Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Dutch Winter Scenes

Avercamp - A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle (c1608-9)The National Gallery, London, will be showing Dutch Winter Scenes from 10 November to 2 January 2007, Room 1, admission free. These winter landscapes from the Gallery's collection reflect "The Little Ice Age" suffered by north-western Europe in the 17th century. It's all good Christmas fare, but ignores global warming. The UK has enjoyed a very warm October, so warm that most deciduous trees are still green, blackberry bushes are in flower and my resident wood pigeon has just fledged her sixth baby of the year! This is the good side. Wait till London and the Home Counties drown in glacial meltwater! Where will we put all the immigrants then? The Welsh hills and the Scottish mountains?

Victorian Masculinity?

Simeon Solomon - BacchusHere's another picture by Simeon Solomon, perhaps a more personally revealing one than the Sappho below. Bacchus is usually represented as a drunken slob; this is the prettiest I've seen. In association with the Ben Uri Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery is hosting a conference: Simeon Solomon: Desire, Masculinity and Victorian Art on Friday 10 November 2006, 10.30 to 17.00. Don't bother unless this is your thing; the cost of tickets is £35 or £25 for silver surfers! NPG's website is still down at the time of writing. If you want to book, try phoning. The title link takes you to the Aberystwyth School of Art, University of Wales. The Love Revealed catalogue by Colin Cruise has been nominated for two prizes: the AXA Art Newspaper prize for the best exhibition catalogue and the Berger Prize. (Thought you'd like to know.)

Love Revealed?

Simeon Solomon - Study of Sappho (1862)The London Jewish Museum of Art's Ben Uri Gallery is showing a biggie, organised by Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery: Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites. I'm late with this news, which I discovered purely by chance. The exhibition began in September and continues until 26 November 2006. Like the exhibition itself, Simeon Solomon had escaped my attention. He was a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, one of my favourite art movements. His obscurity is due to his disgrace. He was caught in a public loo with a live one up the Khyber Pass (Cockney rhyming slang, pronounced parse; just drop the "p")! Even in today's enlightened times, it is illegal to do this sort of thing in a public place. And to be caught at it twice! Disgraced, Simeon hit the bottle and died in the workhouse, a sad fate for anyone, but tragic for an artist who created this sublime study of Sappho. Click the title link for the full story and more piccies. Admission charge £5.00 or £3.00 for silver surfers.

Exceptional Youth

Nicola Benedetti by Emma Hardy (2006) and Lily as Elizabeth I by Eitan Lee Al © the photographersI've combined photos by Emma Hardy (left) and Eitan Lee Al (right) to represent two new photographic exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, London. In the Balcony Gallery, Photographs 1965 - 2006 continues until 8 April 2007. This exhibition includes Emma Hardy's images of high-achieving teenagers, entitled Exceptional Youth. In the Porter Gallery you'll find 60 entries in the Photographic Portrait Prize 2006, from 8 November to 18 February 2007. There's a £1 admission fee which goes toward the cost of running this prize. Can't argue with £1 in a good cause, can you? The NPG website was down yesterday and this morning, so I can't guarantee the title link. (This item came from NPG's November newsletter.)

Monday, 30 October 2006

Theatre of Painting

David Teniers - copy of Mantegna's Saint SebastianThe Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery is showing a unique exhibition: David Teniers and the Theatre of Painting, which continues until 21 January 2007. David Teniers the Younger (1610-90), official court painter and unofficial curator of the huge art collection amassed by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, set out to create an illustrated catalogue of 243 of the Archduke’s most admired Italian paintings. He employed a team of 12 engravers and painted miniatures of the works to be copied to assure accuracy. In 1660 he published at his own expense the Theatrum Pictorium or "Theatre of Painting", the first illustrated printed catalogue of an important collection of paintings. With loans from major galleries and museums, the Courtauld's exhibition illuminates Teniers' ground-breaking achievement.

