NZ Art Parallels: How art history has predicted everything ever in NZ politics

The surprise Twitter hit of this election season has been NZ Art Parallels, the account which reveals the previously hidden connections between world art history and New Zealand politics and media. And now NZ Art Parallels is joining The Spinoff for a new monthly column.

The Spinoff Parallel of the Month

Bill English, the day after the 2002 election / Henri Vidal, Cain, 1896. (Image: Jill Robb)

Here is Bill English experiencing a loss to the Labour Party, the day after the 2002 election, paired with Cain from the biblical story, who for quite different reasons is covering his face. It’s possible that Cain’s predicament was way worse, but you wouldn’t know from these two images. The reality here is that Bill is probably just rubbing his eyes, but such an iconic photograph shouldn’t be ignored. Like some kind of weird time warp that he can’t escape, this week must’ve been hard on Bill. Let us take a moment’s silence for Bill, who did not get up again as previously thought.

On Monday, Jacinda Ardern spoke to Donald Trump. This parallel speaks of concession – Ardern was expecting to hear from POTUS – but also fortitude in what is ahead for her, tolerance-wise. This artwork by Lichtenstein fetched US$42.6M at auction in 2010, a ridiculously high price, so there’s some subtext here about the price of becoming prime minister and having to deal with folk like Donald Trump.

Twitter link.

Most popular parallel

One of the most popular NZ art parallels in the lead-up to the election, in terms of shares. Somebody tweeted me the image of Ardern and I immediately thought “Dutch kitchen scene”. Dutch art history is filled with the still life or kitchen scene and they are really into their food layouts. It’s like the precursor to people who Instagram their lunch at the Federal Delicatessen and just as eye-rollingly dull. This kind of parallel is quite literal: look! There’s a lady in a kitchen standing the same way as a painting.

Twitter link.

Where it all began

We couldn’t get through any election without being confronted by New Zealand’s highest-paid broadcaster. Mike spends quite a slice of his salary on terrible jackets, as previously critiqued by Colin Mathura-Jeffree in this piece. I’m sure Mike trolls us with his jackets and they are stored in the kind of wardrobe that would have an escalator and be encased in a humidity-controlled panic room.

This was the first parallel, on July 31, 2017. It seemed completely natural to pair him with a self portrait of Albrecht Dürer, a German Renaissance painter who liked German high fashion such as jackets with interesting shit dangling off them. If Dürer was alive today, he’d have a wallet chain like Hosking.

Twitter link.

Uncanny resemblance of the month

Piero della Francesca, an Italian Renaissance painter who created sombre narratives, seemed a natural match for Gareth Morgan, leader of The Opportunities Party. Gareth looks a bit like Jesus here and thank you to the souls who thought that was the parallel.

In reality, it was just the beard and the tree in each image. I mean, we could go on and say that Morgan was attempting to pave a new way forward, resurrect a new image as politician, but why bother?

Beard and tree.

Twitter link.

Competition of the month

The people know their art and often I get unsolicited parallels ideas – so why not let the people ‘parallel’? This was the first one, run the night that Winston Peters announced he was going into a Labour-Greens coalition. The reckons since then have been just fantastic, but nothing – not one thing – could match Mike Hosking’s face on Seven Sharp while it was all unfolding live. The thread of submissions is here.

Parallels from the golden age

Never forget New Zealand’s wild political past. In this case, Bill English’s Dipton-chic knit was matched with Ian Scott, a British-born New Zealand artist largely known for his lattice paintings. Bill English looks like he really wouldn’t know about fashion dressing or art-making practices in New Zealand. The perfect prime minister.

Twitter link.

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