Tuesday, 31 March 2009


A week after White Cube's Margaret Tatcher exhibition White Riot closed, the newly refurbished Whitechapel Gallery is showcasing another politically charged piece. A Cubist bust of the former US Secretary of State Colin Powell proudly shakes a phial of Anthrax while balancing, what appears to be a brick, on his right shoulder. The piece is part of the Polish artists Goshka Macuga's The Nature of the Beast exhibition, which decorate the new lower basement gallery.

Inspiration comes from a famous photo of Powell taken during a UN speech, where the cause for the Iraq war dished out to the rest of the world. He waved some Anthrax-looking powder to make a point (of some sort). This was the very moment Powell, a distinguished US General and Gulf War veteran, made a fool of himself. What saved him was being fired by Bush later on (an accomplishment) and then his support for Barack Obama.

The Whitechapel room also includes a replica of Picasso's Guernica, a pianting that hangs in UN's NYC HQ and that was covered when Powell held a wartime press conference in front of it. You see, the painting is an anti war epic, portraying death and despair. Macuga also produced a newspaper explaining the history of Picasso's piece and set up a desk in the gallery that can be booked for round-table talks by anyone - preferable peaceful ones...email guernica@whitechapelgallery.org

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