Artist Charged in Turkey

The British born artist Michael Dickinson may face up to three years in prison for displaying a collage of the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a dog.

The work is called “Best in Show” and was confiscated by police and the artist has been detained. It shows President Bush awarding the Turkish Prime Minister with a ribbon at a dog show.

turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Michael Dickinson has been charged with “insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister” after he refused to take the work down.

The artist has said “It’s such an Alice in Wonderland feeling. The law is so absurd.. This law exists in Turkey about insulting ‘Turkishness’ or the State. You’re not allowed to state your opinion.”

I think freedom is relative. Perhaps I take freedom for granted, or maybe I just don’t like poking sticks at hornet’s nests, but if I was an artist working in Turkey, I would be the least political or controversial artist alive! I also don’t like mixing art and politics anyway, so it wouldn’t be much of a compromise.

Michael Dickinson probably hasn’t seen the movie Midnight Express. (I know it was made in the seventies and it is just a movie, but it’s still pretty scary).

I do feel for the guy though, and think it’s sad that such a thing could still happen. I’m sure it can’t help with Turkey’s attempts to join the European Union.

Here’s plenty more information about the issue with links to ther source over at the Stuckism website or the Times or the Guardian. Here’s some cool Turkish Artists that I mentioned previously.

>> Art Controversies

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. I don’t want to trivialize the hardship of the artist who was arrested. But in some sense, is it not encouraging that art can be taken so seriously? This is a vexing question. Freedom for the artist can mean freedom to be ignored. Constraints and oppression can inspire creativity, and give work meaning. But obviously, we don’t want to ask for oppression for the sake of creativity. This is why I say this is a vexing issue. In this particular case, it is obvious that the artwork will have far more impact because of the state’s reaction. Anyway, would artistic fame be worth three years in the jail? If the question is phrased that way . . .

  2. The point for me is that a Prime Minister, President, Senator or what ever is not “god” I thought we gave that notion up a long time ago. Just some guy who we have elected or accepted as our leader. Our making him or her our leader doesn’t give them shelter from our thoughts, “we put you there because you said you would listen to us”. I am not a political artist, but I am seeing the start of the same kind of “I am King” thing going on here in the States with our government where are getting targeted for what they say.

  3. The law is the law. I might not agree with this certain law, but the guy was making art. Why should the government feel threatened over his silly collage anywho?

  4. For those who saw the DADA show at MOMA, the German Expressionists at Neue Gallery, or any of the many artists of the early twentieth century before and after World I, a most perplexing question arises if one believes that art has an effect on political and social events. To take just this one example. Dadaists and expressionists (like the extremely talented George Grosz and Otto Dix) savagely attack with their well-honed satiric swords the “Bourgeois” incompetents of the Weimar Republic following the utter madness of the War (which still seems among the most insane of all major wars). Grosz, in fact, was saved from a prison sentence by the plea to the court of his lawyer that the boys were really just joking, they did not really mean to insult German army officers. What guilt they must have felt, if they thought they had any effect on the outcome, to have seen the alternative to Weimar (whatever its faults). Hitler, come to power.Whether or not he felt guilt, horror, or blameless, Grosz writes in his autobiography, that he deserted the field of political battle ( he had also been an artistic spearcarrier for the Communists shortly after the Revolution)to teach and create land-and-city scapes, and other completely non-political works.
    I would add, having no answer to any moral dilemmas, how many of us, artists or artisans, shopkeepers or machinists, have given the subjects. on which we have the right to express ourselves in public media, the serious and profound thought a serious artist gives to his finished product. Some artists probably have the background to come to sound judgments (whether ultimately right or wrong about the consequences of what they advocate) but most are wielding their artistic weapons subordinate to the thought and will of others than themselves. They/we have a perfect right to do so in a few of the democratic societies in the world, but what obligation does that right impose upon artists or the rest of us?

  5. Scary, so unbelievably scary. Newspapers, art, movies, music should never – ever be censored. Of course age limits on violence movies etc. But I’m talking about that kind of censorship, the real kind.

    No one dares to speak up to say a thing either. I love politics in art, tastefully. I dislike propaganda but it’s fine to make your statement in art. It is a channel to express yourself and these days foreign politics affects the “common man” a whole lot.

  6. That’s fucking rediculous. He gets detained for a stupid little mural. Glad I don’t live in Turkey.

  7. The situation in Turkey now is much more liberal than in The Netherlands in the “Golden Age” of the 17th century (the most liberal and free nation of that time). The 17th c. was a time of great artistic expression in The Netherlands. Yet Dutch artists of Rembrandt’s time went to jail for mildly erotic artwork. Openly criticizing the head of state in a painting like the Turkish collage was not an option. Really, much of what we consider great European culture developed under conditions that we today would consider terribly oppressive. I’m not supporting censorship, of course, only pointing out that censorship in itself has not been fatal to art, historically speaking.

  8. And yet the Western world are the ‘infidels’. I am inspired to see that art can have a more meaningful effect than marketing products. The impact of this event could change their cultural. At least people are talking about the ridiculousness of Turkey’s government.

    To response to Karl Ziper. First, I love your blog. Regarding your earlier post, I feel your question of 3 yrs in jail for artistic fame as missing the mark. going to jail for your believes or injustices is heroic. Going to jail for fame, is trite and on the level of Sean P. Puffy Diddy Daddy Combs. I am sure a Turkism prison is not the best choice for a publicity stunt.

  9. What worries me about this case is that I can’t find a mention of it on the BBC News website. Okay, the BBC search facility is rubbish, but even so I would have expected it to throw up something to help track this story down. Is it merely disinterest on the BBC’s part or censorship?
    If anyone has a link to this story on the BBC website, please let me know:

  10. I had a look and couldnt find anything on the BBC about it.

    I would have thought it was an important enough story for the BBC to cover. I linked to the Times and Guardian articles in the post.


  11. Hi, Dion.
    Thanks for looking. I’ve been in touch with the Stuckist website and they haven’t seen a thing on the BBC about this story, and, as you can imagine, they’re following it closely. I posted a blog this morning that lets the BBC know what I think about its omission: it’s censorship.
    By the way, you missed Damien Hurst’s latest, up for sale in the UK. Flayed skin as well. Right up your street! Dip into my September archive to see it.

  12. Yeah I missed the Damien Hirst story. It probably would of been more interesting/controversial if it was actually flayed skin, rather than a sulpture :-O


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  2. […] year I mentioned that the British born collage artist Michael Dickinson had been accused of insulting the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He was held by Turkish police for ten days after exhibiting works […]

  3. […] this week in Istanbul. Just a week ago the British artist Michael Dickinson was charged with “insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister“, so it’s probably not a good time to be saying or doing anything too radical in the […]

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