Saturday, 13 May 2017

Ecce Homo (though not on the BBC)

Here's a curious tale, courtesy of one of our readers...
For six weeks from Easter 2017 until 22nd May, Mark Wallinger’s sculpture Ecce Homo has found a new temporary home outside St Paul’s Cathedral. This work was originally the first sculpture to be commissioned for the Fourth Plinth in 1999. Mark Wallinger was the Turner Prize winner in 2007 for his work State Britain - an installation of protest banners and placards.
Searching through the BBC website, I can’t find any mention whatsoever of Ecce Homo’s re-siting at St Paul’s. Bias from the BBC is evident in the way that events are reported, but also in the way that events are ignored and not reported. Reporting on its new temporary home would have given the chance of debate about public art, about the religious context and interpretation of the piece - an issue that drew attention when it was first displayed.
Sponsors of the re-siting at St Paul’s were Amnesty International - Kate Allen, director of Amnesty, said: "The story of Christ - arrested, tortured and executed for peacefully expressing his opinions and for challenging the authorities of the time - still resonates around the world today. The sculpture is a strikingly vulnerable figure and is representative of the type of cases that we at Amnesty still work on today - the oppressed individual caused to suffer simply for their beliefs”. 
Why would the BBC chose to ignore this news item? 

  1. Is it because there is a Christian message that does not suit the BBC narrative?
  2. Is it because Christ is represented as ‘hideously white’ or some might say gay?
  3. Is it because the re-siting was sponsored by Amnesty?

Personally, I find that  the work lacks a true Christian message. The guided barbed wire crown of thorns is the only real link to Ecce Homo - Behold the Man. With this removed, the piece would be similar in concept to Antony Gormley’s figures, where the siting of the work speaks more loudly than the sculpture itself. Christ’s face does not reflect any of the suffering which is central to the Christian message - the face is impassive - even vacant. 
Aside from the strange decision of St Paul’s Cathedral themselves to allow Amnesty as a strictly non-religious organisation to sponsor the work of an atheist artist on their doorstep, the BBC’s determination not to mention it is difficult to explain - the silence is deafening. I understood that Amnesty were as one with the Labour Party - which you would think would lead the BBC into making something of it. Alternatively, does the BBC have a policy about support for charities other than its own in house versions - Children in Need etc? Or, is the work of Amnesty too close in its principles to that of Liberty, in which case they might have been frightened off by Shami? 
The only other angle on this is the involvement of  Hauser & Wirth, a Swiss art gallery, who I guess would have exhibition rights to the piece.
I'm not sure why the BBC hasn't covered this. It would normally be right up the corporation's street. It's a modern art piece in front of St. Paul's Cathedral. Radio 4's 'Sunday' has done several reports on 'Homeless Jesus' - another piece of point-making sculpture - and Will Gompertz has just been in Venice exulting over some anti-national borders, globalist exhibits at the Biennale there.

I can't say that I'm overly impressed with Mark Wallinger's Jesus either though. Expression-wise, he looks just like me after I've fallen asleep during 'The Antiques Roadshow'....

....unlike this chap outside Coventry Cathedral:


  1. If Wallinger's 2007 Turner Prize-winning State Britain had been recreated, I suggest that the BBC would have covered it much differently.

    1. Brian Haw, the Peace Protester upon whom Wallinger's State Britain was based, became something of an iconic figure for the Left, admired by Tony Benn, the BBC and John Mcdonnell amongst others.

  2. I'm surprised that the BBC have not picked up on this. Coverage would have given them ample opportunity for a sideswipe at the Church of England and St Pauls for allowing Amnesty to sponsor the re-siting of this work.

    As it is positioned, tourists can jauntily link arms and capture a selfie with the figure, inviting irreverence. The figure might be more accurately defined as a now out-of-date metrosexual man of the 1990s, and would have been better positioned outside Harvey Nicks - minus the headgear.