Bionic Angel

Michael Najjar - Laokoon (lightjet-print, edition 6 + 2ap)Intrigued by Michael Najjar's photographic remodelling of the classic sculpture depicting Trojan priest Laocoon and his sons being attacked by a sea serpent - yes, sons; the female addition is laughable - I visited the website of Bitforms Gallery, New York, where Michael Najjar Bionic Angel - New Photography is showing until 25 November 2006. Many contemporary art galleries are paranoid about being criticized as chocolate-boxy, so they go for garish colours or monochrome. Bitforms goes for black, white and medium grey. It abuses its visitors with a tiny font, poor contrast and time-wasting Flash Player 8 routines that produce nothing more than grey boxes on some screens. It is one of the worst websites I've come across. For a perfect example of how NOT to design a website, click the title link.

Damien Hirst accused

Damien Hirst (2000) or Robert Dixon (1984)?Spot the difference. One of these works is Valium (2000) by Damien Hirst; the other is True Daisy (1984) by computer graphics artist Robert Dixon, whose monochrome design was published in the Penguin Dictionary Of Curious And Interesting Geometry in 1991. It's plagiarism, complains Dixon. So? Why should Moneybags Hirst bother to be original? All he has to do is put his name to something and rich idiots fall over one another trying to buy it. Moneybags has been successfully sued before, but he's laughing all the way to the bank. (White Cube is Moneybags' dealer!)

Sunday, 29 October 2006

Windsor Art Fair

Windsor Contemporary Art Fair logo
The 2nd Windsor Contemporary Art Fair at Sir Christopher Wren's House Hotel & Spa, within a stone's throw of London, looks more interesting than White Cube. It's on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 November between 11am and 5pm. And the price is right: free! Marlon Devonish MBE will be opening the Fair and also exhibiting. Click HERE to visit his website.

Trash at White Cube

Carroll Dunham - In Red Space No 4 (2006)Coxsoft Art doesn't usually bother with exhibitions at White Cube, a London gallery which caters for mindless philistines who feel the need to be stimulated into discussing something they know nothing about: art. On Friday it opened its latest exhibition of tasteless trash: Carroll Dunham: In Red Space at Hoxton Square until 9 December. Carroll Dunham - a bloke, by the way - is an example of the Yankee Anti Art Movement. He seems obsessed with genitals (note pairs of round thingies). My only reason for showing you this tripe is to offer you a comparison with the excellent pixel landscape below by a talented graphic artist. Point taken?

Saturday, 28 October 2006

Golden Joystick Awards

Oblivion Screenshot (2006)More than half a million gamers voted for this year's Golden Joystick Awards, the bees knees of games software awards in the UK. Half a million is a convincingly large electorate. Bethesda Softworks' role-playing fantasy game Elder Scroll IV: Oblivion grabbed three awards, including the top prize: Ultimate Game of the Year. If you need to ask why I'm including this item as arts news, you need to wake up to the fact that some of our best contemporary artists are working with pixels, not paintbrushes. Don't believe me? Look at the above landscape and check out its misty aerial perspective. Click OBLIVION to view a gallery of breathtaking screenshots. For a list of winners, click the title link.

Bernini's David

Bernini - David, 3 views (a Coxsoft Art combined graphic)Bernini's powerful statue of David slinging his shot also came under Prof. Schama's scrutiny yesterday. Michelangelo's David may be the world's favourite, but for sheer dynamism Bernini's version can't be beaten. To view the 1024 x 768 screen size of the above graphic, click the title link and the thumbnail you'll find there.

Saint Theresa's Ecstasy

Bernini - The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa (detail)I hope UK viewers managed to catch Friday's tribute to Bernini's magnificent The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa in Prof. Simon Scharma's Power of Art series on BBC2. The Prof. may suffer from an upper-crust-twit delivery and an unfortunate tendency toward verbal rococo (the compulsion to find the most ornate yet punchy line, regardless of precision), but he spins a good yarn. And all credit to the cameraman's close-ups of hands pressing into flesh which captured Bernini's brilliance in bringing marble to life. The levitating nun's ecstasy is far more erotic than the brothel fresco below. Yet this is a religious work! Intriguingly, Bernini rejected the nun's fantasy of an angel's spear in favour of Cupid's arrow.

