Friday, 31 March 2006

Britney Spears revealed!

Daniel Edwards - Monument to Pro-Life: the Birth of Sean Preston
Daniel Edwards has released this photograph of his latest creation: a life-sized nude statue of Britney Spears on a bearskin rug, giving birth to Sean Preston. The work will be exhibited at the Capla Kesting Fine Art gallery in New York, USA, from 7 April. This photo alone has already drawn a few thousand complaints from both sides of the pro-life divide. Pro-life on a dead bear? Wait till the anti-furs lobby wakes up! One wonders what Britney thinks of this exposure. She didn't pose for the statue. The artist has never met her. He used a combination of photos and his imagination to create the statue, which he regards as "an idealized figure." I'd hate to be around when Dan gets into realism.

Spam fakes BBC News

The latest spam threat is from e-mails containing BBC News stories. These e-mails tempt the recipients into visiting a fake BBC website to "Read more". The fake website exploits a flaw in Microsoft's Internet Explorer to install "keylogger" software on your computer. This monitors financial websites and sends confidential information back to the criminals involved. Microsoft promises a patch to block this loophole in its next security update on or before 11 April. These updates are free. If you don't use them, you're daft. My copy of Internet Explorer has been updated at least 15 times. Click START, then WINDOWS UPDATE.
Don't worry about any of the links in Coxsoft Art Blog which take you to a BBC News item. Ditto if you're a subscriber or you receive Coxsoft e-mails via FeedBlitz. These aren't spam; you asked for them. Nothing published by Coxsoft Art Blog will take you to a fake BBC website.

Spare Little Mermaid's blushes

Edward Eriksen - The Little Mermaid (1913)
One of the world's most famous works of art, Edvard Eriksen's bronze statue The Little Mermaid, has sat on her boulder in Copenhagen since 1913 and has suffered many attacks by vandals. She has been clambered on by lager louts, has been daubed with paint on at least seven occasions, has lost an arm and has twice been beheaded. None of this has phased city officials, but now the worst indignity of all has befallen our heroine. This month, on International Women's Day, some foul feminist put a sex toy in The Little Mermaid's hand! After 92 years, city officials have finally been stirred into trying to protect her. They are considering having her moved several metres (those thingies foreigners use instead of yards) into the harbour. Why did it take a sex toy to stir them into protecting their most famous work of art? We staid old Brits regard Copenhagen as the liberated, pot-smoking, porn capital of Europe; yet one sex toy in the wrong hand makes the Danes go ballistic!

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Harry Potter 6: Book of the Year

Hot off the presses: at today's British Book Awards ceremony in London, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - No 6 in the series - won Book of the Year. So much for those US religious fanatics who demanded Potter be banned from library shelves!
(Wikipedia, please take note: there has never been the slightest controversy over Harry Potter in the UK. He was greeted with awards and critical acclaim and is still receiving them. Try to put your fruitcakes into perspective.)

Ceramics China 2006

Ceramics China logo
Coxsoft Art has received an invitation to attend the 20th Ceramics China exhibition, which takes place in Guangzhou from 16 May to 19 May 2006. Maggy Zeng, Overseas Project Manager for CCPIT, assures me this is one of the three largest ceramic industry exhibitions in the world and the most influential one in the Asia-Pacific region.
To be honest, Maggy, I'm not into ceramics in a big way, despite the two preceding blogs, and I'm not sure whether this exhibition is about hi-tech ceramics or Chinese Toby jugs. And I'm worried about bird flu. So I'll give it a miss, but thanks for the invitation.
If you can persuade your boss to send you to Guangzhou at the firm's expense, click the title link (very slow with lots of Flash Player nonsense) or e-mail Maggy at

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Art in Kiwi Land

Toilet Mural
You can tell Kiwis take their loos more seriously than do Brits by looking at this ambitious mural on a public toilet in Westport, New Zealond. Nice one, cobber.

London's loos, a reply

Jennifer Rock, Public Liaison Officer, has replied on behalf of the Mayor of London. Basically she says he's keen on public loos, but has no power over local authorities to stop the great loo selloff. "...where able, he uses his planning powers to insist that toilets are provided in new public facilities, like Camden Town tube station and White City bus station." He also "prioritised the provision of free and fully accessible public toilets in the remodelled Trafalgar Square." (You can tell our Jennifer is a public liaison officer, because she uses enough long words to confuse at least 50% of the public.)
So who is going to stop all our loos vanishing by 2012, when we host the Olympic Games and thousands of extra bladders and bowels? Tony Blair? Friend Gordon? If you care about loos, click the link for more info.

Charley Says

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Central Office of Information (the UK Government's propaganda machine) the BBC's online Magazine held a Public Information Film Festival STOP LOOK LISTEN to find the Brit's favourite public information film. 25,000 people voted. And the winner animated series of six short films, made during the 1970's, using cardboard cut-out figures: Charley Says. COOI has become a lot less sophisticated since those days. It no longer produces cute characters to seduce us, but makes horror flicks we're bound to ignore.

