Dead Gaddafi in triplicate
Three major artists—Jenny Saville, Yan Pei-Ming and Luca del Baldo—have created paintings of the corpse of the deposed Libyan dictator
By Gareth Harris. News, Issue 239, October 2012
Published online: 04 October 2012
Three major artists—Jenny Saville, Yan Pei-Ming and Luca del Baldo—have chosen the corpse of the deposed Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, as the subject matter for paintings, with Luca del Baldo’s work due to go on show in Italy in December.
“I think [this tendency] is because it [Gaddafi’s body] is a shocking and iconic image; also, Western media tend not to ‘do’ dead people unless they were famous or notorious, so they are a little bit exotic in our everyday experience,” says the leading curator David Elliott.
Rebel forces captured Gaddafi in October last year after months of conflict across Libya; an autopsy confirmed that he died from a bullet to the head.
“An image of a dead dictator taken from the media is more powerful, and more shocking, than, say, Damien Hirst’s shark,” says Del Baldo. The artist’s Gaddafi is due to go on show at the Centro Congressi Medioevo in Como.
The UK artist Jenny Saville is also working on a painting of Gaddafi’s body, which she discussed in a forum at Modern Art Oxford. “What I found most disturbing about the [press] images was not Gaddafi’s body, or the light, but the telephones. [There was] this incredible body lying out in this cold storage unit with hundreds of hands holding telephones.”
Meanwhile, a painting of the dead dictator by the Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming shows a figure in isolation. “Everything else around the body has been left out of the composition, which further shrouds the scene in mystery,” says a statement from New York’s David Zwirner gallery, which showed the work earlier this year.
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