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The darling buds of Theresa May

26 July 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.

Of all the perks of prime ministerial office in the UK, the one Rakewell envies most is the incumbent’s opportunity to bedeck the walls of 10 Downing Street with works from the Government Art Collection. Margaret Thatcher reportedly went in for British landscapes and portraits, while John Major introduced modern British art (and, according to the writer Iain Sinclair, ‘“sequestered” a Hockney double-portrait from the Tate’). Even the notoriously dour Gordon Brown showed his seldom seen sensitive side, hanging a painting by Keith Coventry.

What, then, of Theresa May’s tastes? If a report in the i newspaper is to be believed, the new PM is giving nothing away. Apparently, May has commanded her aides to take down some of the paintings hanging on her office walls in order to replace them with quotations from her first speech as Prime Minister.

Whether one sees this as a worthy commitment to her mission statement or a first sign of megalomania, it is unlikely the move will inspire much confidence in the culture sector. As previously reported here, the jury is still out as to whether John Whittingdale and Ed Vaizey’s replacements at DCMS have any real affinity for the arts.

Who knows, though? The payoff from May’s speech – ‘Together, we will build a better Britain’ – seems not a million miles away from a quotation that David Cameron chose to hang at Number 10: a neon sign that Tracey Emin donated to the Government Art Collection, bearing the phrase ‘More Passion’. The Rake does wonder how history will judge the two politicians’ respective mission statements…

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