Friday, 27 October 2006

Tourists Love Brothel Art

Erotic Fresco in Pompeii Brothel (c.AD70)BBC's David Willey in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, Italy, reports that recently restored brothel frescoes depicting erotic scenes are a big hit with tourists. "Hundreds" have been queuing to view the frescoes, which we know were painted before AD79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted and preserved them under tons of volcanic ash. How ironic that what stifled flesh kept its spirit alive.

Phantom Pooer Nicked

CCTV image of alleged phantom pooer (2006)As a result of a CCTV image being released by British Transport Police earlier this week, the man who has been allegedly defecating in train carriages across south-east England has been arrested. It wasn't Sir Nick in disguise after all. It's Bonney Edwards, a 36-year-old of no fixed abode, who was nabbed at Camberwell Green bus garage. Caught red-handed? Train cleaners are breathing a sigh of relief!

Central Library Sale

Sale SignMore local news: this Saturday, 28 October, sees the last of Central Library's major quarterly sales for 2006. Books for adults and children, videos, CD's - pop, classical, Bollywood - and "talking books" are all up for grabs at a fraction of their original cost. The sale starts at 10am and ends at 3pm. If you live in or near Ilford, don't miss it.

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Coxsoft Backs Winner

Anti Racecourse logoLocal news: for 8 years, residents in the London Borough of Redbridge have been fighting a battle against plans for an all-weather racecourse at Fairlop Waters which would have blighted our local chunk of Green Belt. Barkingside 21 and the Aldborough Hatch Residents Association spearheaded the campaign against Wiggins Group PLC. Coxsoft did its bit by writing the Council a detailed objection to the plan. But still it dragged on, year after year. This week we received the great news that the plan has been abandoned and the administrators for Planestation have agreed to hand back the lease of Fairlop Waters to the Council. Phew!

Banksy Does It Again

Banksy - Embracing CoupleToday, Banksy broke another record by hitting 10 times the estimated value of his Embracing Couple - a spray paint on steel study for the cover of Blur’s Think Tank album - when it fetched £62,400 at a Bonhams Vision 21 auction. (Who? Blur. Never heard of 'em.) The estimate was set months ago, before Banksy took his hols in Hollywood and started painting elephants to look like pub wallpaper. Angelina Jolie lashing out big bucks at the jumbo sale also helped raise our lad's stock. Bonhams sold another of Banksy's works - Young Child With Bird - for £31,200. Not a bad day's work. Jolie good show, Angelina. You made a wiser investment than did Kate Moss with her stuffed bluetit.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Reader-curated Art?

Sarah Jeffries - Look Over There (2006)The Guardian newspaper in association with Saatchi's Your Gallery has posted its first "reader-curated" art show, which is online now (click the title link). Watch out for Lotta de Beus' Chandelier (2005) my favourite. Unfortunately, this idea isn't as novel as it could have been, because it followed the usual patronizing format of having a panel of alleged experts select a shortlist (30 artists) for the punters to vote on (10 artists). Next time, Guardian, cut out the alleged experts and let the punters choose for themselves.

The London Dungeon

London Dungeon LabyrinthIf you're into gruesome, then The London Dungeon is for you. It has just announced its Scream Team for making the Dungeon even more scary: five boys and five girls, aged from 11 to 15, chosen for their knowledge of homicidal monsters and 18th century body snatchers. What caused my stomach to lurch a bit when I last visited the place were some of the old menus. Yuk! US investment firm Blackstone bought Merlin Entertainment, owner of The London Dungeon, for £103m last year. The cherubs of the Scream Team form its bid to increase ticket sales. What will the little dears come up with? Click the title link for a Flash Player 8 routine that didn't crash my copy of IE6. Note for parents: this museum - innovative in its day - teaches London history, and probably does a better job than most school teachers; but don't tell the kids!

New Guerrilla Artist?

