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UK Appoints First Woman as Official Artist of General Election

Cornelia Parker will create a piece for the Parliamentary Art Collection

(Wikimedia Commons/StOuen/CC BY-SA 3.0)
smithsonian.com

The British artist Cornelia Parker is fascinated by the forces of destruction. Her work often focuses on “steamrollering, shooting full of holes, falling from cliffs and explosions,” according to her biography. One of her recent pieces, which loomed on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was a sinister sculpture inspired by Norman Bates' mansion in Psycho. But as Maev Kennedy reports for The Guardian, the Turner Prize-nominee recently received a very different sort of commission: she has been appointed the official artist of the UK’s 2017 general election.

Parker is the first woman to hold the position, which was established in 2001 and has been awarded to five artists. In response to her appointment, Parker opined to Kennedy that “the whole world order seems to be changing,” adding, "As an artist, I feel honoured to have been invited to respond to such an important election.”

Parker was selected by the Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, and is expected to produce a work that will be displayed in the Parliamentary Art Collection. The final product should reflect the upcoming election, but Parker has full discretion as to how she covers the political event. 

Previous election artists have taken diverse approaches to the task. In 2015, for instance, Adam Dant created an expansive pastiche of scenes he sketched while tagging along on the campaign trail. Photographer Simon Roberts snapped pictures of canvassing politicians as they interacted with the public. And Jonathan Yeo, the first official election artist, created a triptych of the three leading party leaders, with each portrait sized in proportion to the number of votes the politicians had received.

According to the BBC, Parker told the UK’s Radio 4 that she has “all kinds of ideas” for covering the election. She also said that she is "more interested in the people, not necessarily the politicians."

This isn’t Parker’s first foray into the realm of political art. For the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, she created a 43-foot embroidery based on the Wikipedia entry for the landmark charter. Two hundred people helped out with the stitching, among them Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Jarvis Cocker.

Her other works are equally dramatic. Parker is perhaps best known for blowing up a garden shed and hanging its fragmented remains at the Tate Modern. For an installation titled "Breathless," she flattened 54 brass instruments, according to Gordon Rayner of The Telegraph. And on multiple occasions, Parker staged a live art piece featuring Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass cabinet.

It’s fair to speculate that Parker’s take on the upcoming election will be an interesting one. 

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer is based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.

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