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The art world unites against Brexit, in its own way

23 June 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.

The referendum on the UK’s future upon us, and artists from Tracey Emin to Wolfgang Tillmans have pledged their support for the ‘Remain’ camp. None of them, however, have come up with a vision quite as novel as that of Düsseldorf-based Swiss performance artist Milo Moiré.

Last week, in a one-off special episode of cult TV favourite Eurotrash screened in advance of the referendum, Moiré invited presenters Antoine de Caunes and Jean-Paul Gaultier to place boxes around their groins, their modesty protected only a red velvet curtain. Moiré, in her own words, was: ‘…permitted to reach my hands into the boxes and gallantly touch Antoine’s and Jean Paul’s crown jewels. They both have truly big “eggs”, as we say in German, and I know all about “eggs”!’

Erm… indeed. Alas, Moiré’s stunts went down rather less well with the Metropolitan Police. In a performance wearing a ‘mirror box’ similar to the ones which Gaultier and De Caunes donned on TV in London’s Trafalgar Square, the rozzers failed to see the funny side and arrested her. Moiré spent 24 hours in a police cell and was obliged to pay a ‘4-digit fine’.

For more on how a ‘Brexit’ might affect the art world, click here


Meanwhile in the EU heartland of Schengen in Luxembourg, events augur ill for the Remain camp. Last month, strong winds caused parts of the roof of the European Museum to collapse, causing damage to exhibits and sparking much talk of political symbolism. Mayor Ben Homan played down the poetic significance of the incident, explaining that the only ‘sign’ the collapse offered was that ‘we need to do some repairs’. Take that as you will.


This week, Frieze magazine’s Jennifer Higgie canvassed top arts figures about the referendum, almost all of whom advocated a vote for remaining. The likes of Broomberg & Chanarin, Geoff Dyer, Julia Peyton Jones (whose blood ‘runs cold’ at the thought of Brexit) and Cornelia Parker all gave a passionate defence of Britain’s relationship to the EU. One entry, though, is notable for its ambiguity. Mia Frostner and Rosalie Schweiker’s image of a crudely drawn love heart bearing the phrase ‘we love EU bureaucrats’ does beg the question: really?


Much talk of European and British history has served only to obscure the fundamental arguments made by both sides. Margaret Thatcher, for one, has been claimed as a sort of zombie figurehead by both Leave and Remain, as has Winston Churchill, whose image can currently be found adorning a giant ‘IN’ poster at Clapham Junction railway station.

In the meantime, the Rake does wonder what the wartime PM would have made of the news that a pair of Hermann Göring’s underpants sold for a reported $18,000 at auction in Munich. Verily, we live in strange times.

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