Rishi Sunak, Britain’s New (and Richest) Prime Minister, Is Also an Art Collector. Here’s a Peek Into His Quirky Tastes

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Rishi Sunak has just become Britain’s third Prime Minister in two months. He is also the first person of color to hold the position, and the wealthiest.

Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, is the daughter of an Indian software billionaire, and together they are the richest couple to inhabit 10 Downing Street, with a combined net worth that dwarfs the king’s (and that has resulted in serious legal scrutiny.)

What’s that got to do with art? Well, a lot, as Sunak learned during his time overseeing Britain’s budgets as a former chancellor of the exchequer under Boris Johnson and treasury secretary.

Media outlets made jokes in April when Sunak asked the Royal Mint to start making NFTs. He faced harsher backlash during the pandemic, when he suggested that artists and musicians should re-train their skills to earn livings in more practical fields. And then Sunak was in charge of dispensing critical pandemic relief across the country’s culture sector.

Has anyone moved their art collection there yet? It’s a great tax avoidance scheme.

— Andrew Robertson 💙🌈 (@arobertsonphoto) December 15, 2021

Despite his sometimes hostile view toward artists, Sunak and his wife are in fact avid art collectors themselves, as reported in 2020, and Sunak even opened new freeports late last year.

We scoured the internet for a comprehensive guess at the works that’ll inform Rishi Sunak’s time as Prime Minister. However long it lasts.

 

Harland Miller

Harland Miller, Fuck Art, Let's Dance (2011). Image courtesy of Ingleby Gallery, ©Harland Miller.

Harland Miller, Fuck Art, Let’s Dance (2011). Image courtesy of Ingleby Gallery, ©Harland Miller.

In February 2020, reported that Sunak and Murty loaned British artist Harland Miller’s to an exhibition at York Art Gallery.

“The title of the painting refers to the fashion industry, in which Akshata, the daughter of an Indian billionaire, is involved,” they reported, “and the date the painting was last sold—2012—is the year after she launched her first collection.” (Murty’s mother is also a Penguin-published author.)

 

Graham Sutherland

Cornfield and Stone, 1944 #neoromanticism #sutherland https://t.co/PsBTryqjxp pic.twitter.com/tJ7VOs12a9

— Graham Sutherland (@GVSutherland) October 24, 2022

offered another peek into then-chancellor Sunak’s tastes with a Freedom of Information request that revealed some of the works he took on loan from Britain’s Government Art Collection—a trove of more than 14,000 artworks. This warm, abstract study by the late Graham Sutherland was one work that he hung at home, according to their records.

 

Antony Gormley

Antony Gormley.
Untitled,1987. pic.twitter.com/my69nZ0ksu

— Lydia (@Arya11706032) February 25, 2022

Also housed in Sunak’s residence while he was chancellor was an aqua-tint by British sculptor Antony Gormley, a 2-D complement to the artist’s series of sculptures featuring lone figures made even lonelier by their lack of detail.

 

Ivon Hitchens

Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979) – Two Poppies – 1935 – oil paint on canvas – 61 x 53.5 cm – Private Collection pic.twitter.com/jwEuxDSkKQ

— John Dee (@iohndee) November 8, 2020

A modern, floral still life titled by Ivon Hitchens rounded out Sunak’s home decor from the Government Art Collection, according to .

 

Michael Armitage

Michael Armitage, Pathos and the twilight of the idle (2019). Image Courtesy Ben Davis.

Michael Armitage, (2019). Image Courtesy Ben Davis.

Sunak made headlines this year when he commissioned Kenyan-born artist Michael Armitage to design the country’s new £1 coin. The four-person independent panel relied on insight from the Government Art Collection’s director Eliza Gluckman and Royal Mint director Kevin Clancy.

 

 

Chila Kumani Singh Burman

Our October Featured Work is ‘BENGAL TIGER VAN – Raspberry Ripples, Chila’s Dad selling ice-cream on Freshfield Beach, Merseyside 1976’ by Chila Kumari Singh Burman. Of Punjabi-Hindu heritage, Burman’s work explores cultural hybridity grounded in her experience #blackhistorymonth pic.twitter.com/Y0xd7wccUy

— Government Art Collection (@GovArtCol) October 24, 2018

As for Sunak’s office, the noted that he displayed this print on an enlarged £10 bank note by the British feminist artist Chila Kumani Singh Burman.

 

Justine Smith

Justine Smith, , made with wire, plaster, paper and real Euro currency. On sale for 4,000, on the preview day of ART 2002 at the Buisiness Design Centre in Islington, North London. Photo by Tim Whitby – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images.

Also in his chancellor’s office, Sunak had four framed screenprints by Justine Smith, an artist who explores the relationship between art and money, often by using actual banknotes in her work. The works were titled , , , and . “If only it were so easy just to print money,” imagined Sunak musing while looking at the work.

 

Jake and Dinos Chapman

Daily Art Shot (465 of ∞) Jake and Dinos Chapman, Double Deathshead, 1997. Not currently on view. #40Years pic.twitter.com/H8HU8dLJMf

— Hirshhorn (@hirshhorn) January 8, 2015

Sunak displayed this deliberately shocking piece by British artist brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman in his flat. The skulls in the 1997 print, , may reference the symbols worn on the armbands of Nazi soldiers.

 

His own!

Rangoli art on the doorstep of 11 Downing Street ahead of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s delivery of the budget on March 3, 2021 in London. Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images.

Sunak is the first Hindu Prime Minister of Britain, a colonial empire that once had India under their heel, and he may have painted these Rangoli artworks on his doorstep himself.

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