Cornelia Parker, who once said of her art, “I resurrect things that have been killed off,” has been named the official artist for the 2017 general election, and is the first woman to take on the role.
Politicians who study the CV of the Turner prize-nominated Royal Academy member, whose work is in many national and international collections, may be alarmed to note that it has often involved spectacular acts of destruction of her subjects. She called in the army to help her blow up a shed, later exhibited as suspended fragments as if in mid-explosion, and used part of the mechanism of Tower Bridge to flatten 54 brass band instruments in Breathless, a commission for the V&A. Last year she dismantled an old American barn and reconstructed it as the sinister Bates mansion from the film Psycho, as an installation on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Much of her work has a political element. In 2015, her Magna Carta went on a UK tour celebrating the 800th anniversary of the original’s creation – a 13-metre rendering of the Wikipedia entry on the charter as an embroidery, hand-stitched by hundreds of people including the whistleblower Edward Snowden, the musician Jarvis Cocker, as well as campaigners and activists, politicians and prisoners.
Parker, who was one of the signatories of a letter backing Caroline Lucas – but not specifically the Green party – in the last election, said: “We live in scary but exhilarating times. The whole world order seems to be changing. As an artist, I feel honoured to have been invited to respond to such an important election. With all its challenging issues and complexity, it is an event that I’m excited to engage with and I look forward to sharing my finished work.”
She has been chosen by the Speaker’s advisory committee on works of art, which had expected to have several more years to ponder the selection. Alison McGovern MP, chair of the committee, said: “I am delighted that my committee has chosen Cornelia Parker as parliament’s official 2017 election artist. She’s the first woman artist to take on this role and it’ll be really exciting to see how her ideas for this artwork develop over the campaign period.”
Parker will get a commission fee of £17,000 and travel expenses, and is free to choose how to cover the election. At the end of it she will produce a work of art that will be added to the parliamentary art collection. She will also post images on Instagram as electionartist2017 throughout the campaign.
Her predecessors have mostly chosen to tour the UK, popping up at the elbows of politicians on doorsteps and at rallies and set-piece events, immortalising them in oils, drawings or photographs. In 2015 Adam Dant toured the country doing meticulously detailed on-the-spot sketches, eventually producing The Government Stable, a huge pen-and-ink drawing representing the…