Wednesday, March 25, 2009
sign, Geurnica, layers
Pub sign above the door of The Crown at Groombridge.
The picture they had to cover with a curtain is how many people will remember the tapestry reproduction of Picasso's Guernica , which hangs in front of the entrance to the Security Council Chamber in the UN building in New York. I am reminded of this extraordinary story this morning on Radio 4, because a similar reproduction of Picasso's Geurnica is to be exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery in London from April 5. It is not the first time that this enduring indictment of the evils of war, will be seen at the gallery. The original painting came to the Whitechapel in 1939 after its first showing in Paris at the 1937 International World Fair for which it was commissioned. The original is now on permanent exhibition at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. I went to see it there a few years ago and, having witnessed its scale and presence, left convinced that it is indeed among the greatest works of modern art.
Its power as an anti-war statement is no better illustrated than by what happened in February 2003 when Colin Powell argued before the Security Council that Iraq had not complied with UN demands, and that military action was called for. Powell was to face the world's media in front of the picture. Why precisely the picture was covered up is still a matter of debate. Some people say that it was because news photographers wanted a plain, blue background for their shots, but it is more generally believed that the warlike nature of Powell's message was not compatible with Picasso's cry of blast against war of any kind. The well known images from the picture would have conveyed an ambiguous message beside Powell. And what a gift to caption writers!
As I climb the path up to the Grove, I see through the layer of branches above me, a layer of dark rain clouds and behind the clouds, a pool of blue sky.
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In a way, it's surprising they were that sensitive to the picture's relevance; usually it seems as though a disconnect takes place between sentiments expressed in art etc, and the realpolitik going on in front of it...
I don't think I'd heard that story before.
The pub sign looks wondrous old!
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