The former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died yesterday at the age of 87 leaving her mark on the art world, through her politics and portraits. Baroness Thatcher was the subject of diverse and fascinating artwork by artists including Grayson Perry, Anthony Reynolds, Bob and Roberta Smith, and Marcus Harvey.
The art world’s response to the political leader demonstrates how influential and divisive she was; from Pure Evil’s terrifying street art piece depicting Thatcher grinning, arms out stretched above the words ‘Not You Again’, to conservative conceptualists Gilbert and George’s outspoken support, “We admire Margaret Thatcher greatly. She did a lot for art. Socialism wants everyone to be equal. We want to be different.”
She won few friends in the art world because of her severe cuts to arts funding, but in an article yesterday The Art Newspaper argued “Margaret Thatcher made UK museums into world leaders,” because her reforms to public funding gave museums the freedom to manage their own financial affairs. The BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz has concluded “She certainly wasn’t a champion of the arts but, whether she meant to or not, she probably did contribute more than she is credited for.”
No doubt the post-war politician will continue to provoke artistic output as artists respond to her legacy.