Revealed: the lumps, spiders and erotica in the ministers' offices
Thursday 04 June 1998
In The Secret Art of Government, to be screened on BBC 2 on 13 June, Lady Thatcher returns to Number 10 specially for a programme which reveals for the first time the artistic taste of the Establishment.
Since the election, BBC cameras have been filming in Downing Street, ministerial offices, the British embassies in Paris and Cairo and the GAC's private headquarters in Soho.
In the last year the new paintings installed have taken on a key role as part of New Labour's Cool Britannia policy.
Lady Thatcher makes no attempt to conceal her dislike of the most radical shake-up of the collection since it was founded in 1898, which has swept aside the more traditional tastes of Tory inhabitants. Her reaction is, unsurprisingly, utter dismay.
Lady Thatcher has always displayed least admiration for modern artists and once said of sculptor Henry Moore: "I don't like the big lumpy ones."
The former prime minister tells the programme: "I think if you have what I call the geometric ones - just pure different squares, triangles and heaven knows what put together - I don't think they go with the general background.
"I must tell you some modern things are terrible - I can't imagine people wasting money on them. But other people's tastes are different and what I think looks really rather like a horrid big spider crawling around might in fact be a work of genius in a couple of centuries."
Present and past government ministers - from Chris Smith and Mark Fisher to Peter Lilley - are among the contributors to the programme.
Chris Orr, the artist of a series of erotic etchings, has expressed delight that his work has been hung in Peter Mandelson's Whitehall office. Mr Orr said he knew the drawings, done in the Seventies, had been bought for the collection but did not know where they had been hung.
"I'm extremely pleased that Peter Mandelson appreciates any kind of narrative art," he says.
John Major, who is also interviewed, also found the new regime has showed a healthy disdain for his taste. The day after the election, out went the Badminton Game, by David Inshaw.
- 1 East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
- 2 Germanwings plane crash: Video shows co-pilot Andreas Lubitz learning to fly as a teenager
- 3 Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
- 4 Germanwings crash: Captain of doomed plane was only 'on board because he changed job to spend more time with his children'
- 5 WrestleMania 31 results: Seth Rollins stuns WWE as he cashes in Money in the Bank contract to claim title from Brock Lesnar
East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
Children take eight Isis captives to be beheaded in latest propaganda video
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
£32000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, inte...
£8000 - £10800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Supply Chain Administrator is ...