Subject: Sun-worshipping
From: Ele Carpenter
Date: 3 Apr 2017

Dear Guardian Letters,

In February artist David Hockney reworked The Sun newspaper’s logo as a publicity stunt to promote Brexit and his retrospective exhibition at Tate Britain. This came as a surprise to many artists, curators as well as people in Liverpool who have campaigned against The Sun newspaper for over 27 years. A banal report by Jonathon Jones (Guardian, 3 February 2017) failed to address any of the political symbolism of this unusual gesture.

The Sun tabloid paper has long represented misogynist anti-intellectualism, stirring up racial and homophobic fear and hatred. In 2016 the newspaper urged its readers to vote to leave the European Union, blaming immigration for the conservative government cuts to public services. Whilst the desire to increase the diversity of arts audiences is to be commended, this media stunt alienates many. The UK government has argued that they have a responsibility towards the slight majority vote as the ‘will of the people’ but has failed to address the role of deliberate media misinformation about the EU referendum. The city of Liverpool successfully boycotted the paper in response to the shameful reporting of the role of Liverpool Football fans during the Hillsborough Football disaster in 1989, and the city voted to remain in Europe.

Hockney’s Sun branding exercise does little to inform the debate about British populism, private sponsorship and arts funding following Brexit. The rise of tabloid fuelled populism both online and in print is leading to ultra-nationalism and massive cuts to arts funding. Jonathon Jones’ Sun worshipping needs a more rigorous analysis.

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