John McEnroe, Michael Jackson and Margaret Thatcher: Cartoon Museum's Spitting Image

By Culture24 Reporter | 27 February 2014

Exhibition preview: Spitting Image - from Start to Finish, Cartoon Museum, London, until June 8 2014

A photo of a cartoon puppet of a woman cutting up bits of meat in the shape of a country
Spitting Image Workshop, Thatcher Cutting up Britain© Spitting Image Productions Ltd, Spitting Image Archive. Photo: Spitting Image Workshop
Roger Law, the protagonist of puppet portraiture behind the high spoofery of Spitting Image, is only being slightly fanciful in defining himself as an “evil genius” who masterminded “the corruption of an entire generation’s respect for authority and institutions.”

An image of a satirical sculpture of a male tennis played with steam coming from his ears
Peter Fluck and Roger Law's model of John McEnroe, subtitled I'm Playing to Win© Luck and Flaw Spitting Image Archive. Photo: John Lawrence Jones
Opened on the 30th anniversary of the show’s start, this exhibition features at least one disgusted letter abhorring his grotesque satirical sculptures of everyone from Michael Jackson and Saddam Hussein to John McEnroe and Robert Mugabe.

Together with his partner in parody, Peter Fluck, Law – who is now a ceramicist in Australia, having been “thoroughly rinsed up” when the show ended after 18 series, ten BAFTAs and two Emmys, in 1996 – produced the art for fledgling writers including Ian Hislop, Harry Enfield and Steve Coogan.

The works, though, contained “virtually nothing new”, having appeared in publications such as The New York Times and The Sunday Times Magazine during the previous decade.

An image of a satirical sculpture of a female political leader looking at her own statue
Margaret Thatcher PM© Spitting Image Productions Ltd, Spitting Image Archive. Photo: John Lawrence Jones
“You ignorant b******s are just p***-takers out of our country,” accuses one of the examples of the hate mail which piled up, calling Fluck and Law “a pack of reds.”

“We are going to march in protest,” it added, claiming to write on behalf of “disgusted viewers”.

The enduring power of the puppets might have been best underlined by their sale in 2000 and 2001, when more than 600 of them – sold in two online auctions – attracted bids from the rich and the famous (Baroness Thatcher went for £10,200). The first auction alone raised more than £370,000.

  • Open 10.30am-5.30pm (12pm-5.30pm Sunday). Admission £3-£7 (free for under-18s). Follow the museum on Twitter @Cartoonmuseumuk.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

An image of a satirical sculpture of a man in a suit appearing to stamp on the viewer
Tebbit's Law© Luck and Flaw Spitting Image Archive. Photo: John Lawrence Jones
An image of a satirical sculpture of a queen figure reading a newspaper at a table
Her Majesty The Queen© Spitting Image Productions Ltd, Spitting Image Archive. Photo: John Lawrence Jones
An image of a satirical sculpture of a man with a huge nose in a comical yellow suit
Kinnochio (1987)© Spitting Image Productions Ltd, Spitting Image Archive. Photo: John Lawrence Jones
An image of a satirical sculpture of a male rock star wearing a space suit and smiling
Michael Jackson© Spitting Image Productions Ltd, Spitting Image Archive. Photo: John Lawrence Jones
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