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Hillary Clinton is a big sculpture fan. But how will she stomach this street art?

4 August 2016

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

Having previously examined the story of US presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s contribution to contemporary art, your ever impartial correspondent feels duty bound to turn his eye to the firebrand property developer’s rival.

By comparison to the Donald, Hillary Clinton’s record on the arts is pretty impressive. While First Lady of the US in the 1990s, she hosted artists including Ellsworth Kelly and George Segal at the White House, and helped initiate a series of sculpture exhibitions curated by museums across the USA at the presidential homestead. ‘I have always loved sculpture,’ she explained back in 1998.

Verily, the New York senator credits a shared admiration for the work of Henry Moore as a catalyst for her romance with husband Bill. As students at Yale Law School, they met one day and ‘started talking and went for a long walk,’ she said on the eve of the first White House sculpture show. ‘We ended up in front of the Yale Art Gallery. They had a Mark Rothko exhibition inside and a Henry Moore exhibition in the sculpture yard. Bill wanted to show me both of them, but we found the doors closed because of a labor dispute.’ Ever resourceful, the future Leader of the Free World volunteered to take out the bins for the museum, and the couple were granted private access to the show. Awww.

For all Hillary’s apparently sophisticated tastes – she is a fan of De Kooning – Rakewell does rather wonder what she makes of the news that a Melbourne street artist by the name of Lushsux has landed himself in a spot of trouble over a mural depicting her clad only in  skimpy ‘swimwear’ stuffed with $100 bills.

The mural provoked outrage as soon as it appeared on the side of a scooter shop in the city’s Footscray neighbourhood, and the hapless Lushsux was condemned as an indecent sexist by the Twitterati and threatened with a hefty fine by the local council, who said the mural contravened its gender equity policy. And that was just for starters. Lushsux then claimed that Instagram had blocked him from accessing his account after posting an image of his handiwork to the site.

The issue now seems to have been resolved with the application of a little artistic improvisation. Lushsux has now covered the offending likeness with a black niqab, leaving only the Democratic nominee’s eyes on show. ‘If this Muslim woman offends u, u r a bigot, racist, sexist Islamophobe’, he daubed beneath the new-look mural. As Hillary herself wrote in Vanity Fair back in 2013: ‘art is a tool of diplomacy […] It reaches beyond governments, past the conference rooms and presidential palaces, to help us connect with more people in more places. It is a universal language in our search for common ground, an expression of our shared humanity.’ Erm, indeed.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.