Monday, 29 September 2008

Banksy Auction Bummer

Banksy - Fungle Junk (1999)Lyon and Turnbull's auction of works by Banksy and other modern artists proved a bummer in London today, with 80% of the items up for grabs remaining unsold. Banksy's refusal to authenticate his street art was probably to blame for his works failing to do well. The current gloom in financial markets may also have brought about more sensible bidding.

Mantegna at Louvre

Louvre poster for Mantegna (1431-1506)If you happen to be in Paris over the next few months, note that the Louvre recently opened France's first major retrospective of one of the greatest of Renaissance artists: Andrea Mantegna. The Louvre boasts one of the finest collections of Mantegna's paintings outside Italy, complimented for this exhibition by international loans. "Works of spectacular size or with stunning effects of perspective are shown alongside those with extremely refined handling or more intimate subjects." Mantegna (1431-1506) is in the Napoleon Hall until 5 January 2009, admission 9.50 euro thingies. Click the title link.

The Future Roof Today

Renzo Piano - The California Academy of Sciences Roof (2008)A new art installation somewhere in darkest Bradford? No. This is the 2.5 acre roof of the new award-winning California Academy of Sciences, designed by Renzo Piano, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. It is the first museum to win LEED™ Platinum certification. Its design for sustainability won the EPA's regional Environmental Award in 2006. You may not realise it, but in order to have enough land for crops the human race will need to live underground. Read all about it in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. You think I'm kidding? Look at the graphic above. The process has already begun.

Turner Prize - Yuk!

Mark Leckey - Detail of production still from Felix Gets Broadcasted (2007)If you're wondering why stuckists are demonstrating outside Tate Britain today (yesterday's post) it's because tomorrow sees the opening of that national joke the Turner Prize exhibition. The untalented twerps selected for public ridicule this year are Runa Islam, Mark Leckey, Goshka Macuga and Cathy Wilkes. The graphic above is a still detail from Mark Leckey's Felix Gets Broadcasted (2007). Groan. I've already shown you an example of Cathy Wilkes' tosh (CLICK). The winner gets £25,000, the runners-up £5,000 each. The result of this lottery will be announced on 1 December during a live broadcast on Channel 4 (remember to avoid). Ageism note: the Turner Prize is awarded only to Brits under 50. Isn't that against the law? Aw, what does the law matter to Sir Nick and his cronies?

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Paul Newman RIP

Hud Poster (1963)Paul Newman 1925 - 2008

Stuckists Tate Demo

Stuckism Badge - The Turner Prize is Crap (2008)How would you like a smart badge like this which tells the cognoscente that you're one of them? Er ... I'll rephrase that. How would you like a badge that tells the art world exactly what you think of the Turner Prize? You might get one if you visit Tate Britain between 8.45am and 1pm tomorrow, when stuckists will be demonstrating outside en masse (title link). Wear it with pride. Go on; you know you want one. Join the revolution.

The Art Market

Kate Moss - Self Portrait (detail) in LipstickThis doodle in lipstick by Kate Moss shows how the art market works. It sold for £33,600 in London yesterday. The BBC is so excited by this news that it posted the story on its website no less then four times at the weekend! I'm not going to knock Kate's doodle, because it does show some artistic talent, but in no way does it merit a price of £33K. At least, it wouldn't merit that price if it hadn't been drawn by someone famous. And that's how the art market works. Fame, not quality, controls the price. What annoys me isn't that this is so; it's that art pundits and institutions insist on telling us how wonderful an artist is simply because he or she achieved notoriety. Kate Moss for Tate Modern?

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Renoir Nude Recovered

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - NudeItalian police have finally recovered a Renoir Nude stolen 33 years ago! Too late for the owner, who is now dead, but his daughter identified the painting as her family's property by the mark of a ball with which she had hit it in the 1970s. After 33 years the thieves or their fence made the mistake of contacting art critic Vittorio Sgarbi for an appraisal. He informed the police. Three people have been arrested.