Monday, 27 March 2006

Split Infinities reviewed

Les Edwards - Dragonsblood
No apologies for showing Dragonsblood again (with the artist's kind permission). I viewed Split Infinities on Saturday and can report that it is well worth visiting. Having seen only small versions of Les Edwards' work on paperback covers and as computer graphics, I was surprised at how lightly painted the originals are. I'm used to old masters trowelling the oils on. Les uses paint so thinly that it seems like dry brushwork, with the dimples in the canvas board clearly visible. These are hidden when the painting is reduced in size for publication. So this is a rare chance to see fantasy art techniques in the raw. It's a must for anyone keen on painting.
Also, Les has annotated the exhibits with personal notes on, say, why he envisaged Conan the Barbarian differently to the many fantasy artists who have painted this subject before. So, even if you're more interested in the books than the cover art, you'll find something to enlighten you.
Two points I failed to mention in my previous blog: Les paints artwork for horror novels as well as for fantasy and sci-fi, and he has won the British Fantasy Award for Best Artist five times!
Split Infinities continues at the Redbridge Museum in Ilford until 29 April. Don't miss it. For details click the title link.

Sir William Russell Flint RA

Two paintings by Sir William Russell Flint
In case you're not familiar with the work of Sir William Russell Flint RA (1880-1969) here are two of his paintings: an atypical landscape and one of his tasteful nudes. Why did I choose an atypical landscape? Because it looks like the work of my favourite watercolour artist: John Sell Cotman. Flint's watercolours tend to be softer and more impressionistic than Cotman's. The UK has a fine tradition of producing great watercolour artists. Flint was considered to be the best in his day. Cotman was arguably the best of all time.
If you come from foreign parts, RA stands for Royal Academician, which means Flint's fellow artists accepted him as one of the elite. So the UK Art Establishment can't sneer at Brits for buying his prints in sufficient numbers to put him into today's Art Top 10. He was knighted in 1947. To visit his official website, see more of his paintings and find a list of stockists of limited-edition Flint prints, click the title link.

Sunday, 26 March 2006

What art subject to paint?

Ivan Shishkin - Gathering Storm (1884)
The answer is landscapes. According to Art Business Today, not only are landscapes the top best sellers in the UK, but also subdivisions of landscapes - local views, semi-abstract landscapes, seascapes and beach scenes, impressionistic landscapes - occupy another 4 places in the top 10. That' the subjects.
Here's the list:
1   Landscapes
2   Local views
3   Semi-abstract landscapes
4   Abstracts
5   Dogs
6   Figure studies (excluding nudes)
7   Seascapes and beach scenes
8   Wildlife
9   Impressionistic landscapes
10 Nudes.
The popularity of local views proves there is a market for amateurs and semi-professionals as well as for established artists. Unless you live in a major tourist area, it is unlikely you will find a leading artist painting your town or local countryside. So here's an opening for the talented amateur. Better a local view than a Constable. The declining popularity of old masters might also be explained by their fame: a recognizable masterpiece on your wall must be a print, whereas a lesser known work might be an original.
Abstracts seem to be a fad promoted by TV tart-up-your-home "experts", because they can find abstracts to blend with their colour schemes. This might explain why Ikea sells 3,500 copies a week of David Briggs' boring abstract Fragmented Harbour: it blends with the curtains!
Doug Hyde tops the best-selling British print artists with his teddy bears and moon-faced smiley people, which keep the kiddies happy and amuse Mum too. Jack Vettriano - shunned by the Art Establishment - remains very popular, as does the late Sir William Russell Flint RA with a nice line in tasteful 1950's style nudes as well as subtle watercolour landscapes.
What is blatantly obvious is that we Brits spurn that trendy tripe promoted as art by those pillars of the Art Establishment: Tate Modern, the BBC and the Turner Prize. As one of the leading UK art publishers puts it "you get nowhere selling Turner Prize winners". There's a man who knows his business and his tripe.

Friday, 24 March 2006

Panda painted on hair!

The things people get up to. Chinese "micro-painter" Jing Ying Hua has painted a giant panda on a human hair, using a rabbit hair as a brush. It took him 10 days and wasn't worth the effort. Click the title link to squint at it. Imagine, one sneeze and it's blown away!

Call for real artists

Detail from Nymphs & Satyr (1873) by William Bouguereau
The Art Renewal Centre (ARC) is calling for entries to its Third International ARC Salon™ Competition 2006. ARC accepts original representational work only. No abstract works, photography or computer generated art. Entries must be in the form of 35mm slides, entry fee $35 for the first slide and $25 for each additional slide. There are 5 categories for awards, with more than $44,000 in prize money. The deadline is 16 September 2006, winners announced in November.
Don't waste an entry fee on rubbish: the standard is extremely high. Con artists offering dead pigs in formalin that wiggle their trotters and sing The Yellow Rose of Texas need not apply! (Just a thought, Damien; I heard you were running out of ideas.)
Click the title link for a prospectus and to see previous winners. Interestingly, impressionist paintings won in 2004 and 2005.
Considering that cameras have recently gone digital in a big way, ARC may have to reconsider its demand for 35mm slides in future years.

