On Monday, Mayor Bloomberg's office treated the world to an early New Year's surprise, revealing the outgoing mayor's official portrait:
The official portrait of Mayor Bloomberg by artist Jon R. Friedman was hung at City Hall this morning pic.twitter.com/xlF8exVwBl; NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) December 30, 2013
Painted by Jon R. Friedman—who has also done portraits for Ted Turner, Barney Frank, and Bill Gates—the work shows Bloomberg in his "bullpen" and it received a rather mixed reaction on the internet. New York magazine questioned his "barely concealed frown," while the Daily Mail went with "half-smirk/half-frown." And the Village Voice was slightly puzzled, noting the uncomfortable juxtoposition of "magical warmth" and "some kind of rash, maybe." It then elaborated:
In case your browser is blocking the image—out of good taste, perhaps—it depicts Bloomberg, arms crossed and some sort of flat-screen TV tumor growing from one shoulder, as the busy City Hall bullpen bustles behind him. His face is flushed with goodwill, or possibly rosacea. His nose appears to be in bloom.
Many commentators took to Twitter to express their displeasure:
Reminder: Multiple people had to approve this portrait of Bloomberg pic.twitter.com/kAXsV4qjsm--; allisonkilkenny (@allisonkilkenny) December 30, 2013
Official (and awful) portrait of Bloomberg immortalizes his role as the most cubicley mayor NYC has ever had. pic.twitter.com/FEYaq982jq--; Nima Shirazi (@WideAsleepNima) December 30, 2013
Mayor Bloomberg's official City Hall portrait looks like a terrible corporate photo. Which I guess is appropriate. http://t.co/GsfkH4ivZl--; G Garcia-Fenech (@GiovanniGF) December 30, 2013
It's easy to see what Bloomberg and Friedman were going for, but it's also easy to see where they erred. Bloomberg is clearly meant to be striking a businesslike, above-the-fray pose—his purple tie is symbolic of bipartisanship!—but instead he comes across as the kind of smug, unsympathetic billionaire his opponents make him out to be. It's a strange decision on Bloomberg's part, but it's also mostly immaterial. Whatever Bloomberg's legacy will be, this painting certainly won't change it. Still, it's impossible not to wonder whether Bloomberg just picked the wrong portrait.