Renaissance Faces

Piero di Cosimo - Francesco Giamberti da Sangallo, musician (ca 1485)Piero di Cosimo's portrait of Francesco Giamberti da Sangallo, musician (ca 1485) is one of the exhibits in Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck To Titian, which opens at the National Gallery in London on 15 October and continues until 18 January 2009. It features over 70 paintings, sculptures, drawings and medals by artists such as Raphael, Titian, Botticelli, van Eyck, Holbein, Dürer, Lotto, Pontormo and Bellini. Looks good. It will be in the Sainsbury Wing (admission charge).

Paris Hilton by Yeo

Jonathan Yeo - Paris (2008)Jonathan Yeo's portrait of Paris Hilton is well worth viewing, regardless of who bought it. I'm old-fashioned enough to believe that a portrait should look like the person it portrays, rather than being an excuse for self-indulgent fanciful tosh. Jonathan's portrait certainly captures a familiar face. It does more, suggesting personality and style too. But what makes this portrait fascinating is that it isn't a painting, but a collage made up of clips from allegedly pornographic magazines. It's the best collage I've ever seen.

Brit Art News In Briefs

Union Jack BriefsYesterday I allowed myself to be distracted from the stern task of blogging. To catch up, here is Brit. Art News in Briefs. (What do they stuff down the front of those things, so the contents aren't obvious?) Banksy refused to authenticate his street art for an auction (CLICK). Tracey Emin threatened to confiscate her bronze sparrow, if it is stolen one more time (CLICK)! Moneybags Hirst bought Paris Hilton (CLICK). And Kelly Holmes, Seb Coe and Jonathan Edwards jogged through Tate Britain to launch the Cultural Olympiad, whatever that is (CLICK). Note: if you must have a pair of patriotic briefs or girlie thongs, click the title link. Patriotic thongs! Whatever next?

Friday, 26 September 2008

Milk Bottle Banksy

Charlotte Hughes-Martin - Engraved Milk Bottle Mouse (2008)For months a mystery artist has been leaving engraved milk bottles on people's doorsteps in Stourbridge and surrounding villages in the West Midlands. The phantom engraver - nicknamed the Milk Bottle Banksy - is now revealed as Charlotte Hughes-Martin, who likes to show that "domestic, everyday objects can be things of beauty too". Click the title for the Daily Mail story and more of Charlotte's cute engravings.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Dickinson Acquitted

Michael Dickinson, Acquitted (25/9/08)Great news: British artist Michael Dickinson has been acquitted of insulting the Turkish PM with his collage Good Boy. Professor Mehmet Ozer of Marmara University sent the court a testimonial letter which stated that the work in question was more an example of political criticism, rather than an insult. A very thin dividing line! The court's decision is a major step toward freedom of artistic expression in Turkey. Congratulations, Michael. You did it. Good boy!


Unknown Artist - DolichorhynchopsContemporary art on the River Thames in the heart of London. Oh dear! Within spitting distance of Tate Modern. Eek! Installation thingies. Even worse! But wait. I glimpsed something brilliant on display. It wasn't the green laser running parallel with a London bridge. Green light; big deal. And it certainly wasn't the soppy stainless steel thingummy bobbing about on the water. It was Craig Walsh's fabulous prehistoric sea monster - a dolichorhynchops, I believe - gliding under the surface of the Thames with a juvenile in tow, a terrific optical illusion. Wow! BBC London News carried the story of Drift this evening and, if you click the title link, you can see its video. There are a lot of Craig Walsh's on the Internet, but I think the Craig responsible for bringing dolichorhynchops back to life is an Aussie (CLICK).

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


Mark Rothko - Red on Maroon (1959)The BBC is at it again, trying to promote tripe as art. If the image shown - Mark Rothko's Red on Maroon (1959) - doesn't put you off, click the title link for Auntie's In Pictures: Rothko Exhibition, which opens at Tate Modern on Friday. I previewed this tosh a month ago (CLICK). Now get these admission prices: £12.50 adult, £11.50 silver surfer, £10.50 student/job seeker/child 12-18. What a ripoff!

Dangerous Pop-ups

Panicware LogoAre you aware of the dangers of pop-ups? Research at North Carolina State University found that the majority of students - supposedly the computer-savvy generation - couldn't tell the difference between genuine pop-up warnings and user traps. They tended to click "OK" or "Yes" to get rid of the nuisance. But pop-ups are used by cyber criminals to install harmful software on PCs. Click "Yes" and you're asking for trouble. So be warned. Close the pop-up box. I'm still using Panicware's Free Pop-up Stopper® (CLICK). It allows Windows messages, but blocks anything else. I can override it when I need to see a pop-up.

