A new artwork by artist and political cartoonist Darren Cullen has been acquired by Imperial War Museums (IWM) in a collecting effort inspired by the exhibition Yemen: Inside a Crisis, currently on display at IWM North until 26 January 2020.
The satirical work, a poster placed on London tube trains in February 2019 by the ‘anti- capitalist collective’ Special Patrol Group, vividly illustrates the public debate surrounding Britain’s paradoxical role in Yemen as both a supplier of arms and humanitarian aid.
With the current war in Yemen identified as a new collecting area for the museum, this acquisition develops IWM’s commitment to being at the forefront of documenting live conflict. By presenting unique and balanced perspectives through its programming and collections, IWM aims to build a rich record of stories that will be as relevant in 100 years’ time as they are today.
Britain’s complex relationship with Yemen, parodied in Darren Cullen’s artwork, is also explored in the exhibition Yemen: Inside a Crisis currently open at IWM North.
Described by the UN as the “world’s worst” humanitarian crisis, the on-going conflict in Yemen has left an estimated 80% of the country’s men, women and children in desperate need of assistance. The British government plays a leading role in the humanitarian aid response and is one of the world’s largest donors to the United Nation’s Humanitarian Appeal for Yemen. However, lucrative arms sales to Saudi Arabia are also contributing to the Saudi/UAE-led coalition’s military operations in Yemen, escalating the conflict.
Darren Cullen’s satirical poster was inspired by this paradox. Parodying a government infographic, the poster depicts two annotated ‘aid bombs’.
Louise Skidmore, Head of Contemporary Conflict at IWM, says: “Britain’s relationship with Yemen and its role in the current crisis is incredibly complex. After four years of persistent fighting, the conflict is ever bloodier and attempts to reach a political settlement are increasingly difficult. Through its programming and collections, IWM is committed to presenting a balanced view of conflict and the recent acquisition of Cullen’s artwork is a perfect example of how this can be achieved.”
Darren Cullen, artist and political cartoonist, says: “I’m very happy Imperial War Museums have acquired this poster as an example of the growing protest movement against the British arms trade. It’s important to recognise the horror that these weapons continue to unleash into civilian lives in Yemen, and around the world.”