To most people, the image that sums up Chris Christie’s time as governor is the picture of him on that beach closed to everyone else, in that chair with his family and friends while the public was shut out of state parks on a holiday weekend during a government shutdown.
The image that Christie wants to officially mark his time as governor and the one that the public is paying for will be painted by an Australian artist whose portrait portfolio includes royalty and an international pop star — and whose fee comes with the highest price tag yet for New Jersey taxpayers.
At a total of $85,000, Christie’s portrait will cost more than what his three predecessors combined paid to have their images hang in commemoration of their political service, according to documents obtained by The Record and northjersey.com.
It may come as no surprise that Christie is paying top dollar for a portrait by a highly regarded Australian artist.
Since he took office, Christie has spoken about the official picture that likely will long outlive him and the many internet memes he’s touched off. And in his public life, Christie had earned a reputation for having a taste for luxury when others paid the bill.
As U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Christie was one of five federal prosecutors that the Department of Justice said in a report “exhibited noteworthy patterns of improperly exceeding the government rate” for hotels, such as a $475-a-night stay at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C.
As governor, Christie and his family flew on a private jet lent by the billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, vacationed in luxury in Jordan paid for by that country’s king and watched the Dallas Cowboys from the owner’s box courtesy of team owner Jerry Jones.
“I try to squeeze all the juice out of the orange that I can,” Christie once told The New York Times, a quote that, like the photo of him lounging on the beach during last year’s government shutdown, is often used as a reference point for what many view as his self-interested political philosophy.
Christie, who left office in January, signed a contract in December to have Sydney-based artist Paul Newton paint his official portrait. The work was commissioned through Sewell Fine Portraiture, a Manhattan firm which boasts on its website that its artists are a “select number of the world’s finest portrait painters and sculptors.” Those artists have painted portraits of past presidents and governors, according to the website.
A copy of the contract was obtained through the Open Public Records Act.
The $85,000 cost of the portrait is the highest for a governor since Democrat Jim Florio paid $58,000 for his. Christie’s three immediate predecessors — Jon Corzine, Richard Codey and Jim McGreevey, all Democrats — paid a combined $74,500, according to past news reports.