Request

MP #389


Milani Gallery, Qld
Private Collection, Vic

Richard Bell is an Australian artist of Kamilaroi heritage and a political activist. Bell came to national attention after his painting Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell's Theorem) won the 2003 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. It prominently featured the text "Aboriginal Art – It's A White Thing".


The subject of this painting is the Olympic medal ceremony for the 200 metres in Mexico City on October 16, 1968.  African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of the US national anthem. While on the podium, Smith and Carlos, who had won gold and bronze medals respectively turned to face the US flag and then kept their hands raised until the anthem had finished. In addition, Smith, Carlos, and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman all wore human-rights badges on their jackets in what is regarded as one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympics.

Australian Peter Norman was a five-time national 200-metres champion. The time he set in this event at the Olympic Games remains the Oceanian record to this day. Yet he is best known as the third athlete pictured in the famous photograph. After the final, Carlos and Smith had told Norman what they were planning to do during the ceremony. They asked Norman if he believed in human rights. He said he did and that he would stand with them. On the way to the medal ceremony, Norman saw the human rights badge being worn by a white member of the US Rowing Team, and asked him if he could wear it. It was Norman who suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute, after Carlos left his pair at the Olympic Village. This is the reason for Smith raising his right fist, while Carlos raised his left. Norman was not selected for the 1972 Summer