It can be a bit of a shock to be walking along posh Jermyn Street and suddenly see the latex image of Margaret Thatcher staring back at you from a shop window. For people of a certain age, Spitting Image is one of those shows that defined political satire, and is often much missed.

Now there’s a small exhibition about the puppets used in the show.

It’s not a reverential exhibition, which is suitable as reverence was an anathema to the show, but looks at the puppets with their guts hanging out.

The portraits in the exhibition are by Andrew Bruce and Anna Fox, and each image depicts a former Tory party member. Rendered on large format film, at times stripped of their clothing, every mark on the latex or foam is made visible and accentuated, including signs of wear, fragility and decay.

As the description says, “there is an awkward tension in these photographs between the puppets as depictions of people, as cultural icons, and also as crumbling modern artefacts.”

You’ve probably never wanted to see what’s underneath Margaret Thatcher’s suits, but here all is revealed in cracked foam format. Leon Brittan is a floating head in space, and another, who I struggled to remember who it was looked not unlike a small bug escaping from its cocoon.

I guess being immortalised by Spitting Image doesn’t always convey immortality.

Anna Fox said: ‘Once we had them out of their packing cases, lying on the studio floor, the puppets looked broken, aged, decrepit and lacking any glimmer of life. The orange latex protruded pathetically from underneath their clothing as we re-arranged them on the stand. At one point, Norman Tebbit’s head came off as if he was being decapitated by some unknown force. The glamour faded, the sheen gone. Failed characters abandoned in storage…”

The photos were commissioned in 2015 by The Hyman Collection.

The exhibition is at the Centre for British Photography until 23rd April — it’s in the foyer windows of the building.

Centre for British Photography,
49 Jermyn Street,
London,
SW1Y 6LX

Opening Hours:

Monday and Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday to Friday: 11am – 6pm

Saturday and Sunday: 11am – 4pm

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4 comments
  1. Richard King says:

    Well, as the graffiti on the wall south of Waterloo used to say ‘the witch is dead, but the spell remains’.

  2. Roy Hattersley says:

    I think that the ‘small bug escaping from its cocoon’ is Roy Hattersley…

  3. Russell Bradner says:

    From what I will never forget there was a Spitting Image museum near the Transportation museum back in ’92. Is that no longer there?

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