antony micallef paints donald trump’s face on the front of cigarette packets for latest group exhibition
As the controversial Why I Want To Fuck Donald Trump exhibition opens today at New York’s Joshua Liner Gallery, we talk to the artist about all things Donald Trump.
Curated by the gallery's artist Alfred Steiner, the exhibition is thematically tied to JG Ballard's 1967 essay Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan and is a critique of the current political climate, highlighting that murky grey area where politics meets the sexed-up cult of celebrity. Unsurprisingly, it has pulled in critically acclaimed names within the contemporary art world, including the London-based, internationally renowned artist, Antony Micallef.
Micallef first started to paint miniature portraits of Donald Trump on Marlboro cigarette packets for the non-profit organization, Peace One Day to highlight National Peace Day on the 21st September. Entitled, Trump Fags Micallef provocatively combined Trump's face with slogans such as "seriously harms you and others around you" and simply, "kills". Following the success of this, which saw one of the packets selling for £5500 in aid of the charity, he was invited to take part in this group exhibition.
A perfect fit for the satirical group show, the modern Expressionist Micallef is known for exploring the more ominous side of today's social and political landscape; his work, along with the other exhibitors, in their own way exposing the fragility and fantasy that is applied to politicians, as it is with the world of celebrity.
How has Donald Trump made it so far in this election?
Trump is the only way a large majority of the American people can stick two fingers up to the establishment. People are so angry that they feel they have been giving nothing and are forgotten. They want a voice and no matter what Trump says, they will follow him as he is the vehicle for their hate and a perfect conduit to express it in. That's why no matter what he says he's their only candidate they will actually vote for. I think it's unfair to say all Trump supporters are completely stupid as some of them just desperately want jobs and just want to feed their family and pay mortgages. They are the ones that lose out through globalisation as factory jobs went abroad for cheaper labour. Donald Trump's platform has appeared from the same cultural habitat that we feed to people in deprived areas with no education or opportunities. It's the same demographic that ISIS targets, spreading their propaganda into the same areas that breeds haters and mistrust in society to people who nolonger feel apart of something and have no opportunities.
What do you think that says about the US public and the state of politics today?
This is the result of neglect and a diet of malnutrition in poor parts of society. When you strip education and replace it with cheap processed entertainment, this is what happens.It's not surprising people get personalities and celebrities mixed up with politicians. It's a manifestation of our environment that we have been fusing and cultivating for decades. Americans have been voting for celebrities for years. It started off with the actor Ronald Reagan becoming president in the 80s. Arnold Schwarzenegger being the Governor of California and Sarah Palin running for Vice President under John McCain in 2008.
Sarah Palin was the skeletal mechanical Terminator from the first movie. She was a personality with no idea of global politics who became famous for being Sarah Palin. Her biggest gift was not winning the post of Vice President as she could say whatever she wanted and it would never be tested. She has far more power as a celebrity than being a politician as her ridiculous policies can never be seen to fail. Trump is the new sophisticated, sleeker Terminator that morphs into the people's hero.
Why cigarette packets as a canvas? How did that first come about?
I've painted on the back of cigarette packets for years. I used to paint my own portraits and cute characters on the backs as in some juvenile way I thought it was interesting and funny. Trump is just another cartoon character.
Do you actually think Trump will make it into the Oval Office?
It's the fall of Rome if he does.
You've received loads of interest in these pieces; will you be producing anymore?
No… I'm all Trumped out. That series has been put to bed.
Why I Want to Fuck Donald Trump, Joshua Liner Gallery, New York. 13th October - 12th November, 2016.
Text Felicity Carter