Kenwood House

Now is the time to think about visiting Kenwood House on the edge of Hampstead Heath: art, architecture, parkland by Humphry Repton, the Adam's Library, the Iveagh Bequest, Vermeer's Guitar Player, Gainsborough, daffodils and no midges. We need a week of warmth and sunshine to bring the daffs into flower. I couldn't find a photo taken in Spring, so I had to work from memory and add the daffs and try to make the trees look wintry. Click the London icon or the title link.

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Springwatch 2006

Seven-spot Ladybird
Thinking of Spring...if you live in the UK, why not join the BBC Springwatch team and report signs of Spring in your area? The seven-spot ladybird is one of the signs the team is looking for. This British resident - U.S. name "seven-spotted ladybird" - was introduced into the United States by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is reportedly doing very well there. (Thought you'd like to know.)

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

Still worried about bird flu?

Snug Canada goose
Here's another bird flu graphic which turned up in my inbox this morning. I wish I knew who the artist was, so I could give him a credit. This graphic is a timely reminder that Spring is here and skeins of migrating Canada geese will soon be crossing my back garden to reach their feeding grounds in the UK. Welcome back, chaps, providing you don't bring anything nasty with you. Wrap up warm.

Van Ruisdael landscapes

Jacob van Ruisdael - Landscape (c1660-65)
The exhibition of paintings Jacob van Ruisdael: Master of Landscape continues at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, until 4 June 2006. Click the title link.

Split Infinities

Les Edwards - Dragonsblood
From one dragon to another: Split Infinities is an exhibition of the terrific Fantasy & Sci-Fi art of Les Edwards - also known as Edward Miller -, which is showing at the Redbridge Museum, Ilford, Greater London, UK, until 29 April 2006, admission free. For further details and to see more of Les Edwards' breathtaking art, click the title link.

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Cartoons row hits Wales

The Welsh flag
A Church Welsh-language magazine Y Llan with 500 subscribers has published a cartoon caricaturing the Prophet! It isn't one of those original Danish cartoons, but the follow-up published in the French magazine France Soir, which shows the Prophet sitting on a cloud with a trio of deities telling him "Don't complain...we've all been caricatured here". The editor of Y Llan has resigned; the Archbishop of Wales has apologised to the Muslim Council of Wales; and the Church in Wales has appealed for the return of all 500 copies of the offending magazine, which must be considered to be collectors' items. Hang on to them, lads: they'll be worth a bob or two on eBay in a few years time.
Jesting aside, this is a sad story of defeat. Until now, the Welsh have staunchly defended their rights, freedoms and language. But it seems that Usama Bin Laden and his Fundamentalist nutters have at last struck fear into the heart of the Welsh Dragon. Like the rest of us Brits, they have lost the fundamental human right to laugh at what worries them.

Microsoft targets phishing gangs

The US software giant Microsoft has begun legal action against 100 phishing gangs based in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Half these cases will have begun by the end of March, with the remainder filed by the end of June. This follows similar lawsuits by Microsoft in the USA which led to the closure of more than 4.700 phishing websites.
Why is this important? Phishing is a lucrative criminal activity which uses e-mails to lure people who use online banking to fake websites that look like their bank's website. When you enter your login codes and passwords, you're giving them to the criminals, who steal your money!
Nice one, Microsoft. Keep up the good work.

Monday, 20 March 2006

Michelangelo sells 10,868 tickets!

Coxsoft Art has already plugged the British Museum's exhibition Michelangelo Drawings, which opens on 23 March. Now comes the news that this exhibition has attracted 10,868 advanced bookings, a new record for the British Museum. The BBC has jumped on the bandwagon and is showing a sample of the wonderful drawings due to be on display, including a study of a lounging nude that was the basis for the Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Click the title link to see them. And get booking. With nearly 100 of Michelangelo's drawings - brought from 3 major collections - to view, this exhibition promises to be the UK arts event of 2006. The queues will be massive!

Sunday, 19 March 2006

National Portrait Gallery Seminar

PICTURING BRITONS: Identity, Achievement, Celebrity is the title of a 150th Anniversary Seminar in the NPG's Ondaatje Lecture Theatre on Friday afternoon 24 March 2006, from 1pm to 5.30, followed by a drinks reception. Speakers include Jon Snow, Bill Morris, Shami Chakrabarti, A. A. Gill and Susie Orbach. Tickets: £15 /£10 concessions. If you fancy an arts seminar, click the title link or telephone 020 7306 0055. Can't say I do. Nice to be invited, though. Ta.

