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When Art Becomes Unacceptable

I was shocked and appaled when I saw this picture on Catwalk Queen.


Credited to the artist Russell Young, it depicts Kate Moss and Pete Doherty's faces photoshopped onto the mug shots of the infamous murderers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.
"After spending fifteen years as a celebrity photographer and music video director, I was able to see how, and at what points that world and the underworld rub up against each other. So the idea of combining celebrities and criminals came very naturally."
When I read that quote in the Catwalk Queen article I got slightly angry, as it's one thing to compare celebrities and criminals, certainly Kate and Pete are no law-abiding angels, but to compare them to serial killers is definately way past the line of what is acceptable.
However, when I did a bit of googling I found that the story isnt quite as straightforward as it seems. The quote, sourced from Young's website seems to actually refer to his other, less objectionable art, colourful slightly pop-arty paintings of celebrity mugshots, featuring well known names such as Malcolm X, Jane Fonda and Snoop Dogg.

Frank Sinatra, Juliette Lewis and Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Some of Russell Young's work includes pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Manson, which I believe is slightly less acceptable, using the notoriety of killers to gain publicity and make money (also, I sure as hell wouldn't want a murderer's picture on my wall!), yet still not as bad as the Moss and Doherty "art".

I quickly found out though, that the image above, credited to Young is not infact his own creation. It is the work of satirical graphic artist Beau Bo D'Or, who created the piece over a year ago. It turns out that Russell Young has merely used the image to create colourful versions in his own style.

I personally still feel though, that although not the original creator of this horrific image, Young still deserves criticism for using it. His work bears obvious connections with the ever-popular pop-art genre, meaning that some people may disregard the shocking content because of it feels familiar and even "cool".
The largest criticism must of course be directed towards the artist who conceived the idea of this piece in the first place, Beau Bo D'Or. The image is highly disrespectful to Hindley's victims and their families, as well as Kate and Pete themselves. Also, even if the image does make a statement about equating celebrities with criminals, it will also do the opposite, equating criminals with celebrities, thus lending a sick popularity to those most evil of people. I feel many apologies need to be issued and if I had my way the works would be withdrawn if at all possible.

Unfortunately it becomes apparent when reading the artist's blog entry on the subject that he does not feel any kind of responsibility for people's upset and outrage, saying that the image "can be deliberately misconstrued by those with an agenda."

I am not saying that I do not believe art should be allowed to be shocking or subversive, and it is difficult to draw lines and boundaries tht should not be crossed without interfering with freedom of expression and a right to free speech etc, but I believe there is plenty of scope to satirise and expose the flaws of celebrities and celebrity culture (or anything else for that matter) without sinking to the level of this disgusting filth.

3 comments

  1. Interesting post. I don't really like what he'd done and like you I wouldn't want posters like those on my wall.

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  2. Wow, that's a freaky thing. I'm not feeling the posters so much... because I actually like Pete D.

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  3. I really really am haunted by those images of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.... I can't look at them without wanting to cry...

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