So an artist snuck into the National Gallery and the RHA with some guerilla portraits of An Taoiseach, put them up on the walls and then snuck out again. I mean ‘Guerilla Portraits’ – as in the sneaking in and putting them up as an act of antagonism, rather than An Taoiseach as a gorilla (story and pictures on line here). It seems he (why did I think it’s a ‘he’ before I even read about the shadowy figure caught on CCTV?) went undetected, and the works were there for a while before being removed.
The most famous examples of this kind of act were by the Guerilla Girls (www.guerrillagirls.com; they are coincidentally touring Ireland this month – opening at MCAC Portadown on 31 March, with performances in venues around the country, see www.guerrillagirlstourireland.com), sneaking stickers and posters into New York’s bastions of art to protest at the shocking under-representation of women in public collections and major exhibitions. They also put up billboards, and went on to point out and provoke outrage at various forms of inequality and injustice in the art world. I’m not sure whether the artist whose paintings of Brian Cowan on the toilet and clutching underpants appeared, however briefly, in the National Gallery and the RHA, was motivated by a burning sense of injustice, an impulse to mischief, or a desire for secretive fame (à la Banksy et al), but I don’t think it’s the last we’ll hear from him. For one thing, it’s impossible to keep a secret in Ireland (especially in the art world…), and for another – if the motivation is a burning sense of outrage – well, there’s a hell of a lot more to get outraged about at the moment, so this thing could run and run.