Suspect Phantom Pooer (CCTV clip 2006)Yesterday, British Transport Police released CCTV images of a man who has defecated on at least 30 trains across south-east England since August. Not only does he poo on trains, but also he spreads it inside carriages. So, is he merely another nutter, a man with a grudge, or is he a new guerrilla artist spreading performance art, perhaps sponsored by the British Council? Could it even be that doyen of the Brit. Anti Art Movement, Sir Nicholarse Serota in disguise, testing a new project for Tate Modern: a poo-smeared railway carriage dangling in the Turbine Hall? Whoever he is, the phantom pooer has caused train network disruption and has knocked up a £60,000 cleaning bill. The railway fuzz want him caught fast. So do the cleaners.

Art? on Paper Award

David Lock - Portrait (2006) courtesy of FRED!Now here's something for Brits to feel deeply ashamed about: the John Jones Art (alleged) on Paper Award. Look at the winner! This appalling tripe is an example of the Brit. Anti Art Movement at its worst. One of Jane Goodall's chimpanzees could do better. It's clearly designed to set every aesthetic nerve fibre jangling with revulsion. How could any sane person say this horrendous work "demonstrates immense sensitivity"? Ask Kate Jones of John Jones. It's her quote. The selection panel was unanimous in it's choice of David Lock as winner. The list of crass philistines on the panel is: Sir Peter Blake, Danny Rolph, Sacha Craddock and Diana Eccles. (Ms Eccles is Collections Manager for the British Council. We might have known that this waster of tax-payers' money would be involved.) All of you, hang your heads in shame!

Americans in Paris

Americans in Paris posterNow he's something Yanks can take pride in: Americans in Paris, 1860-1900. This ground-breaking exhibition opened to critical acclaim at London's National Gallery earlier this year, then moved to Boston. Today it opened at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and will continue until 28 January 2007. This is its last showing, so grab your chance while you can. Highly recommended. Note for Yankee feminists: Mary Cassatt - one of the featured artists - was the only woman accepted into the all-male preserve of 19th century Impressionism. A ground-breaker in her own right, she paved the way for modern female artists.

USA Answers Back

Smiley FaceHi, Brenda
Thanks for your comment on my news story Teacher Sacked Over Nude! It's always good to get sensible feedback; lets me know I'm not writing to myself. At present I can't post replies to blogs older than a week. (It's a Blogger bug.) So here's my reply as a post.
Firstly, this isn't the only story of prudes/religious nutters causing art teachers to be suspended or sacked to come out of the USA this year. I've also reported on the case of Peter Panse. And note my recent item on Madonna censorship. I've also covered attempts to ban Harry Potter from library shelves in the USA! I reckon you were either lucky to avoid trouble with your life drawings or you work in a sophisticated enclave in Tennessee.
I completely agree with your attitude. I would be happy for any child to view the nudes on my website. Children learn at a very early age that they are male or female, and they are naturally curious about the differences. I can't think of a better way of satisfying their curiosity than by showing them beautiful art.
As for my "nutters" jibe, this year The New York Times published an international survey by Michigan State University which posed the question: Did human beings, as we know them, develop from earlier species of animals? (Evolution v. Creationism.) Iceland came top of the league with 80% or more accepting Evolution. Britain was up there with the leaders at about 75%. The USA was one from bottom with about 45%. Bottom was Turkey (the only Muslim country in the survey) with about 30%. So, from the European point of view, the USA is a backward country with religious nutters in the majority. Sorry about that. You're clearly in the sane minority.

Monday, 23 October 2006

Wildlife Gallery Online

Andy Rouse - Rival Kings (2006) plus Shell logoLondon's Natural History Museum has organized an online gallery of winning, runner-up and highly commended images in the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award 2006. Not only are there the two main awards (adult and junior), but also a number of special awards, including the Eric Hosking Award and the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife. So, a feast of superb wildlife photography to be viewed worldwide, thanks to the Internet. And you can vote for your favourite. (Just click the title link.) To illustrate this item, I've combined a magnificent entry by top wildlife photographer Andy Rouse with the Shell logo, as Shell is the sponsor for this award. I used to thoroughly enjoy Andy's TV show of a few years ago. More, please.

