Harvey Marcus : White Riot

Published on by The Inquirer

work by the British artist Marcus Harvey

Harvey is best known for his infamous portrait of Myra Hindley, which came to prominence in the ‘Sensation’ exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (1997). His new relief, Maggie, seeks to be no less powerful or provocative, acting as the centrepiece of ‘White Riot’, a title taken from the 1977 debut single by punk band The Clash – released two years before Margaret Thatcher became the first female British Prime Minister. Harvey’s large-scale black and white portrait is based on a famous photograph of Thatcher taken at the launch of the 1987 Tory Party election manifesto. It is composed of over 15,000 plaster-cast objects ranging from vegetables to sex toys; these individual elements refer both directly and indirectly to aspects of the former Prime Minister’s perceived media profile, evident femininity and background as a grocer’s daughter from Grantham. Maggie can therefore be read both as the portrait of an individual and as a map of British history, identity and change, both prior to and during the height of Thatcher’s period in power. Harvey further remarks that 'Thatcher’s image has a magnetic, dark, complicated sexual allure that's hard for me to define – it’s not exactly feminine and it does come with a pungent whiff of testosterone'.

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