Don't Ask!

I.C. - Humphery Bogart plus Dark Glasses (2008)This is the best I can do. Anything else, you must be joking. Nibbles or not, this is my Tesco evening, boring but essential. Everyone else,
don't ask!

Yankee David

Unknown Artist - Yankee David (2008)In case Michelangelo's David collapses (CLICK) here's the Yankee 21st Century replacement, allegedly sponsored by MacDonald's, KFC, Burger King and Starbucks Coffee. (I'm sure that calumny is untrue.) As you can see, the new version has been modelled on the All American Boy. No offence, Yanks. Brits are the fattest people in Europe. So we're almost as greedy, lazy and ugly as you are. Think about this: if US and UK fatties stopped eating two or three times their fair share of food, we could spare some crumbs for people dying of starvation (title link).

Barbie® Breasts

Chris Jordan - Breasts and detail of Barbie® DollsThe ... er ... "sculpture" of breasts on the left is made up of 32,000 discarded Barbie® dolls "equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006". It's by photographer Chris Jordan (title link) who turns rubbish into art, which makes a change from turning art into rubbish. Chris is one of 18 photographers shortlisted for the inaugural $100,000 Prix Pictet award for sustainability (CLICK). I'll take your word for the stats, Chris. Gosh! That's 384,000 silicon tits per year! Green thought: Can they be recycled?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Valley of the Yosemite

Albert Bierstadt - Valley of the Yosemite (1864) on US Stamp (2008)Here's another gem from the U.S. Postal Service: Albert Bierstadt's beautiful, atmospheric Valley of the Yosemite (1864) on a 42-cent commemorative stamp (2008). This stamp was dedicated at the American Philatelic Stamp Show in Hartford, Connecticut, on 14 August. Note: the U.S. Postal Service has annual revenues of $75 billion and delivers nearly half the world’s mail! Maybe Britain should invite it to take over the Royal Mail, which is becoming increasingly useless.

Munch's Vampire Sale

Edvard Munch - Love and Pain (1894)Edvard Munch's Vampire (1894) is to be auctioned by Sotheby's New York after more than 70 years in a private collection. It will be displayed in London from 3 to 7 October and in Moscow from 16 to 19 October before going to New York for the auction on 3 November. Sotheby's are hoping for £19m ($35m). The original title of this work was Love and Pain and it clearly shows a woman comforting a distressed man. Bram Stoker's hugely successful Gothic horror novel Dracula was published in 1897, three years after Love and Pain was unveiled, and it may well have inspired the painting's popular name and changed how it is perceived.

Neurotic Paintings

I.C. - 107 Colours (2008)This block of colours is my version - 107 Colours (2008) - of a painting by Gerhard Richter for his show Gerhard Richter 4900 Colours: Version II (2007) which opened today at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens. Richter is "one of the world’s greatest living artists" claims the gallery, a sentiment echoed by the BBC: "Acclaimed German artist Gerhard Richter has created a major new work, 4900 Colours: Version II..."! Auntie goes on "In 2003, the artist was second on a list of the worlds top-selling living artists, with sales worth £80.9m." That any artist can sell colour charts at all shows how desperate the art market is for novelty and trademark brands. This isn't art; it's art therapy. Such rigidity serves only to help the neurotic assuage his feelings of insecurity. A patient who does this sort of thing for 20 years will have his shrink in despair. But the BBC laps it up! (CLICK for its collection of charts.) Why? Why must the BBC promote tripe as art? Does it get a percentage when rich saps like Roman Abramovich are fleeced?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Hirst's Worthless Pussy

Damien Hirst - Mindy (1982)Here's a purrrfect example of the insanity of the art market. This portrait of pet pussy Mindy was painted by Damien Hirst as a gift in 1982 and signed by him: D Hirst '82. It proves he could actually paint! In a sane world, any early work by a master would be a collector's item. Aware of the fortunes Moneybags' junk is fetching, Mindy's owner - hairdresser Julie Staniforth - took her deceased pet's portrait to Sotheby's for a valuation, but Sotheby's told her it was worthless because it wasn't in Hirst's trademark style! Had Hirst stuffed the cat, it might have been worth a bob or two, but a competent portrait of pussy, no way. (Note to The Daily Mail reporter: it is Sotheby's, not Sotherby's.)

