Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s official portrait will cost the state around $85,000, more than the three previous governors’ paintings combined and greater than the state’s median salary of $72,000.
Christie will use a $250,000 transition account to pay for the portrait, as previous governors have done, but so far the fund has only disbursed $37,500 of the total cost of the commission and owes $47,500, according to documents obtained by The Record and NorthJersey.com.
The Republican’s portrait spending outpaces the cost of previous New Jersey gubernatorial portraits, breaking the previous record set when former Democratic Gov. Jim Florio paid $58,000 for his in the mid 1990s. The three Democratic governors that immediately preceded Christie paid $74,500 combined for their portraits.
Christie commissioned Australian artist Paul Newton, who has painted famous celebrities and notables including the Duke of Edinburgh, pop singer Kylie Minogue, and NBA commissioner David Stern. By most accounts, a portrait from Newton is quite valuable. The magazine for Australia’s National Portrait Gallery called Newton “perhaps the quintessential portrait artist” of the modern era in 2006.
Former President Barack Obama’s portrait that now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery reportedly cost a lot more than Christie’s — around $500,000 — but U.S. politicians aren’t allowed to use taxpayer funds for their paintings any more, and have to raise funds from private sources.
Having his picture hung in the state capitol has been a dream of Christie’s for years. “I’m getting the oil portrait in the Statehouse,” Christie said 11 months into his first term in November 2010. “So here’s the thing — when I bring my grandchildren back to the Statehouse and I show them that painting … they’re going to ask me, ‘What did you do, Grandpa, what did you do?”
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