A golden assault rifle from one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces is going on display for the first time.
The AK-47 is thought to have been gifted to someone by the Iraqi dictator.
The weapon is part of a new exhibition at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.
Re:Loaded examines the cultural power of guns and whether deadly weapons can be “disarmed” by transforming them into works of art.
The golden AK-47 was found by UK Customs and Excise at Heathrow Airport in 2003 and is likely to be from a palace in Iraq, according to the Royal Armouries.
It was discovered along with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, six bayonets and a sniper rifle in packages marked as computer equipment bound for an address in the US.
The museum said dozens of gold-plated rifles were found in royal palaces during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and were used as a form of gifting for influence, known in Arab countries as Wasta.
The rare “art guns” collection includes highly-decorated weapons belonging to kings and tsarinas, high-profile diplomatic gifts to governments and generals and status symbols of the ultra-wealthy, the museum said.
They include a diamond-encrusted Smith & Wesson revolver.
Director general and master of the armouries Nat Edwards said: “This is a limited-time opportunity to get a rare viewing of some of our most highly-decorated, stunning and rare pieces.
“This is not about the glorification of guns, but the power they hold, not just literally, but in a cultural sense too.”
Re:Loaded also features two decommissioned AK-47 rifles loaned by Bran Symondson-Baxter, a special forces veteran, photojournalist, artist and peace campaigner.
“It’s a personal honour to have two of my artworks featured in the Re:Loaded exhibition at the Royal Armouries,” Mr Symondson-Baxter said.
“One is embellished with butterflies and the other is covered with Love Heart sweets with the messaging on the sweets changed to match the narrative of the artwork.
“The juxtaposition of the objects comes from my own experiences in a conflict zone.
“I wanted to flip the meaning of the instantly recognisable AK-47 weapon, and turn it from a thing of brutality into a thing of beauty,” Mr Symondson-Baxter explained.
Source : BBC