Hari Puttar Finale

Detail from one of the Hari Puttar posters (2008)Don't look so surprised, cherub. Nobody but Warner Bros' lawyers thought this case had a cat in Hell's chance of a favourable outcome. The Delhi High Court has rejected Warner Bros' lawsuit against Mirchi Movies over the title of its Bollywood movie Hari Puttar: A Comedy of Terrors. The judge ruled that Harry Potter audiences were too sophisticated to be confused by any similarity in the name Hari Puttar. The film had not been intended to infringe Warner Bros' copyright in any way. Also, Warner Bros had known about the title since 2005 and should have complained sooner, rather than waiting until the film was about to be released before bringing legal proceedings. Okay BBC, now you can use the title Hairy Putters for your next daft cookery show.

Turkish Political Trial

The Evidence, Me Lud (with apologies to Michael Dickinson)In stark contrast to the next post down, British artist and "veteran provocateur" (Elspeth Metzler: CLICK) Michael Dickinson is due back in an Istanbul court this week - Thursday 25 September - for daring to satirize the Turkish PM in the above collages. He faces up to two years in a Turkish hell-hole if convicted. And Turkey thinks it's fit to join the EU! Please click the title link and sign the petition on Michael's behalf.

Drawing Politics

Steve Bell - Drawing Politics and other animals (2008)On 8 October award-winning The Lightbox in Woking, Surrey, will open a retrospective of the cartoons of Steve Bell: Drawing Politics and other animals. Bell's sketchbooks - not often put on public display - will be on show, together with a collection of his political cartoons over the years. The exhibition continues until 16 November. Click the title link for more information.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The Tate Art Lark

One of The Chapman Family Collection with chips (2002)Charles Thomson, Stuckist co-founder, has been delving into Tate's 07/08 report (CLICK) and has exposed a secret: the Tate paid £1,500,000 for Jake & Dinos Chapman's The Chapman Family Collection (2002) which it could have bought for a mere £1m if it had got its finger out. The Chapman's installation of 34 faux-African sculptures sporting MacDonald's chips and milk shakes - example shown - was shortlisted for the Turner Prize. Yes, that's how bad it is! Charles Saatchi snapped it up for a reported £1m. The White Cube gallery took its commission for the sale, percentage unknown. The Tate subsequently bought the installation for £1.5m, giving Saatchi a quick profit of £500,000. The Art Fund contributed £200,000 toward buying the Chapman's hokum from White Cube (Eh?) to "save" the installation (CLICK). From what? Saatchi? In effect, the Art Fund paid £200,000 to help move the installation a few miles down the road from one London art gallery to another: from the Saatchi Gallery to the Tate. Lost? Stop thinking "art". This is the Tate Art Lark. Charles Thomson is now calling for an investigation.

The Mona Lisa Curse

Leonardo de Vinci - The Mona Lisa (close-up)The first offering of Channel 4's Art and Money season is The Mona Lisa Curse tonight from 6.30pm to 8:00pm. Veteran art critic and fellow dinosaur Robert Hughes lambastes the contemporary art market in which art and artists are idolised for the glory of the rich. The Medici's did it. So did various popes. So what's new about Roman Abramovich doing it? Not a lot, but let's hear what Hughes has to say about it. A witty polemic is promised. If that doesn't frighten off the couch potatoes, nothing will.

Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo's David being restored (2004)Antonio Borri, professor of construction engineering at Perugia University, has warned that Michelangelo's David is at risk of collapse. The statue was cleaned and cracks repaired for its 500th anniversary in 2004, but the cracks have reappeared. Prof. Borri, who is part of the team monitoring David's condition, blames traffic vibrations and the pressure of thousands of daily visitors. The 16ft-high statue of David - the world's most famous shepherd - was commissioned by the Florence guild of wool merchants in 1501. If the inferior marble Michelangelo used does give way, the V&A Museum in London has a cast of this masterpiece, taken in 1856 (CLICK).

