‘It gives off psycho vibes’: the sharehouse with a homebuilt shrine to Princess Diana

In a new series sharing stories of artwork in Australian homes, Kate McGuinness shows the homage she made to the people’s princess and an eBay seller

Kate McGuinness was born the year Princess Diana died and has always “been incredibly saddened whenever I hear about Diana”. But her interest in the royal escalated when she met a woman called Helen via eBay.

Helen had been collecting Australian women’s magazines featuring Princess Diana since the heyday of Di-mania in the 1980s. Kate purchased much of the collection online because “Helen’s the only one in her family who values Di,” and as a result “I’ve ended up with hundreds of magazines”.

McGuinness thought she’d turn the images into art and create “an ode to Helen and her collection”.

“I wanted to make something material out of these magazines for Helen. I’m a performance artist and I don’t make many material things. Most of it (the work) purely was for Helen.”

The pair haven’t met yet but they keep up a correspondence. “In our writing to each other, she writes so sincerely about Di – and how she became enamoured by her as soon as she (Princess Diana) was on the scene. Helen had a good relationship with her local newsagent and when magazines didn’t sell, she’d get given them. Decades later, when she put them on eBay, they were so well intact.”

The shrine Kate McGuinness built to Princess Diana, which includes collage and paper maché sculptures
‘Because of the scale of the pictures I have, it’s shocking to most people,’ says McGuinness. Photograph: Nikki To/The Guardian

The ode to Helen (and Princess Diana) in Kate’s Sydney sharehouse “consists of various installations that are made up of several collages. There’s a large collage in the living room and a couple more around my house. There’s a canvas that’s 2.5m long and a metre and a bit high – and there is a bigger one that is 3m tall. It’s in my studio – really, it’s too high. I have other smaller ones as well.”

The collage has a dramatic effect on visitors. “Because of the scale of the pictures I have, it’s shocking to most people. It gives off psycho vibes – people are shocked and scared from what they see.

“It definitely gets a lot of comments.”

McGuinness, who shares the house with four housemates, says “I’m really grateful to them. They are into Diana. They have been living with me when I met Helen on eBay – they have been living with the work and they wake up to it every day.”

In some ways, Helen has become a muse to McGuinness.

“There’s something with it (the work) right now that connects me with Diana and Helen and this chance meeting. This muse relationship will pass – but the work will always be with me, as I move from sharehouse to sharehouse.”

As for the lure of Princess Diana, “I see her as an emo figure because of her tragic death. She was the most photographed woman of her time but she’s this outsider … I can relate to that.”


Brigid Delaney

The GuardianTramp

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