Churchill statue update

The offending statue of Sir Winston
Belated news: the offensive statue of Sir Winston Churchill in a straitjacket was removed from The Forum in Norwich last Monday, following complaints from tenants and members of the public. The statue was also condemned in the House of Commons. I was kidding when I suggested Tories would be rioting in the streets over this, but I didn't think the statue would remain on display for its full term. It lasted one weekend, then managers of The Forum demanded it be removed. When will the Charity Commissioners investigate this crass waste of money?

Saturday, 18 March 2006

Teacher suspended over life class

Picasso - Matador Luis Miguel Dominguin (1897)
The life class - a euphemism for art students' drawing naked models - has for centuries been the basis of art training in the civilized world. If an artist has no grasp of human anatomy, how can he or she portray human figures clothed or unclothed in realistic poses, let alone capture dynamic human action? Life classes lay bare the talent and ongoing development of the trainee artist. Each life class is an examination of students, not of the model. The products of such tests can form an historically valuable insight into a successful artist. A life drawing by Picasso shows more talent than one would suspect from his paintings, although the matador's arm is deformed. By Nature? by accident? or by Picasso? Mark 4/10. Must try harder.
Given the proven value of life classes in the training of young artists, it is appalling to discover that Pete Panse, a respected and talented art teacher, has been suspended from his job at Middletown High School, New York, for having merely suggested that some of his more advanced students join a life class and draw naked models! It is difficult to imagine the gopher-brained ignorance of that gang of philistines which comprises Middletown High School's board of governors.
To read the full story by Brian Yoder and to sign an online petition on behalf of Pete Panse, click the title link. Go on. Maybe we can help.

Gateways to Art

Artcyclopedia logo
Following my previous blog on the BBC's farcical claim to offer a "gateway to visual arts", I thought I should post a few genuine gateways to art, for comparison. All but one of these links are already on Coxsoft Art's Before And After Page. The addition is Art Arena, a website devoted to Persian/Iranian art and poetry.
Click the title link to go to Artcyclopedia for a huge selection of art. To explore the other gateways, click their URL's.
The Art Renewal Centre:
Brian Yoder's GoodArt Gallery:
Therion Fantasy Art Gallery:
Art Arena:

BBC Art? Forget it.

Gustav Klimt - The Kiss (1907-8) detailThe new BBC Arts Home Page claims to be "Your gateway to visual arts, literature, culture and getting creative"! Who do you think you are kidding, Auntie? The layout is as creative as a brick wall, and the only two works of art on display are Gustav Klimt's The Kiss (1907-8) for CBBC's "Artyfacts" (groan) and a self-portrait of tired old has-been schizophrenic Vincent Van Gogh with Bandaged Ear (1889). The colostomy bag I posted recently is more artistic than this tosh!
Auntie wants us to "Study paintings from the leading artists of Impressionism", a bunch of primarily French artists who were too lazy or incompetent to finish their rough sketches and who conned gullible art pundits into believing that a rough sketch was an "impression".
To show us how hip - and clueless - old Auntie is she offers us Shooting Live Artists: "Bold new media art that fuses technology with live art performance"! Lastly, she invites us to view her "pick of the art on the BBC website and beyond". No thanks. One glance was enough!
The only saving grace on the BBC's pathetic arts home page is its invitation to fill in a questionnaire to tell Auntie what you think. Click the title link to do so. One of the questions it asks is: Do you trust the BBC? Not on art, I don't. Auntie remains the smug and unthinking propagandist of the Arts Establishment.
(For a fun diatribe, read my blog Dance Me To The End Of Love: CLICK.)

Friday, 17 March 2006

Concorde wins Design Quest

The Great British Design Quest for the public's favourite design icon since 1900 - organised by the Design Museum and BBC2's The Culture Show - has collected thousands of votes and has produced its winner: Concorde. Er...isn't this a French name?'t those frog-eaters across the Channel have something to do with it? Never mind. Claim it as a Brit. invention. Why be bashful?

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year award, organized by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, is open for entries until 31 March. You have two weeks left to enter your photos, but don't bother unless they are world-beaters. Digital images are now accepted. Click the title link for further details.

Warning to UK tourists

Get a colostomy bag fitted before you visit the UK metropolis! According to Time Out London, there are only 400 public conveniences left in the old metrop. That's one per 16,800 residents. Cash-strapped councils have been flogging them to cut costs and make money. It's a win-win situation for councillors, a lose-loos situation for everybody else.

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Coxsoft Art wins Kara Gold

Kara Art Gold Award
Today I received notification that Coxsoft Art has been awarded the prestigious Kara Art Gold Award. And here it is. This is a real delight. Thanks, guys. To visit Kara Art and find a list of some of the most artistic websites in the world, click the title link. To go to Coxsoft Art, click the blue C icon to the right.

Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Edit Open Earth Archive

Only one day after Coxsoft Art published a blog singing the praises of the film editor of Planet Earth, the BBC website has posted an eye-catching montage of nature photos that invites BBC readers to edit film clips from its Open Earth Archives, using an online easy edit suite. Win a trip to a BBC edit! Go on. Click the title link.
Coxsoft Art can't take the credit. Even so...pardon my smugness.

South Park again!

Singer Isaac Hayes - voice of the lustful Chef - is leaving the animated cartoon series because of its "inappropriate ridicule" of religion. It took him only 10 years to make his mind up! An episode debunking Scientology was the last straw. Guess what church Mr Hayes belongs to. You got it in one.

Monday, 13 March 2006

Leonardo's Yarnwinder Madonna

Leonardo - Madonna with the Yarnwinder
Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna with the Yarnwinder was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland and remains on the FBI's list of top 10 unsolved art thefts.

Falero's Fairy

Falero - A Fairy Under Starry Skies
Here's a new painting added to Coxsoft Art: A Fairy Under Starry Skies by Luis Ricards Falero. The original graphic was too dark: half the picture was jet black and the fairy had a heavy suntan. I've adjusted the gamma setting to allow hidden detail to emerge. Go to Coxsoft Art's What's New Page to find the 1024 x 606 graphic.

Planet Earth

Planet Earth
There is one form of art that is usually overlooked, because it only becomes apparent when it isn't handled properly: film editing. How many viewers have watched BBC TV's latest wildlife masterpiece and thought "What a magnificent piece of editing"? At least one viewer has.
The widlife photography is superb, as one would expect, and there is technical innovation in the new spy cameras being used to catch wildlife dramas from the air. The script - read with gentle authority by Sir David Attenborough - is refreshingly sparse; it tells you just what you wanted to know without additional blather. The unobtrusive score rises at the most appropriate moments to emphasize the visuals, if they require emphasis.
The initial two programmes of the series have produced at least two world firsts in wildlife cinematography: African hunting dogs seen hunting from the air, showing how the pack splits up to tackle its prey from different directions, and a snow leopard in full pursuit of its prey down a precipitous mountainside.
But all of this would fall apart at the seams without the guiding artistry of a first class film editor: Martin Elsbury. He has taken miles of disparate footage and transformed it into a coherent whole. Effortlessly his editing glides from one breathtaking landscape to another, from one wildlife clash to another, from snow to fire, from mountain peaks to a panda in a cave nursing her cub, and always the camera is panning in the right direction or the animals are facing the right way. The only jarring moment occurs when a great white shark explodes from the depths to catch a seal, and this is just how it should be, reflecting as it does the shock of a surprise attack.
If Mr Elsbury doesn't garner top awards for his brilliant editing of Planet Earth, the industry is as unseeing as the public in general and, dare I say it, as the critics.

Sunday, 12 March 2006

Churchill in straitjacket!

The offensive statue
Here we go again. This time it will be Tories rioting in the streets. The BBC is already whipping up a furore over the new statue of Sir Winston Churchill in a straitjacket, commissioned by some bright sparks working for a mental health charity who believe that a cheap publicity stunt is good business. The BBC begs to differ. "Absurd and pathetic", "disrespectful", "appalling", "insults his memory" are some of the quotes it has selected as reactions to the 9ft high glass-fibre and bronze sculpture erected in Norwich city centre.
The charity defends itself by the feeble claim that it wants to "portray a more positive image of people with mental illness". If its management thinks putting people in straitjackets conveys a positive image of the NHS, let alone of mental illness, its managers are insane and its charity licence should be revoked. If I had given money to this charity, I would furious to discover how it had been wasted.
What I gather from the sloppy piece of writing on the BBC News website is that Sir Winston Churchill suffered from bouts of depression, which he referred to as his "straitjacket". The charity, it seems, has chosen to play silly games with Sir Winston's metaphor.
It would be foolish, counterproductive and unethical to put a depressive into a straitjacket. This method of restraint is reserved for violent patients who offer a threat to others or to themselves. The seriously ill depressive stares into the middle distance as if in a trance and can hardly be persuaded to speak, eat or do anything. Put a patient like this into a straitjacket? No way!
Nor should we jump to the conclusion that someone who has good cause to be depressed - his dog has been run over or his wife has cancer - should be labelled as mentally ill. Depression is a normal reaction to sad events. Clinical depression is another matter. This requires psychiatric intervention, but not straitjackets.
A few lunatics earning more than they are worth should lose their jobs over this fiasco, which makes NHS treatment for the mentally ill look like something out of the Dark Ages and will deter many prospective patients from seeking treatment. But the anonymous artist who created the statue must be complimented on a lifelike head.
If Tory rioters don't destroy it, the statue will remain in Norwich city centre until the end of March.

Saturday, 11 March 2006

Great British Design Quest

Supermarine Spitfire (1936)
The Great British Design Quest is down to 3 finalists: Concorde, Supermarine Spitfire and the Underground Map. To cast your vote and see the 22 runners-up, click the title link. Guess which one I voted for.

