Nominees, please

Cornelia Parker

Cornelia Parker

I was tickled by the news that sculptor and installation artist Cornelia Parker has been chosen as the official artist of the 2017 election in the UK. It’s a bold choice, even bolder from the American view, as Parker is an artist whose work often carries a political charge. The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, whose Parliamentary duties include selecting the official election artist, made a good choice. The Committee has been selecting artists for this purpose since 2001. Parker will watch the election closely, and produce a work that will enter Parliament’s collection.

I’m a fan of Parker’s work; her Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson), from 1999, had a big impact on me when I first saw it at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Debris from a burned-out building, hanging suspended in space, continues to evoke thoughts of loss and violent transformation. Here it is below:


Cornelia Parker, Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson), 1999. Charcoal, wire, pins, and nails. Gift of Barbara Lee, The Barbara Lee Collection of Art by Women. Photo by Charles Mayer Photography. © Cornelia Parker

Parker will document her progress on the Instagram account Electionartist2017.

I can’t help but wonder what sort of artist a committee of American Senators or Representatives would have chosen for last year’s election. There are art collections connected with each branch of Congress – the Senate and the House – but never have they chosen to allow one artist to, in effect, speak for them. Considering the intermittent culture wars – fanned, if not started, by politicians – and the current assaults upon the National Endowment for the Arts, it seems unlikely such an position would be created, let alone filled. But who would it be? How daring (not a word normally associated with Congress) would they get?

There are plenty of unofficial election artists. Do we even need an official one? While debating that, think about whom you would choose. Be bold, because you know Congress wouldn’t be.


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