Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Coming to the Royal Academy: death, brutality and Adam and Eve of No 10

The skilfully choreographed end of the Tony Blair decade is about to receive an unwelcome gatecrasher as a centrepiece of one of London's most popular summer visitor attractions.

A huge and controversial artwork showing the prime minister and his wife, Cherie, being expelled naked from 10 Downing Street amid the chaos of Iraq will be unveiled at the Royal Academy tomorrow.

Click for bigger.

Composed in an emotional burst of energy over 10 days by the prominent sculptor and academician Michael Sandle, it will dominate the annual summer exhibition, the world's largest open-entry art show, which had more than 150,000 visitors last year.

Although some eyebrows were initially raised at the submission, the 4.5m x 1.5m (15ft x 5ft) drawing has been given extra prominence by winning the exhibition's annual Hugh Casson prize for drawing. The RA's president, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, is expected to highlight the Sandle's work at the academy's annual dinner this month, which is usually attended by government figures.

The charcoal drawing was modelled by the artist, who is 71 and has sculpted many public commissions, on medieval paintings of Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden in disgrace. The embarrassed central characters outside No 10 are flanked by one panel representing brutality by British troops in Iraq and another showing a pile of Iraqi corpses under an Hieronymus Bosch-like rain of body parts.

The brutality panel is based on the case of Corporal Donald Payne, who admitted inhuman treatment of Iraqi civilians at a court martial last year in which other soldiers in his unit were cleared amid controversy. Sandle has called the panel "Corporal Payne's Chorus" because the soldier invited others to hear what he called his "choir" of victims screaming.

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