A Question of Leadership

Watercolour of Angela Merkel

May 9, 2020

A painting of Angela Merkel by artist Jennifer Pickering

In her artwork, Pickering examines questions of leadership during the COVID-19 global pandemic. “Question of Leadership“, focuses on community leaders, such as Angela Merkel, who speak truth to power. Because the people who deserve public attention are those leading us through this crisis with humility, sacrifice and collaboration.

Humility and intelligence in COVID-19 leadership

Angela Merkel has served as the Chancellor of Germany since 2005. Under her leadership, Germans have avoided the tragically high loss of life to Covid-19. Such as that experienced in Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom (9).

German political scientist, Gero Neugebauer, attributes Angela’s success to her professional background in science. “She is more cautious … basing her response on her knowledge of how science works,” (8). Angela earned a PHD in quantum chemistry in 1986 and worked as a research scientist up until 1989.

Angela rarely gives speeches. Her first nationally televised address in 15 years as Chancellor was given in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. According to Carnegie Europe, this unique speech emphasized the challenge of a democratic nation during this crisis to “weigh security and restrictions against transparency and truth”(11)

“Let me assure you: for someone like myself, for whom freedom of travel and movement were hard-won rights, such restrictions can only be justified when they are absolutely necessary. In a democracy, they should not be enacted lightly – and only ever temporarily. But at the moment they are essential — in order to save human lives.” – Angela Merkel (11)

About Angela Merkel

Angela was born in West Berlin in 1954, but moved with her family to the East at three months of age. The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 is described as the “catalyst for Merkel’s political career”(1). When voted leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany in 2000, she became the first ever female leader of a German political party.

During her time as Chancellor she faced many challenges including; a refugee crisis, health care reform and planning for energy development. She is celebrated for “crusading against anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe” and allowing a million Syrian refugees into Germany (3)(4). In health care she passed health care reform, including setting limits on the amount pharmaceutical firms can charge for prescription drugs (7). Finally, following the Japanese Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, her government committed to “phase out nuclear power by 2020 (5).”

She has been senior G7 leader from 2011-12 and again in 2014 until the present day. She is also credited with playing a “crucial role”(1), during the 2008 financial crisis both within Europe and Internationally. In 2018 and 2019, Angela was voted “the most powerful woman in the world” by Forbes.

About the Artist Jennifer Pickering

Jennifer Pickering is a contemporary artist from Canada, born in Switzerland and currently based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She teaches Visual Art at Advanced Learning Schools, an International Baccalaureate School. Much of her practice is based in site-specific interventions into public space. Her work explores complex systems of information exchange. Issues of access and denial, of privilege, class and where the power lies are central to her work.

For more artwork by Pickering in this series “A Question of Leadership” visit: http://jen-pickering.com/blog/


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel (May 4, 2020)
  2. https://www.forbes.com/profile/angela-merkel/#3ef7761222dd (
  3. https://www.forbes.com/power-women/#103033385e25 (Dec. 12,2019)
  4. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/women/forbes-worlds-most-powerful-women-list-angela-merkel-nancy-pelosi-greta-thunberg-2019-a9243541.html (Dec. 12. 2019)
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/13/world/europe/13iht-germany.html (Aug. 13. 2011)
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster (May 9, 2020)
  7. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-healthcare-reform/germany-passes-unpopular-healthcare-reform-idUSTRE6AB3TL20101112 (Nov. 3, 2010)
  8. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/05/07/europe/angela-merkel-coronavirus-legacy-grm-intl/index.html
  9. https://covid19.who.int/ (May 9, 2020)
  10. https://www.dw.com/en/merkel-coronavirus-is-germanys-greatest-challenge-since-world-war-ii/a-52830797 (March 18, 2020)
  11. https://carnegieeurope.eu/2020/03/24/why-merkel-s-coronavirus-address-matters-pub-81357
  12. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/04/world/europe/germany-coronavirus-death-rate.html