This large-scale tapestry was created on the basis of a press photograph taken during Goshka Macuga’s exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 2009. The show, titled The Nature of the Beast, featured a tapestry version of Picasso’s Guernica, normally presented at the UN headquarters in New York. The piece provided the background for an open meeting space for activists arranged by Macuga to address the political history of the institution where Picasso’s original painting was presented in 1939 with the engagement of politicians of the left-wing Labour Party and to the applause of the East End workers’ community. The display also alluded to the veiling of the tapestry in 2003 for the duration of a speech delivered at the UN headquarters by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, during which he explained the necessity of the American invasion of Iraq. Profiting from the presence of this anti-war art icon in London, Prince William organized a press conference in the exhibition space. Macuga chose to preserve that event in the form of a tapestry to express her critical self-reflection on her own artistic strategy. The artist demonstrates how easily an artwork may be appropriated by the elite for their own goals, while its political message becomes entirely neutralized. The act of deploying a decorative medium that connotes royal dignity, which Picasso sought to lend a progressive expression in the tapestry version of Guernica created under his supervision, reminds us of the traditional function of art as a representation of power.
Goshka Macuga (b. 1967 in Warsaw) – visual artist who employs a specific working method called the “archaeology of culture”. Each of her projects is preceded by in-depth archival and historical research, which offers the possibility to reveal the broad context of the phenomena that interest her. Macuga creates installations incorporating works by other artists, archival materials, and readymades, but also her own objects, thus combining artistic and curatorial strategies. She was nominated in 2008 for the Turner Prize, the most prestigious award in British art.