Politics and Art

An exhibition of contemporary art prints at the New York Public Library has created a mild stir. The NY Times has reported that a number of library patrons have protested because of a series of 8 digital prints in the “Multiple Interpretations” exhibition called “Line Up.”

politics and artThe Line Up series by Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese depicts people from the Bush administration in fake mugshots. The slates that they hold have the dates of lies or exaggerations about Iraq spoken by the holder. For example, President George W Bush in his State of the Union address on January 28 (my birthday!), 2003, reported, “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa…. He clearly has much to hide.”

“It is at first mildly shocking to come upon such bluntly partisan artwork on a New York Public Library wall. Biting political satire is deeply a part of printmaking history — see Goya, James Gillray and Daumier — but handmade prints are no longer a significant form of political communication, and we don’t expect anything so brazenly tendentious in the public library context.” New York Times

My opinion on the situation is that politics and art don’t happily mix, but I do love a good political cartoonist. I think artists should have the right to say things that are political though, without it costing them their freedom. Most political art has a very short shelf life, just like the politicians they depict. The best way to make political art live a little longer is to hire a bunch of protestors to march at the exhibition or to have the artist put in prison.

See also the George Bush paintings.

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. Sounds like my kind of art.

  2. When you put these photos in a public library it becomes controversial. Put them in a gallery show and it’s just art that’s not even really controversial.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So G Dubya is a criminal?

    Political art should resolve, not leave questions.

  4. should! why should art resolve? why shouldn’t art leave questions?????

  5. Art News Blog says:

    I think that part of the job of an artist is to ask questions of society or present questions to the viewer.

    Politics in an art gallery still doesn’t do it for me though.

  6. “Politics in an art gallery still doesn’t do it for me though.”

    Some can pull it off, some can’t, but it does it for others and I guess that is what counts, right?

  7. Art News Blog says:

    Yeah, you’re right Jafabrit. If all artists had to create only what I liked, our galleries would be filled with expressive figurative paintings and not much else (thank god we are all different).

  8. “I think that part of the job of an artist is to ask questions of society or present questions to the viewer.”

    For some artists it is, but not for all. Depends on the aim of a particular artist in my opinion.

    @anonymous – I think you’ve got it backwards. Political usually seeks to point out, a statement and since every viewer will have a different take on it there is little choice not to ask questions.

  9. The power in Power(Politics)Art,
    reveals there is alot of room for Serious improvements on all Sides. We need to start attacking the problems that face any country,stop attacking each other!

  10. Some political art does retain a value however, like all things vogue it needs to go through a down time of often many decades before it becomes worthy of notation and thus value.
    It might be said that good political art is that which one can look at generations later and still understand what the artist was trying to point out. If the political controversy was not strong enough and or the artists statement to obscure, it’s not likely the art will stand the test of time, which ultimately is the test of all art… at least in the culture we live in today.


    Time will tell how well the art lives in the present & the future

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