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The Artist As Dictator. Phillip Toledano Explores Narcissism and Self-Delusion in Kim Jong Phil.

Most popular blogs and sites have been sharing images from Phillip Toledano's A New Kind of Beauty series (photographic portraits of extreme plastic surgery), because people love that creepy stuff. But Toledano is an artist of many talents that express his unique perspective on the world.

In his project, Kim Jong Phil, Toledano has replaced dictators Kim Il Sung, Laurent Kabilla and Saddam Hussein in pre-existing art with images of himself. The project reflects his personal philosophy revealed in his own words below.

I think a great deal about what it means to be an artist.

I reflect on the elaborate psychological mechanisms required to pursue something so elusive, so ambiguous. I often wonder: ‘Am I talking to myself?’

I don’t make work for other people, but as an artist, I need to be in dialogue with the world that exists beyond my overpopulated cranium. I’ve concluded that to be effective-to be functional-I must guzzle an eye-popping cocktail of delusion and narcissism.

It occurred to me that being an artist is a great deal like being a dictator.

Just like a dictator, I must live in a closed loop of self-delusion. A place where my words and ideas always ring true. A gilded daydream of grandiosity. There can be no room for doubt. I must be convinced that I have something vital to say. I must believe that the world is waiting in keen anticipation to hear my message.

For my palette, I’ve copied pre-existing dictatorial art. Paintings from North Korea, statues of assorted dictators (Kim Il Sung, Laurent Kabilla, and Saddam Hussein). I had these works re-created in China, and each instance, I’ve replaced the great leaders with myself.
-- Phillip Toledano, 2011

I insist, ladies first. Oil on canvas, 30x40 inches:


I'll be back for the dog. Oil on canvas, 30x40 inches:

You have so much to learn, and I have so much to give. Oil on canvas, 50x60 inches:

International world global domination. Oil on canvas, 40x50 inches:


It's true. I'm utterly fascinating. Oil on canvas, 30x40 inches:


His royal equestrian majesty. Oil on canvas, 30x40 inches:

A sporting chance. Oil on canvas, 30x40 inches:

Love oils the cogs of revolution. Oil on canvas, 30x40 inches:

I love the smell of adulation in the morning. Oil on canvas, 20x30 inches:

Mr Toledano as Saddam Hussein. Bronze, 20 inches:

Mr Toledano as Kim il Sung. Bronze, 20 inches:

Mr Toledano as Laurent Kabila. Bronze, 20 inches:

About the artist:

above: A portrait of Phil taken by his father

Phillip Toledano was born in London to a French Moroccan mother, and an American father. He believes that photographs should be like unfinished sentences. There should always be space for questions.

Phillip’s work is socio-political, and varies in medium, from photography, to installation.

His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times magazine, The New Yorker, Esquire, GQ, Wallpaper, The London Times, The Independent Magazine, Le Monde, and Interview magazine, amongst others.

See more of his work here

Be sure not to miss his moving and personal photo essay Days With My Father.

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