The Sun shines on David Hockney

David Hockney’s ‘redesigned’ logo for today’s issue of The Sun has outraged many. But if arts organisations want to reach a wider audience, won’t this help?

Image: The Sun
Image: The Sun

In a year of WTFs, another one. David Hockney has ‘redesigned’ the logo of the Sun for its Friday February 3 edition and given the paper a lengthy interview. My first reaction was bewilderment, followed by anger and disappointment. I wonder how many sneering, hateful articles the Sun has written about gay men – and artists – in its time. And yet here is Hockney, apparently “delighted to be asked” to work for the paper.

A lot of our readers were hoping on Twitter that Hockney had sneaked some type of rude message into the work or that he was simply ‘trolling’ The Sun. Apparently not.

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The interview – which runs across pages 12 and 13 – describes Hockney as a “Yorkshire working-class lad made good”. It notes his anger at “faceless bureaucrats [the Sun’s words] and their clampdown on smoking” and his “rebellion against the ruling classes who ignore the wishes of ordinary people”. According to Hockney, new restrictions have “really f**ed cigarette packets up now”.

It’s a pretty thin attempt to portray Hockney to Sun readers as “one of us”. There’s no mention of his sexuality. An image of Portrait Of An Artist accompanying the piece is hilariously described as depicting “two of his pals at Hockney’s LA home”.

Anticipating the reaction from the likes of us, a Sun editorial on page 10 says “it’s not often a legend like David Hockney redesigns your logo because he’s such a big fan of the paper.” “Snooty critics,” it advises “should pull their heads out of their arts”.

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The interview and the logo redecoration – let’s not call it a redesign – coincide with Tate Britain’s big Hockney retrospective.

So let’s just play devil’s advocate here. The art world is forever wringing its hands at the narrowness of its audience. Every director of a major gallery is preoccupied with reaching a wider audience. Hockney himself has previously said that he enjoys making ‘populist’ work.

Here we have the most popular paper in Britain (whatever you may think of it) getting a major artist to change its logo and carrying an extensive interview with him. If it persuades just some of the Sun’s readership to go to the show or just to look at Hockney’s work, isn’t that a good thing?

On April 5, Tate Britain has another major show opening, which will also feature Hockney’s art. It’s called Queer British Art 1861-1967. Wonder if The Sun will be featuring that one?

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