Mia Ruyter: Business Leaders

Historically, oil paintings were commissioned by the powerful as a means of flaunting their influence and solidifying their status. Law schools and Ivy league colleges commission oil painting portraits of alumni and deans and faculty to demonstrate their loyalty to the past – reassuring generous alumni that their values will be upheld and respected. Corporations line the boardrooms with oil portraits of past board members, reminding current members of the lineage of power and money.

These portraits challenge the power of the portrait, challenge the comfort of the powerful. These portraits are palatable – they match the furniture. But are they flattering? Does the chairman look good in this picture? Isn’t this the picture from the New York Times, the day the chairman was arrested? Wasn’t that picture published with an article about the debate in congress about media deregulation?

Who are these men? Out of the context of the newspaper and the corporate office, they become vaguely recognizable, but still anonymous. However, they are very important – they are controlling the debate about who will manage your retirement fund, or who will be responsible for informing you about international news and foreign policy.

In these pictures, the powerful are small and unassuming. They are shrunken, bodiless heads. The vinyl on which they are painted will match the couch, or the upholstery on your yacht.

(click on each image for full size version)

James Murdoch, 2004
oil paint on vinyl, 18x18inches

Dennis Kozlowski, 2004
oil paint on vinyl, 18x14 inches

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