Ian Hamilton Finlay

The Arts Council Must be Utterly Destroyed


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Ian Hamilton Finlay 1925–2006
Lithograph on paper
Image: 305 × 432 mm
Purchased 1983

Catalogue entry

P07927 [from] Posters from the Little Spartan War 1982 [P07927-P07930; complete]

Four linocuts each approx. 12 × 17 (305 × 432), printed by Nicholas Sloan at Parrett Press, Martock, and published by the Wild Hawthorn Press in an edition of about 100
Not inscribed
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1983

The Arts Council Must be Utterly Destroyed

Death to the Arts Council

Let Perish the Money Tyrants

Peace to the Cottages - War to the Arts Council

Each poster is a Latin text, cut and printed by Nicholas Sloan. They are, respectively: ‘CONCILIUM/ ARTUM/DELENDUM/EST’, ‘MORS/CONCILIO/ ARTUM/’, ‘PEREANT/TYRANNI/NUMMARI’ and ‘PAX. TUGURIIS/BELLUM. CONC/ARTIUM’; the translations are the artist's. In 1982, as part of Finlay's campaign against Strathclyde Region's attempts to extract rates for the Temple in his garden on the fallacious basis of it being a commercial gallery, these printed texts were fly-posted on the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish Arts Council building and other places in Edinburgh. They were accompanied by a leaflet on revolutionary language alluding to Denis Roche, the poet who wrote a pamphlet on language and the French Revolution. The use of Latin here allegorises the neo-classical attitudes of Finlay and his supporters, the Sainte-Just Vigilantes. According to Finlay, classicism supplied the entire ‘iconography’ of the French Revolution, which he has even described as ‘a pastoral whose Virgil was Rousseau’. Two quotations from Finlay's ‘Illustrated Dictionary of the Little Spartan War’ (MW Magazine, Issue 3, February 1983) are relevant here: ‘Neoclassicism, n. - a rearmament programme for architecture and the arts’ (illustrated by a classical capital) and ‘inscription, n. - an arcane communication often coded in Latin’ (illustrated with one of the War Posters). ‘Peace to the Cottages’ is based on an actual slogan used by the Revolutionaries: ‘Peace to the Cottages - War on the Castles’. ‘The Arts Council Must be Utterly Destroyed’ is derived from a phrase Cato would add to the end of every speech as a reference to his hatred of Carthage. The shortening of words as in ‘CONC’ follows normal usage in Roman inscriptions.

This and the following entries [P07625-P07634 and P07645-P07647] have all been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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