Decapitation of a statue of Margaret Thatcher
On 3 July 2002, Paul Kelleher decapitated a £150,000, eight-foot (2.4 m), 1.8-tonne (2.0-short-ton), marble statue of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on display at Guildhall Art Gallery in central London.
Having unsuccessfully taken a swing at the statue with a Slazenger V600 cricket bat concealed in his trousers, Kelleher used a metal rope support stanchion to decapitate the statue. After the beheading, he waited to be arrested by the police who arrived minutes later. He said on capture, "I think it looks better like that."
The statue had been commissioned in 1998 from the sculptor Neil Simmons by the Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art; paid for by an anonymous donor, it was intended for a plinth among statues of former Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom in the Members' Lobby of the House. However, the House did not permit a statue to be erected there during its subject's lifetime, so the work was temporarily housed in Guildhall Art Gallery. It was unveiled there by Thatcher in May 1998. Following the loss of its head, the statue was removed from display. Although it was estimated that the work could be repaired for £10,000, statue experts worried that it would never be the same.
At Kelleher's first trial, he said in his defence that the attack involved his "artistic expression and my right to interact with this broken world". The jury, despite nearly four hours of deliberation and a direction from the judge that it could decide by majority, failed to agree on whether or not he had "lawful excuse". He was retried in January 2003, found guilty of criminal damage and sentenced to three months in jail.
On 21 February 2007, a new statue of Thatcher, commissioned in 2003 from sculptor Antony Dufort and this time in tougher silicon bronze, was erected on the reserved plinth in the Members' Lobby. The rule against living subjects had been relaxed by this stage and Thatcher unveiled the statue. By then, the marble statue had been repaired, but it remains in Guildhall Art Gallery.
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- House of Commons Works of Art Committee
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