'The bureau for the investigation of the subliminal image', Adam Dant

9 small paintings attached to a wall

Mixed media, 53.5 x 43.5 cm; 59 x 55 cm; 81.5 x 70.5 cm; 51.5 x 43.5 cm; 49 x 60.5cm; 59 x 50 cm; 46.5 x 36.5 cm; 46.5 x 36.5 cm; 62.5 x 51 cm

The bureau for the investigation of the subliminal image is a composite painting made up of numerous images of scuffed-up and abject book covers.

The eponymous Bureau is a quasi-fictional organisation that claims to have established an art-historical orthodoxy based on images hidden within the fabric of Old Master paintings in the world’s great museums. A self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci has been located in the rock formations of his ‘Madonna of the Rocks’, whilst the vulture famously cited by Sigmund Freud as a hidden image in the ‘Madonna and St. Anne’ is shown on the cover of a coffee-table art book of ‘Subliminal Images within the World’s Great Museums’.

The entire fallacious activities of the BISI are an exercise in picturing ‘the museum as a subconscious realm’ whilst parodying the ‘inclusivity of interpretation’ by subverting ascribed theories of meaning in paintings.


Adam Dant was born in Cambridgeshire in 1967. He studied at Liverpool School of Art 1985-89, M.S. University, Baroda, India 1988 and the Royal College of Art 1989-91. He was awarded a Rome Scholarship in Printmaking 1991-92 and a residency at Eremo di S. Caterina, Isola d’Elba 1993-94. In 2002 he won first prize in the Jerwood Drawing Prize. His solo exhibitions Your Tomorrow Better (Call Now) and B.I.S.I. were shown at Adam Baumgold Gallery New York 2002 and 2003 and The People who Live on the Plank at The Drawing Room London and tour 2003.