Saturday, 20 September 2008

What Is Art?

Nedko Solakov - The Yellow Blob Story (1997) photo: Angel Tzvetanov"Art is what you can get away with" (Andy Warhol).
"Some idiot, somewhere, will buy it" (Coxsoft Art).
And Nedko Solakov proves both points with The Yellow Blob Story (1997). Let the buyer beware indeed!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Wildlife Artists Show

Carl Ellis SWLA - PerchContinuing today's fishy theme, here's Perch by Carl Ellis SWLA, one of the artists exhibiting at the annual show of the Society of Wildlife Artists at the Mall Galleries in London, from Wednesday 24 September to Sunday 5 October. Admission is £2.50, concessions £1.50. Young artists should note that the Society offers bursaries to encourage and enable wildlife-based art projects. The President’s guest artist this year is biologist, artist and author, Jonathan Kingdon. Click the title link.

The Time Eater

John Taylor - The Time Eater (2008)Is it a work of art or a work of science? Neither. It's a work of craftsmanship and technology. Unveiled today by Professor Stephen Hawking at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University, this unique clock features a giant grasshopper which eats time by advancing round the 4-feet-wide face. Blue flashing lights, triggered by the grasshopper's movement, reveal the time every four minutes. Dr John Taylor - an old boy of Corpus Christi College - designed the clock to "make timekeeping interesting". It took five years to make and cost him £1 million. He can afford it; he made a fortune from developing the kettle thermostat. His clock will stand outside the college library.

Secret Gardens & Koi

Kim Baker - Labyrinth II; Jörn Grothkopp - KoiOn 25 September the Sesame Gallery in London opens Thoughts and Secret Gardens, a joint exhibition by British artist Kim Baker and East German painter Jörn Grothkopp. This pairing neatly brings together Kim's mysterious gardens and ponds and Jörn's ghostly koi carp. Click the title link for the Sesame Gallery website.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Bette Davis Stamp

US Mail - Bette Davis Postage Stamp (2008)What a topsy-turvy world! While Philistines give "contemporary art" a bad name by awarding big-money prizes to twerps who couldn't attain craftsman status, let alone produce a masterpiece, Americans can walk into a post office and buy a miniature artwork for only 42 cents. This new US postage stamp commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hollywood superstar Bette Davis, with a portrait of her as she appeared in the film All About Eve (1950). During her distinguished career she received 11 Oscar nominations and won two best actress Oscars for Dangerous (1936) and Jezebel (1939). Seeing herself in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) reduced her to tears, but what a performance!

Another Lousy Winner

Peter MacDonald - FontanaPeter MacDonald wins the £25,000 John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize 2008 with this rubbish: Fontana. A competition judge described it as "one of the most inventive paintings I've seen"! Where do they find these Philistines to judge art comps? As this is the winner, don't bother visiting Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery to view the losers.

London Fashion Week

Model Wearing a Silly Unicorn Mask (2008)According to BBC News, the fashion industry brings £1 billion into the UK economy. So why is it that London Fashion Week - now in full strut - needs to be subsidized by council-tax payers in Greater London? I see no reason why I should pay for millionaire pop stars' spoilt daughters with soppy names like Peaches to enjoy the show. Come on, Bouncy Boris, if the industry is so lucrative, why give it a subsidy? Using beautiful models with lovely figures would help the Brit. fashion industry far more than my hard-earned cash. The catwalks look like a Butlins knobbly knees contest. Slim is elegant, but skeletal is ugly. Click the title link to see what I mean.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

New BBC Arts Page

Hendrik Kerstens - Bag (2008)The BBC has resurrected its arts page, which it abandoned two or three years ago. I'd like to think Coxsoft Art had persuaded it to show some renewed interest in art, but no; the move seems to be a spin-off from the recent media scrum over Moneybags Hirst's auction. That's the lead story and main picture. Yawn. Further down the page you'll find this striking photo of a young woman wearing a plastic bag. It's by Hendrik Kerstens, one of the finalists in this year's Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, worth £12,000. The winner will be announced on 4 November. I'm not too sure about that title, Hendrik. Bag might not be conveying in English what you intended to convey!

