In the United States, when this portrait of Myra Hindley was shown, it made little stir. (See below)
That’s because she is lesser known in the US than in England, where she helped Ian Brady murder several children between 1963 and 1965. The portrait caused an uproar in England when it was exhibited at the Sensation exhibition of Young British Artists at the Royal Academy of Art in London from 8 September to 28 December 1997. The British public has hated Myra Hindley with a fixation, and she has become an iconic figure of evil in Britain. When Myra’s portrait appeared, the British public deplored it, many viewing the installation as glorifying her and commercializing the murders she committed. As one group of British mother protestors said,”They used to hang killers on the gallows. Now they hang them in the gallery,”
The artist, Marcus Harvey, denies any exploitation of Myra’s crimes for his artwork, stating: “The whole point of the painting is the photograph. That photograph. The iconic power that has come to it as a result of years of obsessive media reproduction.” But even the composition of the portrait has shock value since the printed texture of her face suggests children’s fingerprints.
Even Myra Hindley, while serving a life sentence, did not want her portrait exhibited when she learned about it. She said it was “a sole disregard not only for the emotional pain and trauma that would inevitably be experienced by the families of the Moors victims but also the families of any child victim.” That statement might make you believe in her sincere repentance or even in her innocence. However, tapes have revealed Myra’s complicity with Ian Brady’s crimes. The probable fact is that Myra objected to the portrait not because she regretted her crimes, but because it renewed unwanted attention to her notoriety at a time when she sought release from prison.
Those who knew Hindley believe she never really felt sorry for her crimes, but only for her imprisonment. But what of Marcus Harvey, the artist, the Royal Academy of Art, which exhibited the picture, and the speculators, including Saatchi and Frank Gallipoli, who last bought the painting for $200,000? While not murderers, these people have little conscience and few scruples, with the worst being Marcus Harvey, who used Myra’s ill-acquired fame for his own.