Hoo boy, times sure have changed, haven’t they? Time was, when heads of state went to visit each other, they presented each other with meaningful and symbolic gifts, embodying not just the bounty and artistic abilities of the country bestowing the gifts, but also the importance and significance of the relationship between the visiting leaders countries and their nations leaders.
Possibly the best known gift of this type is the Resolute desk, a gift from Queen Victoria to President Hayes in 1880. Possibly the second-best known is the set of gifts from Prime Minister Gordon Brown to President Obama in 2009, comprising an ornate pen-holder made from the timbers of a British anit-slave ship, and the original commission papers of the HMS Resolute herself.
Possibly the best known failure of this type of gift was President Obama’s gifts in kind to PM Brown, which consisted of a 25-DVD set of American movies (in an incompatible format for playing in England); included for the PM’s two little boys were off-the-shelf models of Marine One.
Which brings me to today. In an act which could be described as poetic justice (or which could truly reflect both the artistic talent available in the UK today as well as a thoughtful gesture in keeping with the recipient’s taste), Prime Minister David Cameron has presented Obama with a painting by local graffiti “artist” Ben Eine. While not as well-known as the American serial plagiarizer who helped propel Obama to the presidency, this boost to his career will no doubt ensure Mr. Eine’s continued success.
In the meantime, Eine’s “Twenty first Century City” could now be keeping company with the Resolute desk in the White House. Revenge or reward? You decide.