By Heidi Blake
Published: 8:13AM BST 27 Sep 2010
The charcoal drawings by Gil Vicente became a focus of controversy when they went on display at the opening of the Sao Paulo Art Biennial on Saturday.
The former US President George W Bush is shown kneeling on the ground with his wrists bound behind him as Vicente pushes a pistol into his temple.
The Queen faces the onlooker with her hands clasped before her, apparently unaware that the artist is behind her pointing a gun at her back.
Pope Benedict XVI confronts the assassin with his hands raised, while the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Solva is trussed like a joint of meat with a butcher’s knife at his throat.
Other world leaders depicted in the violent series include the former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The series, called Inimigos (Enemies), is meant to highlight alleged crimes for which the leaders have been directly or indirectly responsible by imagining that they are being made to pay the price.
"Because they kill so many other people, it would be a favour to kill them, understand? Why don't people in power and in the elite die?" he said.
The Brazilian bar association has demanded that the images be removed from the exhibition, alleging that they encourage violent crime.
“Even though a work of art freely expresses the creativity of its maker, without limits, there have to limits to exhibiting it publicly,” a spokesman said.
But the artist has responded furiously to suggestions that his work should be censored. “They claim it justifies crime. Stealing public money is not a crime? The reports on TV aren't trying to justify crimes? Only my work is justification of crime?" he said.
But the organisers of the Biennial defended Vicente’s right to exhibit his work. They said in a statement: "A fundamental quality of our institution is curatorial independence and freedom of expression. The works exhibited to do not reflect the opinion of the curators nor of the Biennial Foundation."
The works, hanging in a prominent position in the Biennial exhibition in a hall in Sao Paulo's main Ibirapuera Park, are valued collectively at $260,000 (£165,000). They are not available individually.
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