A photo-shopped image of the men’s washroom of Belushi’s Bar in the St Christopher’s Inns Hostel in Paris, Artists –William Duke and Brandon Griffin, Image Source: Mail & Guardian
Most politicians will be forgotten in time. A few stand out in history. A lot of them happen to be American, but maybe that’s because the US has such an ardent love of its own political history and is so prolific in making films that document it - JFK, Lincoln, John Adams, Frost/Nixon, The Ides of March, and of course Dave. But politicians immortalised through art is another thing altogether. This is normally reserved for the tragic or the rarefied, the distinguished and the visionaries.
It’s nothing new of course. Before Andy Warhol gave John F. Kennedy the pop art treatment, there was the iconic French Revolution painting, The Death of Marat by Jacques Louis-David and Death of Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini. When they were not painting victories, those old masters liked to depict the more brutal outcomes that lay in store for their political leaders. Permanently capturing the rise and fall of significant public figures served to ensure they were not forgotten from any modern narrative and helped to remind how a nation collectively arrived at a place in history.
“The Death of Marat” by Jacques Louis-David, 1793, Image Source: Independent
“Death of Caesar” by Vincenzo Camuccini, 1798, Image Source: The Telegraph
To that end, there’s been political commentary by artists too, focusing on the aftermath of political decisions and national history such as Picasso’s Guernica, which shows the results of the Nazi bombing of the Basque coast, and Diego’s mural, The History of Mexico. But again, consigning pivotal political moments to canvas has usually been reserved for major events.
“Guernica” by Pablo Picasso, 1937, Image Source: pablopicasso.org
Part of “The History of Mexico” Mural (1929 - 1945) by Diego Rivera, Image Source: delange.org
But what do we have now? In a world where sensational politics, extreme figureheads, hyper-responsive global communication and temporary forms of art collide, conditions are constantly ripe for satirising leaders, candidates and government decisions. Street art has given rise to hilarious new ways to join in and respond to political argument as they are happening, almost in real time. Never before has art been able to play a role in political life so immediately and shockingly. And we love it!
Almost as much as we love to marvel at what spills forth from the mouth of Donald Trump. If ever there was a persona that leant itself perfectly to the sort of quick-witted, public and sharable nature of street art it’s got to be The Donald. Probably followed shortly thereafter by Sarah Palin, but that’s another matter.
So far, his head has been turned into Instagrammable excrement by Hanksy, his mouth has become a urinal in the photoshopped work by William Duke and Brandon Griffin based on an image of the men’s toilets at Belush’s Bar in Paris, and he’s been caught out kissing Putin in Lithuania care of Mindaugus Bonanu. And while this does not quite constitute street art, it did turn into street violence: LA-based Illma Gore is the artist responsible for painting The Donald with a tiny penis, and received a black eye for her trouble. After receiving numerous threats (of the death and legal kind), to withdraw her painting from view, on both social media and in the Maddox Gallery in London where it currently hangs for sale over the $1 million mark, Gore was attacked in the streets where she lives by Trump-supporters.
“Dump Trump” by Hanksy, 2016, Image Source: Business Insider, Singapore
“Trump and Putin Kissing” by Mindaugus Bonanu, 2016, Image Source: Esquire
“Make America Great Again” by Illma Gore, 2016, Image Source: illmagore.com
Apparently not everyone minds how well-endowed, or otherwise, Trump is. Now he’s puckering up again in a piece of street art located in Bristol, this time with former London Mayor, Boris Johnson. Muralist duo, The Paintsmiths, decided to use the unlikely pair, who both question why the UK would remain in the EU, as a form of repellent of what might occur if Britons fail to enroll for the upcoming referendum on the matter. It’s an inspired call to action complete with the hashtag: not #inforthis?
“NOT #INFOR THIS?” by The Paintsmiths, 2016, Image Source: Bristol Post
So, while there are those among us that might find Mr Trump offensive, repugnant and intrusive, we say, it’s so refreshing to see him being used for a good cause for a change. You can’t take a former reality TV show host too seriously, after all!
Written by Skye Wellington