Gallery Owner Attacked!

Marat Guelman (before the attack)Art Daily reports that a group of men burst into the Marat Guelman Art Gallery in Moscow, Russia, destroyed an exhibition of paintings by an ethnic Georgian artist and then beat up the gallery owner: Marat Guelman. It's unclear whether the attackers were art lovers protesting against Modern Art, nationalists who object to Georgian separatism or Fascist/Muslim extremists who targeted Guelman because of his Jewish surname. He's been listed as an "enemy of Russia" on extremist websites, so that probably lets Muslims off the hook. Russian fuzz are investigating....

Marilyn Monroe for sale

Miltern H Greene - Marilyn Monroe (detail)On the subject of Marilyn Monroe (see recent Banksy blog) here's a photo that shows how she knocks Kate Moss into insignificance. It was taken by Miltern H. Greene. The full gelatin silver print is coming up for grabs at Bonhams' Vision 21 sale in London on 25 October and is expected to fetch between £400 and £600. Click the title link for details.

Sunday, 22 October 2006

Harry Potter Stops Tube

John Alvin - Harry Potter artworkHot off the presses ... er ... keyboard: filming of the latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, caused Westminster Underground Station to be closed today. So, if any of you muggles were inconvenienced on the tube today, you know the reason.

Belated Blogs

Glum Blogger User (2006)Lots of blogs today, because I was unable to post news items yesterday due to another Blogger crash. Instead of Blogger, I got an Apache Tomcat 4.1.24 message "Servlet NewFrontend is currently unavailable". And I'm still unable to visit any blog with "blogspot" in the URL! When will Google get its finger out and cure these Blogger bugs?

Sex at Somerset House

Pierre Subleyras - Seal of Chastity (1732) detail
Most of the latest arts news seems controversial. Here's advance notice of the next blockbuster at the Hermitage Rooms, Somerset House, London: The Triumph of Eros: Art and Seduction in 18th Century France, from 24 November 2006 to 8 April 2007. The ... er... politically incorrect exhibit shown here depicts an artist painting a seal of chastity on his wife, after a tale by Jean de La Fontaine. I'm not sure what paint he's using: oils? tempora? watercolours? acrylics? emulsion? gloss? It puts a whole new meaning on the phrase "painted lady"!

Madonna's Crucifixion Cut

Madonna on the Cross (2006)NBC has cut out a mock crucifixion scene from a recording of Madonna's Confessions world tour, due to pressure from religious nutters in the USA. The scene was intended to persuade audiences to demonstrate Christian charity toward AIDs victims. The backdrop to the scene shows images of third-world poverty and a count indicating the 12 million African children orphaned by AIDs. So much for Christian charity at NBC. The main complaint in the UK seems to have been the astronomical price of tickets, which made Confessions the highest ever earner for a female artiste, according to US Billboard magazine. Next time, luv, try riding a fish - the earliest symbol of Christianity - and see if you draw as much flak. Madonna on fishback ... mm ... yummy. Banksy?

Art Dealer Interrogated!

Blue Noses - Photo: The Girl Has A Date (2006)Two days ago, Brit. art dealer Matthew Bown, who owns the Matthew Bown Gallery in London, was collared by Russian fuzz and interrogated for 9 hours over his dastardly plan to export politically incorrect artworks by the Russian art collective Blue Noses. The example depicts a suicide bomber in risqué costume, one of those exports which Matthew intends to show at his gallery from 9th November 2006. The Russian fuzz eventually released him, after confiscating the artworks; but, as you can see, they're winging their way round the Internet at this moment. The show should go down well in the UK, due to the current controversy over masked women throwing wobblers when told to drop their veils. BBC News reports that Muslim riots are expected. So what else is new?

Banksy's Global Presence!

