AFTER PUTIN-IN-BULLETS, EXILED UKRAINIAN ARTISTS COIN TRUMP
Duo cash in on their notoriety by lampooning another controversial head of state
They shot to fame in 2015 with a portrait of Vladimir Putin made of bullet shells from the killing fields of eastern Ukraine. Now, the two Ukrainian artists are back with a portrait of Donald Trump made from coins and poker chips. Threats forced Daria Marchenko, 35, and Daniel Green, 34, to leave their homeland in November 2016. They now lead an itinerant life, traveling and exhibiting their work in the United States and Latin America.
The Trump portrait, finished one month ago, is made of nearly 4,000 one cent and five-cent pieces. Poker chips are used for the US president’s shoulders.
The artists are now searching for a place for a public unveiling.
As with their Face of War portrait of the Russian leader, the Trump version, called Face of Money plays in the light revealing different expressions. Marchenko’s favourite? The one in which “he is very proud of himself,” she says in New York.
They came up with the idea of the enormous portrait − 2.4 meters by 1.7 meters − last summer when Mr Putin ordered the United States to reduce its diplomatic footprint in Russia by 755 employees.
Mr Trump responded by thanking Mr Putin, saying it would allow the US to cut down its payroll and “save a lot of money”.
“I thought, ‘oh my God, you are so cheap, how can you be American president’?” says Green. “At that moment, I thought coins is the best way to show his portrait.”
The duo deliberately chose one-cent and fivecent pieces, the smallest denominations of US currency, to illustrate their point, Green explains.
Coins darkened with fire are used for the pupils, eyebrows and to emphasise the chin.
The poker chips are a nod to the casinos the billionaire once ran in Atlantic City, New Jersey
− but also, in Green’s words, to his brand of international diplomacy.
“He does international politics like he’s playing. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses big,” says the artist.
Green singles out t he US president’s announcement in December that he was recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and preparing to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv.
“When only eight countries follow you, it shows America has lost all power,” he says.
The artists left Ukraine following the backlash over their Putin portrait, and after a kidnap attempt against Marchenko.
“We had threats by email. When you are walking on the street, somebody comes to you and tells you something,” says Marchenko, her dreadlocks tucked into a beanie.
“Mostly not direct threats but ‘Guys, don’t hurry to create ... be in a hurry to leave,’” she carries on. “We became tired of this. Morally it was very difficult. So we left.”
But the Trump portrait isn’t making things easier for them.
They offered it for exhibition at New York’s Ukrainian Art Institute of America, which is already exhibiting their work on Putin and the war in Ukraine.
The institute however was reluctant “to make waves,” between Kiev and Washington, Green said.
The artists now hope to show the Putin and Trump portraits together, perhaps in Las Vegas or San Francisco. “They will be face-to-face, they will have a dialogue,” says Marchenko dryly.
She and Green, who both took part in the pro-European uprising of 2013-14, now consider themselves political refugees without a fixed home, travelling around the United States and to Latin American countries at the invitation of benefactors.
Their next project is a portrait of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, even if that could complicate their return one day to Ukraine, Marchenko says.
For Mr Poroshenko’s portrait, the artists may use chocolate wrappers - a reference to the chocolate company where he made his fortune.
SMALL CHANGE: ‘The Face of Money’, a portrait of US President Donald Trump which was made of coins and poker chips, on display in the artist’s studio in Kiev, Ukraine.
DOUBLE ACT: Artists Daria Marchenko and Daniel Green pose for a portrait in New York.