❚ “I WAS IN MY STUDIO CUTTING OUT A STENCIL, Friday night about 10 o’clock and the phone rang… It was Anya Hindmarch and she said ‘Samantha Cameron’s a big fan of your work’, and I kind of thought, Yeah right, and she said ‘David is looking for a painting to give to the most important man in the world, I can’t say his name but think America. Would you be interested?’ I was like, Yeah!”
So now we know. Today a new video reveals that the go-between who helped fix the official gift of “hoodie art” from the British prime minister to Potus, leader of the Western world, was handbag designer Anya Hindmarch. We discovered in July during David Cameron’s first trip to Washington as PM that the gift was a painting titled Twenty First Century City, by a graffiti artist whose adopted tag is Eine, and who is regarded in the East End of London as one of the founders of Britain’s street-art movement, alongside Banksy. More important, he was said to be one of the PM’s wife SamCam’s favourite artists.
Yes but, no but … OK, we discovered then that the 39-year-old graffitist’s real name was Benjamin Flynn who’d spent his teens as a hooded tracksuit gang member, had a racy record of convictions for criminal damage and had taken a year to complete 200 hours of community service.
Even so, what hasn’t really been spelt out is that much earlier Flynn had collaborated with Anya Hindmarch to design a spring collection of trendy tote bags that drew on his street-cred. The bags feature prominently among the luxury accessories illustrated on the Hindmarch website, and as Eine he had even painted the windows of her upper-crust Sloane Street store during March. Just his luck that Anya turned out to work in the same upmarket retail sector as the PM’s wife, who was also a friend.
The nice irony is the clash of classes. Not only is SamCam the daughter of an 8th baronet, raised on a 300-acre Lincolnshire estate, but Hello magazine also reports that she is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwyn. The Sunday Times Rich List compiler Philip Beresford has put the “combined family wealth of David and Samantha Cameron at £30m plus”. Ben Flynn on the other hand, was so hard-up two years ago that he had to move home from London to Hastings with his wife Joanne and three children, Spike, 5, Sunny, 2, and Story, 2. On top of which the millionaire Camerons expected him to donate his chosen painting, valued in the marketplace at £2,500.
“Cameron seems quite a positive kind of guy and Obama’s a dude. I would probably have had issues if it had been for Bush” — graffitist Ben Flynn
Still, the compensation for Flynn was overnight global fame, which has brought him a string of commissions, several trips abroad, and enhanced price tags on his work. In the video by Anthony Austin and Charlie Inman, Flynn’s verdict is direct: “My phone didn’t stop ringing for about a month — interviews and television. It changed my life. David Cameron, I love him.”