Friday, 10 March 2006

St Patrick's Parade

London goes green. Last reminder: tomorrow the Irish market, Sunday the big day.

Salamanders Young Burns Survivors

Salamanders Friendship Gift
Here's an artistic thankyou I received today for suggesting a few minor improvements to an excellent website which provides an essential public service: Salamanders Young Burns Survivors. If you have or know of a child who has been burned or you simply want advice on fire safety and first aid for burns, this is the website to visit. Click on the title link to go there.

Michelangelo Drawings

Michelangelo - The Last Judgement, detail Ouch!
Here's an artist the Art Establishment and Coxsoft Art might agree on: Michelangelo. They can't sneer at the sample fresco for being chocolate-boxy, can they?
For its new exhibition Michelangelo Drawings, the British Museum has brought together work from the Ashmolean, the Teyler Museum and from its own collection to illustrate 60 years of Michelangelo's life. This exhibition runs from 23 March to 25 June 2006. Bit pricey at £10.

Dance Me To The End Of Love

Jack Vettriano - Dance Me to the End of Love (the original oil painting is wider)On 4 March, Shapes Auctioneers in Edinburgh sold one of Jack Vettriano's most popular paintings, Dance Me To The End Of Love, for £337,000, including the buyer's premium. In 2004 his The Singing Butler sold for almost £750,000, the highest auction price ever for a Scottish painting.
I'm a week late with this news, because what art fetches at auction doesn't interest me. It's the art that matters, not its price. Having taken a closer look, I believe this story demands a Coxsoft Art Caustic Comment.
Jack Vettriano (a nom-de-brush) is a world best-seller when it comes to prints, but he is shunned by the Art Establishment; major UK galleries refuse to acquire his paintings. Why? He never attended art college; he is self-taught; and, worst of all, the public loves his beautiful, haunting, evocative paintings.
Graduation exhibitions at the most prestigious art colleges are like debutantes' coming-out balls: the pundits are there to cast an eye over the new talent. Miss out on the balls, and Society doesn't know one exists; one is merely another untalented member of the Proletariat.
Add to this the fact that artistic talent is rare and that to keep student numbers up the art colleges must accept many untalented yobbos, all of whom must be allowed to graduate as fully fledged artists, and you begin to realise why the Art Establishment hates our Jack.
Self-taught! No diploma! Unknown to Society! Talented! And popular! All of this is anathema to the Art Establishment, which is completely out of touch with aesthetics, yet nevertheless dictates what we're supposed to like. If its graduates churn out railway sleepers, rumpled beds and dead cows in formalin, that's what we must like, damn us. And the more we blow raspberries at the Establishment's chosen ones, the deeper becomes its feeling of superiority. If the Proletariat don't like it, it must be art. This, in the final analysis, is the only means the Art Establishment has of determining what is and what isn't art. This and its balls.

National Science Week

National Science Week logo
It's here: National Science Week 2006 (10-19 March). This is an attempt by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) to promote science, a much maligned discipline. This week the BA offers "an opportunity for people of all ages to take part in science, engineering and technology activities". Wow!
So what has this to do with art? you might ask. Think about it. Art follows technology. Today, Michelangelo would probably be a film director or a top camerman. I doubt he'd rest content with being a glorified interior decorator for the Pope!
To understand how hard the BA needs to work to educate the public in science, consider this weird fact: a BBC poll in which 43,000 people took part voted muppets Dr Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker as the top screen scientists!
My vote would go to Gil Grissom and Sherlock Holmes, which probably isn't much better, and I am a trained scientist!

British Animation Awards

Corpse Bride
Hot off the presses: on Thursday evening, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride won Best Feature Film at the annual British Animation Awards, beating Wallace and Gromit's Oscar winner! Click the title link for details.

Thursday, 9 March 2006

Laughter: a basic human right

By coincidence, the US State Department report on human rights abuses around the world hit the news at roughly the same time as Coxsoft Art posted the Hensip cartoon below. And here's another coincidence: this morning I noticed in the Londoner an exhibition of cartoons: Misunderstanding the President Through Cartoons - President George W Bush in Caricacture, which is at The Political Cartoon Gallery, 32 Store Street, WC1E, until March 18.
What's the link? It is human nature to relieve stress by laughing at what worries us or makes is feel afraid. Its technical name is manic release. Bird flu worries us, so we take the first opportunity to laugh at it. That a buffoon like George W is in charge of the richest, most powerful, most heavily armed nation on earth worries us, so we laugh at him, and Americans are the first to chuckle.
I doubt that Congress or the Hague has enshrined the fundamental human right to laugh at what worries us, because human rights documents are written by politicians, not by psychologists. But we should have this right, and, when it is repressed, violence often takes the place of laughter. Look at all the religious mayhem around the world.
Those offensive Danish cartoons are a case in point. Islamic terrorists worry us, so we need to laugh at them, and it is a fundamental human right that we be allowed to do so. Forget freedom of speech; this is a very weak argument, and Muslims rightly accuse the West of double standards: one law for them, another for, say, Holocaust denial.
We must be allowed to relieve our worries over Islamic terrorism by laughing at it, and any publisher or government who denies us this release is infinging our human rights. As for cartoon protestors, they must recognize that we didn't create this stress; we are the victims. If they put their own house in order and remove the worry of Islamic terrorism, the West will no longer need to laugh at Islam.