Banksy - Kate Moss in the style of Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe seriesOn Friday, UK guerrilla artist Banksy set an auction record in London when his set of six silk-screen prints of Kate Moss, painted in the style of Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe pictures, fetched £50,400. Er ... record? In the art market? Yes! The set of prints sold for five times its estimated value. That's the record. Sotheby's estimates aren't usually this far out. A Sotheby’s spokeswoman burbled, "It's quite sensational to go over five times the low estimate ... we'll be seeing a lot more of Banksy as he seems to be building up a global presence." Global presence, eh? But why do an Andy Warhol on Kate Moss, apart from the dosh? She's no Marilyn Monroe (I added the larger image on the left to show you). And it's not funny. Come on, Bansky. Quit the imitations and let's have more gags.

Antony Gormley Sunk?

Antony Gormley - Another Place (2005)Council officials want to remove Antony Gormley's 100 cast-iron statues of himself in the nuddy on Crosby Beach, Merseyside, UK. This isn't due to prudishness - the locals enjoy the award-winning display -, but because the statues are submerged by the sea at high tide and become a danger to ... er ... small craft, I suppose. Maybe lost U-boats? The work, entitled Another Place, has been on the beach for more than a year! So why is it suddenly unsafe? Well, it was supposed to stay until November 2006, then be transported to New York, but Gormley wants it kept where it is. He thinks it compliments the wind turbines and sewage outflows! Which way will the Council jump?

Swede Wins Shell

Goran Ehlme - Walrus feeding on Clams (2006)Winner of the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2006, organized by BBC Wildlife Magazine and London's Natural History Museum, is Swede Goran Ehlme with his daring photo of a walrus feeding on clams amid a whirl of sediment. Winner of the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2006 is 17-year-old Rick Stanley from the USA. An exhibition of the best of this year's entries opened at the Natural History Museum on Saturday and continues until 29 April 2007. It then goes on tour.

Saturday, 21 October 2006

New Sony Bravia Ad.

Sony Bravia Paint advert (2006)Continuing the subject of advertising and the power of art to shock us or to draw our attention in order to sell a product, here's a still from the latest Sony Bravia commercial Paint, which shows explosions of paint rolling up a skyscraper on the Toryglen Estate in Glasgow, Scotland. Spectacular isn't the word! You may recall the previous Sony advert from this stable: a load of bouncing balls. For the complete story with all the statistics, click the title link.

Friday, 20 October 2006

Gay Police Update

Gay Police Association advert (June 2006)Remember that gay police advert in the UK which Coxsoft Art News covered back in June, the one which linked poof-bashing to religious nutters, mainly Christians, but also some Muslims? The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has found that the Gay Police Association (GPA) advert did breach advertising rules. So what? This powerful advert did its job. Does anyone get sacked or fined or prosecuted? Of course not. The GPA is a toothless watchdog. An ASA spokeswoman cheerfully declared "This is our most complained about campaign advert of the year so far." So far! What's next? The Koran?

Game On

Game On logoTomorrow, Game On opens to the public at the Science Museum, London, and continues until 25 February 2007. This hands-on exhibition is devoted to those classic arcade games, such as Space Invaders, which drove us all potty. Unfortunately it misses out on the home computer underground scene of the 1980's and early 90's (pre-internet!). Remember the Medway Boys and their entertaining lists of ripped-off games? Remember Paccie Bash, that evil, racist, yet strangely prophetic game in which the player shoots little brown men wearing turbans? (Did our fuzz ever catch the perpetrator of that nasty? Will the international fuzz ever catch Osama Bin Laden?) Bad news: prices are £8.50 adult, £6.50 children/silver surfers. That's 76%. Ripoff! So dump the wife and kids on Granny and go enjoy yourself. Better still, click Coxsoft Museum for links to ZX Spectrum emulators and a vast treasury of classic Speccy games.

