I've kept my eyes steadily averted from the Turner Prize. Instead, I've been following the less sensationalist story about Barack and Michelle Obama's choice of art. A very fine selection showing taste and sophistication, not to mention culturally sensitive antennae- but as the Guardian reports, no British art. Now this is a strange omission because during my Obama art-related web surfing I came across an article from 2008 from the Telegraph. According to this, at that time Obama's favourite painting was a lesser-known canvas by a Victorian artist who rejoiced in the name of "England's Michelangelo". The artist was George Frederick Watts, and the work singled out for presidential approval was his Hope. Apparently, this strange, forlorn work which shows a blindfolded female harpist languishing on the top of a globe inspired Obama on his road to the White House. A former pastor of Obama's- the reverend Jeremiah Wright- gave a sermon inspired by Watt's painting; he compared her to a victim of Hiroshima, who despite being downtrodden and destitute, had the audacity to hope. Later Obama used this phrase in a significant address to the Democratic Convention in 2004. And in 2006, Obama used this as the title of a book.
Given Obama's interest in this painting which is British, you can't help wondering why he wouldn't want some art from our shores on his walls. And surely, given its political and spiritual significance to the current president, Tate Britain or the London Guildhall Gallery, would be willing to loan him for the picture for a while.