Marcus Harvey

(b. 1963)

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(1963– )

British painter, born in Leeds. He is best known for what proved to be the most controversial exhibit in the 1997 *‘Sensation’ exhibition. This was a portrait, made in 1995, of the notorious child murderer Myra Hindley, based on a widely reproduced police photograph but made up of children's handprints. The issues went beyond the usual ‘modern art’ controversies about alleged incompetence or affronts to ‘public morality’. There was the problem about the hurt to those most involved, the families of the victims of the events of thirty years earlier. In this respect, there was a considerable difference between the exhibition of the work in a small gallery, to a handful of people, and widespread public exposure at the Royal Academy. This being said, the mass media showed cynicism quite beyond that of the artist in their management of the event, deliberately drawing the attention of those who would be most personally affected by the image. The issue was not simply the right of the artist to use the image of Myra Hindley but the right of newspapers and television to be able to monopolize discussion around it. In an interview given at the time the artist said, ‘I just thought that the handprint was one of the most dignified images that I could find. The most simple image of innocence absorbed in all that pain.’ Harvey's other work has not made the same impact. He has made paintings which combine Abstract Expressionist brushwork with the outlines of pornographic photographs. In 2004 he exhibited in New York three still-lifes of the detritus of an ‘Ann Summer's Party’. This, it had to be explained to the American public, was like a Tupperware party but with sex toys.

Subjects: Art.

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