Arts and Design

Boris Johnson becomes an NFT: artists react to scandal of leader attending parties during Covid lockdowns

The “partygate” scandal in the UK has sparked some interesting reactions from artists keen to put their own spin on the shenanigans at No.10 Downing Street. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted yesterday in the House of Commons that he attended a “work event” in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020 during the first lockdown. According to the BBC, the drinks gathering, described in the invitation as “socially distanced”, was attended by around 30 people who were invited to bring their own alcohol (“bring your own booze”). Food, including sausage rolls and crisps, was reportedly laid out on trestle tables (art buffs note: Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture Hollow Form with Inner Form, 1968, is located in the Downing Street garden; perhaps partygoers nibbled tuna vol-au-vents alongside the imposing bronze piece).

Johnson told the House of Commons yesterday: “With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that even if it could have been said technically to fall within the guidance, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way.” According to official government data, more than 151,000 people in the UK have died of Covid-19.

As we have noted previously, no one has caught the mood of Britain today as acutely as Cold War Steve, the biting satirist otherwise known as Christopher Spencer, a public-sector worker in Birmingham. Cold War Steve likes taking a swipe at the figures shaping Brexit Britain and is having a ball with Johnson’s antics, producing collages that reflect the chaos engulfing the government. His most recent masterly work shows the Prime Minister cowering at the dispatch box in Parliament, peeking at his fellow Parliamentarians from behind a fridge door (in 2019, the PM retreated into a fridge as he sought to avoid a TV interview).

Another arch japester, the UK artist David Shrigley, is also delivering his own telling commentary on the government’s woes, posting works on Twitter that criticise BJ. “The Next Time I see the Prime Minister I’m Going To Tell Him He’s An Arsehole,” Shrigley writes on one of his trademark drawings, depicting the famous door at No.10. Earlier today, Shrigley posted another work emblazoned with the words “Forget About Winston Churchill,” a reference to Johnson’s admiration for the World War II leader and possibly how “Unchurchillian” the Prime Minister’s behaviour has been throughout the Covid crisis.

And finally, there had to be an NFT of course, though this one is at least for a good cause. The Prime Minister has been turned into a crypto asset courtesy of “former street artist” Pierre Benjamin who is selling the BJ work through Quantus Gallery in London as part of his Crypto Stars 333 Collection. “Boris is in the company of the Pope, the Queen and Snoop Dogg, who would of course, have been law-breaking if they’d held BYOB parties in May 2020,” says a press statement. Sales proceeds will go to NHS Charities Together, the independent charity supporting the National Health Service. 


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