Many countries would think twice about choosing a profoundly anti-establishment artist, let alone one whose work would be described by some as downright unpatriotic, to represent them at an international show such as the Venice Biennale. Britain, we are happy to say, is not among them. In promoting Jeremy Deller, whose exhibition is called English Magic, the British Council and its selection committee knew exactly what they were likely to be getting. Nor will they be disappointed. The Royal Family, Tony Blair, and revered setpieces of national life are all taken to task.
Some might say the choice of Deller reflects a pervasive British negativity about itself and so represents the worst of British. We beg to differ. Deller’s work shows pluralism, democracy and a healthy iconoclasm at work, and a society that is strong enough to take it. Other people’s dictators and censors should take note.