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Jimmy Savile's Latest Victim Is Art

Posted: 26/10/2012 10:51

When I contacted the Bread And Butter gallery to ask if their 'Jimmy Savile Is Innocent' exhibition was some kind of prank, they confirmed it was real and sent over a press release that opened with an imaginary Savile talking from beyond the grave:

"Now then now then now then, I've been named a child abuser how's about that then? Goodness Gracious Guys and Gal's. Old Jimmy ridiculed in the press by hundreds of people most of which probably never met me and just out for their 15 seconds of fame and as it 'appens since the Leveson Inquiry the papers can't get cheap stories from phone hacking now so death abuse seems the new in thing, dear oh dear oh me but don't you worry cos old Jimmy will get them from beyond the grave. Talking of which where is my grave? It seems to have gone? Well I tell you one thing Jimmy Savile is Innocent'."

And so, making my way down to Islington, I braced myself to meet some misguided art student desperate to make a name for themselves as the next controversial YBA.

jimmy savile innocent art show

Two teapots with Jimmy Savile faces stuck on


Instead I found a soft-spoken 39-year-old man called David, who claims to have been an on-and-off art curator since the late 90s.

David's gallery - if you can call it that - is a small room hidden around the corner from a main road. Half of it is filled with bits of furniture and broken picture frames ("If you want a bad frame made cheaply" he tells me, "I'm your man"), a ramshackle sales operation that funds the art space opposite it.

As he apologised for the mess, I asked how the 'Jimmy Savile Is Innocent' opening party went the night before.

He told me around 200 people showed up - quite a large number given the crate of unopened beer on the floor. There was a Savile-themed DJ set and a performance poetry slot, attended by a least one person who not only dressed as Savile but dressed their dog as Savile too.

On a white board in the corner, people had been prompted to 'write what you like about Jimmy'. One thought left behind read: 'In France 15 is the age of consent', underlined with a smiley face.

whiteboard Whiteboard at 'Jimmy Savile Is Innocent'


I took a look at the art. Pages from Savile's 1976 autobiography stuck to a wall, with passages underlined in black, was comfortably the most sophisticated piece on show.

The rest is just a series of half-witted ideas - childish collages of newspaper cuttings, Savile's face on a pair of plant pots (in which the flowers would be "left to die"), a crude cartoon of Savile chasing a small girl. And the photograph that led me to call the police after I left.

David's point is not that he believes Savile was innocent, simply that technically he is innocent until a trial has taken place. His argument is that, post-Leveson, the press are no longer able to phone hack for our stories so instead we are going after the dead who can't defend themselves, and conducting a "trial by media witch hunt".

So, how does he think the victims of Savile's alleged abuse would feel to read a press release that effectively calls them liars, and see a show that makes light of their allegations?

"I don't think anyone would say that 100% of those people are telling the truth. But I am quite willing to speak to anyone and hear their views - up to now no one has contacted me. I understand people are going to be upset, but whatever you do can upset someone - some people get upset if you don't by organic coffee from the supermarket."

OK. Will he still be 'proud to present' the show if a trial finds Savile guilty?

"I'll still be quite happy to have done the show. Because if they do conduct a trial, we might have helped to get that process underway."

Don't you think some of this work, particularly the image of the little girl wearing a thong, is in bad taste?

"If you look at that image you just see a little girl, but if you examine it, it is an ironic piece. It's not only a little girl. I wouldn't say any of the rest of it is in bad taste. But then I said I'd put everything that was sent to me on the subject up without censoring it.

"I know it's very sensational thing to do. But it's a free country and you're allowed to do what you want."

Having asked all the questions I had to ask and taken in more than enough Jimmy Savile-inspired artwork to last me a lifetime, I left David behind, sat smoking in what is easily the strangest art show I've ever attended.

The Jimmy Savile case appears to be claiming more and more victims every day. To that sad, bewildering number, in a small corner of Islington, we now add both art and good taste.

 

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