Saturday, 15 March 2014

Selling Arms, The Crimean Legacy plus David and the Armalites

 International promotional rights and the marketing of Arms  are complicated matters both in a commercial and ethical sense.

 But whether there is conflict or peace in the world,the selling of arms continues.

Ethical dilemmas of arms exporting are not new.

Perhaps these two quotes from G.B. Shaw's play Major Barbara encapsulate the issues.

"When you vote, you only change the names of the cabinet. When you shoot, you pull down governments, inaugurate new epochs, abolish old orders and set up new.”

You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too. Even mother's milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes.”

                                                             ― George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara

Guards Crimea Memorial in Wellington Place.
 of Pall Mall, London
Back in the day

During the Crimean War of 1853-1856 the British government awarded a contract in 1854 to the Elswick Ordnance Company of industrialist William Armstrong for the supply of his latest breech loading rifled artillery pieces.

This decision galvanised  the private sector into weapons production, with the surplus being increasingly exported to foreign countries.

Guards Crimea Memorial in Wellington Place.
 of Pall Mall, London
Armstrong became one of the first international arms dealers, selling his weapon systems to governments across the world, from Brazil to Japan.

This week

There has been quite hoo-ha in Italy over the Illinois Armaments manufacturer Armalite using the image of the figure of the beautiful Michelangelo David from the Academia Gallery Florence to sell  the AR-50A1. 

The Ad was pulled from ArmaLite’s Twitter feed where it was originally posted, as well as from their website’s media archive - the modified David  Ad along with another of the rifle hung in a gallery between iconic paintings “American Gothic,” by Grant Wood and Leonardo da Vinci’s “the Mona Lisa were withdrawn .

Apparently ArmaLite halted the campaign in July of 2013, well before word got to Florence, when the company was sold to the Strategic Armory Corps.

Italian law requires that the likeness of the work be licensed by the government for commercial use and that the content must be pre-approved by the museum director and the Florence museum superintendent.

Whether that law has any jurisdiction on the American company is doubtful. U.S. law protects the use of copyright material for advertising, if the ads are "substantially transformative " according to

Italian Culture minister Mr Franceschini  urged the Armalite company to withdraw its "Work of Art" advertisement for the AR-50A1.

He said in a tweet reported by the Guardian this week:

"The image of David, armed*, offends and infringes the law. We will take action against the American company so that it immediately withdraws its campaign."

Historical Heritage and Fine Arts Board curator Cristina Acidini has issued a legal notice to ArmaLite to withdraw the image, saying it distorts the artwork.

Associating David in sculpture with contemporary weapons of war is not a new shocking image.

The Machine Gun Corps memorial at London's Hyde Park Corner of 1925,  is a nude statue of a young David by Francis Derwent Wood.

The David holds a sword but on the plinth below on either side of the statue is a real Vickers gun, encased in bronze and laurel-wreathed.

The Plinth on the memorial quotes from Bible of  the news 
of David's Victory 1 Samuel 18:7

BRITAIN is still selling Russia £86 million of weapons, ammunition and lethal technology despite the recent extended occupation of Crimea according to the Sun newspaper.

Sniper rifles, drones, assault rifles and laser weapon systems all continue to be exported to Russia, and with the full approval of the UK Government.

ICA catalogue of its exhibition
 in Sept 2013

Of course the sales of the Armalite  AR-50A1 have not matched those of the Kalashnikov AK-47 which in September 2013 had a reverse treatment at the ICA where Artists used the iconic beautiful and deadly weapon as a theme for an exhibition.

* Whether the Biblical Shepherd boy David would have either endorsed the AR-50A1 weapon or had the money to stump up the $3,000  seems unlikely.

Whether he would have approved the use of his image by Michelangelo for the political propaganda it served to the Renaissance  city of Florence to warn off those in Rome is not recorded either.

The Biblical David had a sling and five smooth  stones from the brook. However only one stone was needed to 'take out' Goliath.

Perhaps today's David would select his weapon of choice on e-slay! 

"The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter."

                                                                                    Mark Twain

Related Links
ICA September exhibition

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