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Steve Bannon – the strangest exhibition subject ever?

31 March 2018

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

Terrifying news from Rotterdam, where the Het Nieuwe Instituut has just opened a show devoted to the life and work of one Stephen K. Bannon. Conceived by Dutch artist Jonas Staal as a ‘propaganda retrospective’ of the right-wing polemicist’s ‘cultural and political work’, the exhibition aims to demonstrate how Bannon has exploited culture to proselytising ends. It will also shed some light into the former Breitbart boss’s auteurial side.

As a press release explains, Bannon is quite the Renaissance man: though best known as Donald Trump’s former consigliere, he is also a filmmaker. Between 2004 and 2016, he was responsible for producing no less than nine politically oriented documentaries, earning him an unofficial mantle as ‘the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement’.

Bannon’s cinematic oeuvre is just one facet of his wider cultural involvement. The former White House apparatchik was, of course, an early backer of Seinfeld, and has produced several Hollywood films – including, bizarrely, the directorial debut of Sean Penn.

Perhaps most esoteric, though, is The Thing I Am – a ‘rap musical’ adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus about the LA riots in 1992, co-written by Bannon himself. Although it never made it into production, a script for this magnum opus surfaced last year, prompting a group of actors to get together to shoot a read through. Breitbard, anyone?

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