See the Queen's Crown Jewels!

Don't worry, it's Art.... (you will worry)

This coming Wednesday at Brick Lane’s Café 1001, contemporary artists will showcase their work for sale on a commission-free basis. The fortnightly transformation of the coffeehouse into gallery space is worth a special look on this occasion, as Keith Harrington’s shocking depictions of our treasured monarchical figures are sure to cause an agitated, bitter hullabaloo in the non-specialist press.

The paintings are quite astounding: Prince Charles, wearing his accustomed aspect of bemused obliviousness, gently cups his breast (yes, breast. With tanlines); Camilla and the late Diana engage in sexual intercourse, and Queen Elizabeth, her head transposed onto a man’s (naked) body, fondles her scrotum in a way that recalls Klimt’s series of sketches showing women masturbating, legs raised.

I spoke to Harrington, who lived and studied in Massechusetts, about what the gender-play with traditional iconography signified. He insists that the idea was quite simple: “We all have male and female inside us, and I wanted to express that in a way that could be related universally. In the UK, the Royals are the be-all and end-all, so who else could represent 21st century sexuality better than them?”

Harrington remains concerned about the reception his paintings will garner, but does not want to temper his work in any way. Indeed, his next project sounds even more outrageous: “In my next series, I will paint celebrity portraits and I will also paint their sex organs. Then the viewing public will have to match up the celebrity portrait with their sex organ. Many celebrities have put "themselves" out there for public consumption: Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Daniel Radcliffe, Colin Farrell, etc. I think it is perfectly fair to "comment" on this trend.”

These paintings, extant or planned, comment on the “vapid nature of our times”, says Harrington. But in creating art so explicitly designed to shock, is the artist himself conforming to, and being manipulated by, these times he so despises?

Keith Harrington’s work, along with that of other contemporary atists, will be exhibited on Wednesday 8th July at Café 1001. The event is organized by Showcase London, who hold similar events throughout the year. For more information go to

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