The Prime Minister's has a speeding theme...but what about the rest of the Cabinet's?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Each new Government gets to decorate their offices from the Westminster art collection. Andy McSmith reports

Some people would question whether it is art at all. Visually, it is about as interesting as a railway ticket. The colour is an off shade of Liberal Democrat orange; the medium, enamel car paint on aluminium, with the words looking like a crude incitement to break the law.

Entitled 31 mph a crime?, the work is by Eva Weinmayr, a German artist, who specialises in creating arresting images from the discarded debris of London life.

This example is doubtless inspired by some ill-designed advertisement or poster she will have seen, by a group of motorist who care more about their right to speed than about the safety of others.

The picture is part of the government art collection and is destined to adorn the wall of the flat above 11 Downing Street, where David Cameron and his young family live.

One of the perks of being in government is that you can choose the paintings you want in your office – or in your grace and favour home, if you have one – from the vast collection built up by governments since the Victorian era. It is thought to contain 2,500 oil paintings, as well as countless more modern works, predominantly by British artists.

In her day Margaret Thatcher went for traditional art by Turner and Constable to beautify 10 Downing Street. John Major – or was it Norma? – liked Hockney. Tony Blair went for something riskier – Damien Hirst, the bad boy of BritArt. Gordon Brown and Sarah Brown went in for a safer, blander collection of landscapes.

Perhaps it is Samantha Cameron, who had a wilder past than her husband, who decided that the risky Weinmayr number is a suitable image to be seen in Downing Street.

"Good question that," a Downing Street spokesman said, on being asked why the Prime Minister is exhibiting a work that questions whether motorists should be expected to observe the law. He added; "Surely, the answer must be 'Yes'."

Through the ministerial keyhole...who favours art like this?

Victor Pasmore, Points of Contact No 27

Pasmore, who died in 1998, was an art teacher in London and then Master of Painting at Durham University. He executed a series of silk screen prints with the generic title "Points of Contact", several of which were up for auction in Bloomsbury two years ago at starting prices of around £500. So, think of a Cabinet minister who is not trying to be fashionable; who is not interested in being able to boast to visitors about the expensive painting on his wall; who may even be feeling that he is lucky to have this privilege at all.

Grayson Perry, Print for a Politician

Grayson Perry thought it was a great joke when the government bought his 7 foot 2 inch etching. The minister who has borrowed it no doubt thinks there should be a very big picture on his wall because he is a very big figure in government, but is he aware of the artist's own explanatIon: "As human beings we have a tendency to rationalise our impulses but that can lead to a lot of bullshit. As soon as one group feels like they have a monopoly on righteousness then we are in trouble"? Let us hope so.

David Hockney, Winter Road near Kilham

A moot point is whether this is an original Hockney or a reproduction. The septuagenarian artist has discovered that computer technology is now advanced enough for him to be able to create works of art on screen and print them off. In a sense, therefore, the original exists only virtually, in the computer's memory. But there is nothing virtual about the minister who borrowed it. He is the solid type you find out in the community, not picky enough to care that the work on his wall is a computer printout.

Unknown artist, William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer

When the artist finished it, he perhaps rewarded himself with an evening at The Globe, to watch a Shakespeare play being performed by the original cast. William Cecil was the greatest English statesman of his day and the painting was bought by the government 60 years ago, when the minister who now has it on his wall was a lad. Someone who thinks the words Lord High Treasurer describe what he used to be.

Thomas Gainsborough, William Pitt (1759-1806) Prime Minister

We would all like to be able to say we have a genuine Gainsborough on our office wall, but a portrait of a Prime Minister? A Tory Prime Minister, celebrated for achieving high office at an unfeasibly early age? You have to be a bit of a political obsessive to want William Pitt staring at you. Of course, if you were so intrigued by Pitt that you felt moved to write a biography of him...

Click on the gallery above to see which politician chose which of these pieces of art

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Contact Centre Advisor

£19500 - £21500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading children's chariti...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor