Art charity responds after Tory MP calls exhibition artwork ‘divisive, racist crap’

Piece was one of 10 artworks created as a response to the words ‘Straight White Male’

Louis Chilton
Wednesday 27 July 2022 11:44 BST
Just Stop Oil protesters glue themselves to painting in Glasgow art gallery

The organisers of an expansive open-air art exhibition have responded after a Conservative MP condemned one of its installations.

Neil O’Brien, the MP for Harborough, Oadby and Wigston, had criticised the artwork, which takes aim at “straight white men”, on social media.

The piece, designed by Nadina Ali, is displayed on an advertising poster, and bears the instruction: “Hey straight white men, pass the power!”

It is one of 10 works inspired as a response to the words “Straight White Male”, exhibited by arts organisation Artichoke as part of the UK’s “largest-ever outdoor art exhibition”. The project – known as The Gallery – displays pieces in various towns and cities across the country.

Writing on Twitter, O’Brien complained: “This was funded by @artichoketrust which is funded by Arts Council England, so by taxpayers.

“Speaking as someone who recently supported a talented black woman to become PM... > I’m sick of paying tax for this divisive, racist crap.”

In a statement provided to The Independent, Artichoke CEO and artistic director Helen Marriage said: “The 10 artworks that feature in this inaugural edition of The Gallery raise critical and urgent questions about the society we live in, and I’d like to thank Neil O’Brien MP and others for starting the very conversations this project sought to generate.

“We asked artists from around the world to respond to the theme ‘Straight White Male’. The selected artworks are nuanced and thoughtful, covering everything from male identity and power to menstruation and manspreading. We’re excited to see these conversations starting: they are much needed.

“We’re not asking that the public should necessarily agree with the statements in any of the artworks, just that they should think and debate the ideas,” she added.

The statement also notes that support from the Arts Council provides around 10 per cent of the organisation’s annuel income and “goes towards supporting our overheads”.

“By working with the out-of-home industry, displaying these images on advertising sites around the UK, The Gallery removes traditional barriers for the public to experience and see great art, something that is core to our mission and those of our funders,” she continued.

“Nadina Ali’s artwork, the piece in question, directly asks that people with power simply share it. It’s ironic that someone in a position of power is questioning that request.”

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