Wednesday, 8 March 2006

Worried about bird flu?

Here's the answer: Hensip. This excellent "cartoon" arrived in my inbox today. I have no idea who the artist is, but he or she has given me the best laugh of the week so far. All I can tell you is that this subject - Bird Flu Remedy - has been "Internet-Authorised". Enjoy.

Google surveys the Nation

A recent survey by Google found that Britons with internet access spend more time surfing the web than watching TV: average internet use 164 minutes per day, average couch potato use 148 minutes per day. Greater London users (that's me) show the highest surfing at 181 minutes per day. Men use the internet more than women: averaging 172 minutes per day against 156 for women.
Can you blame us chaps for deserting the idiot box? It's dominated by female stuff: chat shows, soap operas, politically correct feminist nonsense and anti-male propaganda such as "Men Behaving Badly". When is the BBC going to demonstrate its claimed political impartiality by producing "Women Behaving Badly"?
On a much more serious note, statistics show that more than 40% of child murders are committed by women. And experts on both sides of the Atlantic agree that at least 25% of child sexual abusers are women. Yet, according to TV, these crimes are mainly if not exclusively committed by men. Thanks for the brainwashing. I'm off to the internet.

Pakistan blocks Blogspot

Pakistan Flag
In a footnote to a recent blog, I mentioned Pakistan as a possible source of the problems being experienced by Blogspot users last weekend. Click the title link to read the full story. In brief, Pakistani telecom authorities have ordered internet service providers across Pakistan to block websites which invite people to draw cartoons of the Prophet. It seems Pakistani telecommunications are as unsophisticated as their country's politics, because they have blocked Blogspot completely, instead of merely blocking the offending websites. To Coxsoft Art's innumerable fans in Pakistan, all I can say is "Hard cheese".
The Pakistani authorities would have done better seeking the cooperation of Google, which owns Blogspot. Google China has already proved its willingness to censor politically incorrect information.
By the way, Pakistan is seeking an international law against blasphemy. Such a law would hit the Vatican, which boasts Michelangelo's idolatrous portrait of Jesus Christ (regarded by Muslims as another of God's prophets, but not so important as THE Prophet). When will this lunacy end? And will the Pope still be preaching "respect" after Fundamentalists have blown up the Vatican?

Ali Abbas, foot artist

Remember that boy from Iraq whose arms were destroyed in a US bombing raid three years ago and who came to Britain for surgery? He's back here for prosthetic treatment and for an exhibition of his foot paintings at the Riverside Gallery, Old Town Hall, Whittaker Avenue, Richmond Upon Thames. The exhibition, entitled simply Ali Abbas, is from 1 April to 21 May.

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Squidess Archie update

Statue of Giant Squid
The giant squid at the Natural History Museum has proven so popular that there's now a waiting list of two months to visit her. An interesting "art" angle I missed before: Mollusc Curator Mr Ablett says the Museum contacted Damien Hirst's "group" for help in finding a company that could make the 30ft tank needed to house Archie.
N.B. Damien Hirst isn't an artist any more; he's a group! I must admit I never thought he was an artist. Dead cows in formalin! Come on! Pull the other leg, Damien.

Update on previous Rio heist

Henri Matisse - Luxembourg Gardens (c1900)
Henri Matisse's Luxembourg Gardens (c1900), recently stolen from Rio de Janeiro's Chacara do Ceu museum, popped up on a Russian internet auction website with an asking price of £7.4 million ($13m). The Museum is offering a pathetic reward of £2,876 ($5,000) for the safe return of all four of its stolen paintings! This wouldn't buy the frames!

Another Rio Arts Heist!

The Russian Mafia is having a real busman's holiday in Rio de Janeiro. This time they hit the Rio City Museum - no alarm system! no video cameras! - and stole 11 treasures dating from Brazil's empire era, including an ivory sabre and a pearl and silver foil. Same modus operandi as the previous heist: burst in waving guns and disarm the startled security guards. A doddle. See you next week, Ivan.
Coxsoft Art has asked before and will ask again: Who are the incompetent twerps guarding the world's art treasures? It's name 'n' shame time, folks: museum director Heloisa Queiroz.

The Coxsoft Art Award

Ziyi Zhang
And now, after a great deal of pixel pushing, here's the one you've all been waiting for: winner of the Coxsoft Art Award for the Most Elegantly Dressed Lady at the Oscars 2006 is Ziyi Zhang in a gown designed by Giorgio Armani. No gold trophy, I'm afraid, luv, merely my admiration of your supreme good taste amid all the tawdry glitter of Hollywood.