Banking Scams

Barclays Forgery (detail) 2006Banking scams are becoming more sophisticated and even artistic. This is the best I've seen. It purports to be from Barclays Bank plc and is subheaded Customer Details Confirmation Procedure. Without one spelling mistake, it politely urges Barclays customers to go to the link below and confirm their bank details. This is allegedly due to Barclays bank's technical services department carrying out a scheduled software upgrade to improve the quality of services for the bank's customers. DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT! It's the Nigerian Mafia after your dosh! Or the Baltic Mafia. Possibly even the Yambo Financials Spam Gang (I'm not kidding; this is a recognized gang). Let me know if I'm libelling you, lads.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Canaletto at Yale

Canaletto - Warwick Castle, The South Front (c 1748-49)Canaletto is doing well this year, with Her Majesty the Queen showing her collection and now the Yale Center for British Art has opened an exhibition in the USA: Canaletto in England: A Venetian Artist Abroad, 1746 - 1755. Now look, Yanks, not so much of that "Venetian Artist" stuff. We Brits may moan about pesky foreigners invading our overcrowded little island, but we're very quick to adopt foreigners with talent and to call them our own: Canaletto, Holbein, Mozart, Handel, Madonna, Rolf Harris. Once we've adopted them, they're not foreign any more. They're honorary Brits. Canaletto may have stayed with us only 10 years, but that's enough. He's a Brit. Our attitude probably has a lot to do with having a royal family that's been marrying foreigners for centuries.

Affordable Art Fair

Advertising piccie, artist unknownThe Affordable Art Fair opened its Autumn Collection today at Battersea Park, London, with 130 galleries displaying their wares until Sunday 22 October. "Contemporary art for sale under £3,000" it proclaims. Affordable? Coxsoft Art can't afford the entry fee: £10 on the gate, £8 for silver surfers (that's 80%)! Well ... maybe, at a pinch, but why pay to view what salespeople want to sell me? I can walk into any private gallery in London and have a butchers for free. (Butcher's hook = look.)

Velázquez Takes Off

Diego Velázquez - The Toilet of Venus (The Rokeby Venus) © The National Gallery, London.Back in September, Coxsoft Art predicted that the Velázquez exhibition at The National Gallery, London, would be a biggie. Latest news is that folks have been stampeding to book tickets at £12 a throw, £11 for silver surfers! That's 92%, the meanest concession of all time! But don't despair. If silver surfers trot along on Tuesday afternoons, 2.30-6pm, they can get in for £6 (50%). Well done, NG. The exhibition opened yesterday and continues until 21 January 2007.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

Picasso Clobbered!

Picasso - Le Reve (The Dream)US casino magnate Steve Wynn was celebrating a record-breaking deal to sell Picasso's The Dream for $139million to art collector Steven Cohen when he put his elbow through the canvas! "Oh shit! Look what I've done," he said, according to witness Nora Ephron. The deal has been called off pending repairs. Don't worry about it, Steve. Coxsoft Art has been giving Picasso the elbow for years.

Giant Centipede Wins!

Barajas Airport, Madrid, Architect: Richard Rogers Partnership, Co-architect: Estudio Lamela. Photo: Manuel Renau.I hope you all stayed up to watch Building of the Year: the RIBA Stirling Prize 2006 on Channel 4 last Sunday/Monday. No? Same here. 4.25am is a bit late ... or early, depending on your point of view. At least Channel 4 covered the event. Top prize went to Richard Rogers Partnership for its fantastic giant centipede design for Barajas Airport in Madrid. Don't mention co-architect Estudio Lamela, because his name sounds foreign and the Royal Institute of British Architects doesn't give its top award to foreigners. Why should it? It's a Brit. institution. It's job is to promote Brit. architecture and Brit. architects. Anyway, foreign architects design buildings that fall down when snow lands on the roof. We might have the odd wobbly bridge, but that's only when pedestrians do the unexpected, like marching in step.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Whitechapel's Big Sale

Pierre Klossowski - GladiatriceLast Friday, Sotheby's charity auction of contemporary art donated by artists raised £2,778,600 towards expansion of the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London’s East End. Don't go mad with all that dosh, lads. I rather like the seedy run-down look of the old place. I've liked it ever since my old grammar school took me there as a boy (a few decades ago). Current exhibitions include Pierre Klossowski until 19 November 2006. This looks worth a visit, especially as it's free.

