Wednesday, November 21, 2007

soliloquy vii

Washington lobbyists Tony and Heather Podesta -- Tony being the brother of former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta -- have found a surefire way to titillate The Washington Post: They take their friendship with Hillary Clinton and their ownership of a photograph called Soliloquy VII, and combine the two.

Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, is a senator from New York who is running for president. Soliloquy VII, as described in the Post Style section on Tuesday, is "an 8-foot-tall color photo of a nude man lying on his back." It is the product of a female British photographer named Sam Taylor-Wood.

Lee Scott, President and CEO of Wal-Mart (L) looks up as Andrew Stern (R), President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) speaks during the launch of the "Better Health Care Together" campaign in Washington February 7, 2007. Behind are John Podesta (L), President of the Center for American Progress and Howard Baker (R), founder of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)
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The photo previously enjoyed a prominent place in the living room of the Podestas Washington, D.C., home. When the Podestas held a fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton two weeks ago, however, neither the photo nor Mrs. Clinton made an appearance. "The candidate was missing and so was the infamous artwork -- which led to whispers that the picture was deemed unsuitable for a presidential campaign," the Post's Reliable Source column reported beside a strategically obscured reproduction of the photo.

Podesta denied the whispers, explaining that the photo was in routine storage "to prevent fading," and vowed to bring Mrs. Clinton and the naked man together again -- once she is president. "We are resting it for the presidential campaign but bringing it out for the inaugural ball," he said.

Mrs. Clinton made an earlier appearance with the photo when the Podestas held a fund-raiser for her senatorial campaign. "She teases me about it all the time," Podesta bragged to the Post.

In fact, this was not the first Style Section piece featuring the Podestas, their massive naked-man photo and Mrs. Clinton.

In 2004, the Post published an article, "Married, With Art," that explained the Podestas' art-collecting philosophy and described a number of the works they have exhibited not only in their Washington, D.C., home but also in their second home in the Lake Barcroft neighborhood of Fairfax County, Va. Once again, Mrs. Clinton and Soliloquy VII figured prominently.

"Tony and Heather don't shy away from discomfort -- especially when they can inflict it, ever so gently, on others," reported the Post.

"Steeped in liberal politics, Tony favors art with in-your-face nudity and social critique," the paper said.

The 8-foot naked-man photo, of course, is one example of this. "Though often politely ignored, 'Soliloquy VII' is rarely forgotten," the Post reported in 2004. "Tony and Heather love it. They crane their necks to hear the whispers generated when the pols stop in. Tony often uses the work to launch into a story about Hillary Clinton's visit, when she ducked and tiptoed around the work lest any photo opportunity capture her alongside the naked figure Censorship! That's what some art lovers whispered during the Hillary Clinton fundraiser Nov. 5 at the Woodley Park home of Tony and Heather Podesta. The huge photograph of the nude man was missing from its usual spot on the living room wall, and some guests concluded that politically correct Clintonites had demanded that the naked guy disappear.

The Podestas are part of Washington's Democratic elite: He's a top lobbyist and brother of Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta; she just launched her own lobbying firm. They're also nationally known collectors of contemporary art, and one of their favorite pieces is "Soliloquy VII," an eight-foot-tall color photo of a nude man lying on his back, by British artist Sam Taylor-Wood.

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"It's an iconic photograph in political fundraising circles," Tony Podesta told us yesterday. The $250,000 picture made quite a backdrop at a fundraiser for Clinton's Senate campaign, where the official photographer spent the night with his back to the art to prevent her from appearing in a shot with the naked guy. "She teases me about it all the time," said Podesta.

Two weeks ago, 250 women were invited to a Clinton fundraiser hosted by the Podestas. The candidate was missing and so was the infamous artwork -- which led to whispers that the picture was deemed unsuitable for a presidential campaign. Nah, said Podesta, who told us the picture was taken down a year ago for "conservation reasons." All valuable photographs, he said, are rotated into storage to prevent fading.

"Soliloquy VII" will return in a year, he promised. "We are resting it for the presidential campaign but bringing it out for the inaugural ball."

Thanks for Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Political Trivia


Like us, you probably spend the holidays gathered around a roaring fire, leafing through the family's beloved, dog-eared copy of the Almanac of American Politics. (Did you know that Collin Peterson -- the Susan Lucci of Congress -- lost four consecutive races for Minnesota's 7th District before he got elected?) To pump you up for the newly released 2008 edition, the publishers offer these brainteasers to share with your loved ones this Thanksgiving.

Which member of Congress . . .


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