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The art world is smitten with Bernie Sanders’ mittens

21 January 2021

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories. 

President Biden’s message of national unity at the Inauguration yesterday was bolstered by support from an unlikely source, as America came together in appreciation of Bernie Sanders’ outsized, though nonetheless rather natty mittens. In a picture that immediately went viral, the Democratic Senator folds his arms firmly against the freezing temperatures, pairing his gloves with a Goretex overcoat. ‘In Vermont, we know something about the cold, and we’re not so concerned with good fashion,’ Sanders said. (Rakewell would rather believe that he was anticipating being asked to give a warm round of applause.)

The mittens themselves were a gift from a schoolteacher in Vermont, the senator’s home state, who knitted them from repurposed woollen jumpers and plastic bottles – but Bernie may now have a fight on his hands to keep hold of the famous garments. Within hours, the clamour had begun on Twitter for the gloves to be acquired by the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and even for a ‘Bernie Sanders Mitten Museum’.

Elsewhere, predictably, Bernie began cropping up in all sorts of unlikely arty places…

Bernie was suddenly sharing last orders with the lonely drinker in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks

… and proving, amid the sunbathers in Georges Seurat’s Sunday on La Grande Jatte, that the look now dubbed as ‘Vermont dadcore’ keeps its style all year round…

… playing 14th wheel at the Last Supper

And not joining in with lunch atop a skyscraper:

Museums themselves were also quick on the uptake – the Phillips Collection installed Bernie in its Rothko Room, in Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, and (slightly ominously) in Wolfgang Laib’s prison-like wax room, Where have you gone – where are you going?:

But perhaps the most inventive piece of opportunism came from an institution which has since rocketed to the top of Rakewell’s museum hit-list – the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee, which by the end of the day was taking pre-orders for a commemorative Bernie bobblehead.