David Hockney Portraits

David Hockney PortraitsThe National Portrait Gallery is so excited about its David Hockney Portraits - the first exhibition devoted to his portraits - that its website has gone down! Maybe it's the prospect of ripping off the punters. I mean, £9 entry, £6 for silver surfers (66%). I expect Caravaggio for that kind of money, not boring old Hockney. And 150 of his portraits to see! Sorry, NPG; you'd have to pay me to endure that. The guy blowtorching Tesco Value bread is more interesting (next blog down). The show drags on until 21 January 2007. Try the title link.

Monday, 16 October 2006

Using Your Loaf

Lennie Payne - Benny HillFor foreigners - a description which includes at least half the population of London - I must explain that a "loaf of bread" is Cockney rhyming slang for "head". To "use your loaf" means to use your intelligence. It's a pun. Oh forget it! Essex artist Lennie Payne uses slices of toasted bread (Tesco Value) to make portraits. A blow torch, knives and a wallpaper scraper complete his toolbox for turning toast into art. He began by making shapes with toast to please his daughter. Now his toast portraits sell for £2,000. So, if you fancy having your portrait toasted, Lennie's your man. His likeness of the popular UK comedian Benny Hill is excellent. I've included in this graphic Benny's left eye on a slice of toast. Click the title link for Lennie's website.

Foxburrows Farm Zoo

Dorset poll lamb (photo: Brian Ecott)Local news: Foxburrows Farm in Hainault Forest Country Park has achieved zoo status. The regulations governing zoos are tough in the UK, so congratulations to all the staff involved. But don't expect an invasion of exotic species. The farm concentrates on conserving British wildlife and rare breeds of sheep and cattle. Maybe a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig? I can recall when the farm had a breeding herd of llamas before the keeping of exotic animals was tightened up. But llamas spit! Maybe not. Click the title link to see photos of the breeds on display. The Hainault Forest website was one of the first to win a Coxsoft Art Silver Surfer Friendly Award.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Child Labour

Vasily Perov - Troika, Apprentice Workmen Carrying Water (1866)On the subjects of both child labour and Russian art, I thought you might like to see Vasily Perov's realistic and unsentimental masterpiece: Troika, Apprentice Workmen Carrying Water (1866). There is a man in the background heaving to get that heavy load uphill and also to stop it sliding downhill if the children can't cope. The dog seems to be enjoying itself. This picture was painted only 140 years ago. Looks like the Middle Ages, doesn't it?

Fortnum & Mason’s selloff

Alexei Alexeevich Harlamoff - The Little SeamstressLondon's Fortnum & Mason’s must be feeling the pinch, because it's flogging a "highlight" of its "prestigious" art collection: Alexei Alexeevich Harlamoff's The Little Seamstress. Russian art tended to languish behind the Iron Curtain, but it has emerged; much of it is excellent and is fetching high prices, so now is a good time to sell. This little gem is up for grabs at £300,000. It's touring the UK for a while with the rest of Fortnum & Mason’s art collection before heading to Bonhams in the USA for auction. Click the title link for venues, but be warned: the Bonham website is incredibly s l o w to load and hasn't had its ink colour set. No CASSFA award here! (Steve McQueen's motorcyles are up for sale too.) Have you noticed that when Western art portrays children working, we think it's charming, but when Third World countries employ child labour we think it's appalling? A touch of the double standards.

Rio's Redeemer at 75

Christ the RedeemerRio de Janeiro's massive Christ the Redeemer celebrates its 75th anniversary. And what a photo! Shame the photographer isn't named. But we do know the credits for this statue: designer Carlos Oswald, sculptor Paul Landowski, engineer Heitor da Silva Costa. Sculpted from soap stone, 38 metre-thingies high, this famous statue welcomes tourists with open arms, but has its back turned to the Brazilian Indian. European Christianity has nothing to celebrate and everything to be ashamed of in its treatment of indigenous peoples throughout the world, from the murderous exploits of the early conquistadors, through the African slave trade and the ethnic cleansing of the North American Indian, to the continuing decimation of rainforest tribes. The title link takes you to Survival International, which campaigns on behalf of tribal peoples.