Monday, 6 March 2006

Wallace and Gromit win Oscar!

Two out of three of Coxsoft's red-hot favourites hit the jackpot on Oscar night. Winner of Best Animated Feature Film went to Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. "Cracking cheese Gromit!" said Nick Park and Steve Box simultaneously. They should have left it to Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace, who is with Nick and Steve for the Oscars. And Best Documentary Feature went to March of the Penguins, directed by Luc Jacquet.
Coxsoft art muffed it in the Best Cinematography category: winner Memoirs of a Geisha, not Brokeback Mountain as predicted. I guess I'm prejudiced in favour of beautiful western scenery. A misspent youth watching cowboy films.
I'm a bit late with Oscar news, because Blogspot went down last night. It seems Pakistan has been blocking certain websites it doesn't agree with and this has caused problems for those of us using Blogspot.

Saturday, 4 March 2006

An offer you can't refuse

Bust of Karl Marx at Highgate Cemetery
In the March edition of The Londoner (the Mayor's official propaganda newspaper) there's an article on Hidden London from the London Development Agency, which invites you to visit the capital's cemeteries! I know crime in the old metrop. is a grave problem, so bad that staff at my local library are being issued with personal safety alarms for their journey home at night, but do we need to threaten tourists with cemeteries?
Actually, London's churchyards and cemeteries are havens for wildlife, and the posher resting places, such as Highgate Cemetery, boast excellent architecture and statuary. The bust of Karl Marx is a case in point. Highgate Cemetery is listed by English Heritage as being of "outstanding historical and architectural interest". And you might spot an urban fox. So, the LDA's advice to tourists isn't as daft as it might seem.

Friday, 3 March 2006

Double standard in art world

When Marcel Duchamp disfigured a perfectly serviceable piece of gentlemen's porcelain by signing and dating it (Fountain, 1917), gullible art critics were gobsmacked by his genius. When a 12-year-old boy recently visited the Detroit Institute of Arts with a school group from the Holly Academy and stuck a piece of chewing gum on an abstract painting by American artist Helen Frankenthaler (The Bay, 1963), he got suspended! Where's the justice in this?
Next time, son, stick your gum on the wall and sign it and date it. Then the art world will recognize your genius.

Trouble at mill

Lowry's bone of contention: A Riverbank
Bury Council in Greater Manchester, which wants to sell Lowry's A Riverbank to help reduce its £10m deficit, has been warned by the government's Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) that Bury Museum and Art Gallery's museum accreditation may be withdrawn, if it sells the Lowry. Nasty!
Will the MLA browbeat the hard men and women of Bury Council? Is it curtains for Bury Museum or for the Lowry? Watch this space.

Ceramic Art London 2006

Fancy buying contemporary ceramics this weekend, with work by 80 artists to choose from? Ceramic Art London 2006, presented by The Craft Potters Association with The Crafts Council, is on at the Royal College of Art now: March 3 to 5.

Ravens locked up in Tower!

Tourists are beginning to ask what's happened to the famous ravens in the Tower of London. These birds and their forebears have been strutting round the Tower lawns for centuries, thanks to a superstition that the British Monarchy and Empire will fall if the ravens desert the Tower. (What Empire? you may well ask. Never mind.) The answer is that the Tower's Yeoman Raven Master has brought them indoors as a precaution against bird flu. Baldrick & Co are now housed in specially built aviaries in one of the towers. Hard luck, chaps, but it's for your own good.

Thursday, 2 March 2006

World Book Day

Did you enjoy World Book Day (Thursday 2 March)? Eh? What? Mm...yes, I suppose to a lot of people this is another of those non-events on which twits in power waste taxpayers' money; but it does bring children into public libraries, which is a good thing.
Here's another incentive. Many public libraries hold book sales. The picture shown was used for the cover of Dante Gabriel Rossetti by Alicia Craig Faxon, published by Phaidon Press at £65. Guess who picked it up in a library book sale for peanuts.

Metro Blog of the Week 2

Here you are, Metro. I've designed a little graphic for you, using your lettering. Why not give it to Blog-of-the-week winners as an added incentive and, if they post it on their websites, as free advertising for Metro?
You're welcome.

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Coxsoft Art: Blog of the Week

Metro - the commuters' freebie owned by Associated Newspapers Ltd - has selected Coxsoft Art Blog as its Blog of the Week. Cor! Ta.

Mardi Gras back in New Orleans

Phoenix rising
Despite Hurricane Katrina's swath of death and destruction, the loss of 1300 lives and of countless homes which reduced the city's population from 500,000 to less than 200,000, Mardi Gras has returned to New Orleans. Don't knock it. This is Hope rising from the ruins.
I've created a special graphic for this event: the striking face of a reveller above a Greek 100 Drachma commemorative coin of 1967 showing the Phoenix rising, the symbol of regeneration. And money is the key.