Jerwood Drawing Prize

Warren Baldwin - Study for PortraitThe Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition of shortlisted entries opened today at Jerwood Space, Bankside, London, and continues until 26 October. This year's outstanding winner of the £6000 prize is Warren Baldwin for his pencil and charcoal drawing on paper Study for Portrait. Click the title link for further details. The BBC website has pictures of two other winners and a few of the shortlisted entries (CLICK). Note: I've adjusted the contrast and gamma settings on this graphic to show it to best effect on a monitor; the original drawing may well appear softer.

Jane Seymour, Artist

Jane Seymour - Little Red BucketI didn't know that English actress Jane Seymour was an artist, but the Wentworth Gallery - a US chain of fine art shops - has 77 of her paintings online (title link; select Seymour). She began painting a decade ago as a relaxing hobby. Shame the gallery doesn't show the dates of her works, so we could see how she has progressed. Some of them have that flat, lifeless quality of amateur painting, but this attractive impressionistic piece caught my eye: Little Red Bucket. Jane will be at the Wentworth Gallery branch in the Woodfield Shopping Center, Schaumburg, Illinois, to present her work on 3 & 4 October.

Praemium Imperiale

Congratulations to London-born pop artist Richard Hamilton for winning the Praemium Imperiale 2008 for painting. He'll receive 15 million yen (about £70,000) with a diploma and medal presented by Prince Hitachi - honorary patron of the Japan Art Association - in an awards ceremony in Tokyo on 15 October. The other winners are Ilya & Emilia Kabakov (sculpture), Peter Zumthor (architecture), Zubin Mehta (music) and Sakata Tojuro (theatre/film). Hamilton's exhibition Protest Pictures continues at the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh until 12 October (CLICK).

'Peasant Paintings' Back

Five 17th Century "peasant paintings" stolen from the Frans Hals Museum in 2002 are due to go back on display today, having been found by the Noord-Brabant police in a house in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Three arrests have been made. Two of the stolen paintings are by Adriaen van Ostade, one by Jan Steen, one by Cornelis Bega and one by Cornelis Dusart. They all depict Dutch "peasant" life in the 1600s. Click the title link for the Frans Hal Museum.

Red-light District Nicked!

Brothel Display Window in Red-light DistrictOne year ago I suggested that Amsterdam's infamous red-light district should be recreated in Tate Modern or the Royal Academy of Arts as performance art (CLICK). Blow me down! Two Yanks have nicked my idea! Ed and Nancy Kienholz will open the Hoerengracht at the National Gallery in London next year, with mannequins dressed as prostitutes. Hey, National Gallery, how much are you paying those Yanks for my idea?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

£111 Million!

Damien Hirst posing for Photographers (8/9/2008)Moneybags Hirst's two-day auction at Sotheby's in London took a total of £111m and set a new record for a sale of work by one ... er ... person. P.S. The rich twit who bought The Kingdom is Russian. Guess who.

Super Shark Sale

Eddie's Shark in the Stuckism International window (2003) A Dead Shark Isn't ArtThe news that yesterday evening at Sotheby's a rich twit threw away £9.6m ($17.2m) on Moneybags Hirst's The Kingdom - a tiger shark in formaldehyde - has prompted Stuckism International to offer the original Eddie Saunders' shark (1989) for the bargain price of £1m (title link). Now hold on, guys. Don't go overboard trying to hook a big daft one. The Daily Mail ordered a shark of its own, to establish the true cost. Staff paid £400 for a properly stuffed shark from a London taxidermist - a shark, like Eddie's, that won't rot - and £150 for a tank to be delivered. Total cost: £550. Note that Charles Saatchi sold his Hirst shark - commissioned for £50,000 - for £6.5m before the rot became obvious (CLICK). So, anyone who pays £9.6m for a carcass that will rot in a few years time shouldn't be let out without an attendant shrink (CLICK). I blame Care in the Community.

Monday, 15 September 2008

London Design Festival

Arc (2008)What's this at Heathrow Airport's infamous Terminal 5? The latest anti-terrorist gadget? A portal to beam your luggage into outer space? No. It's one of the winning student entries in the Expo Award organised by BAA and Goldsmiths College, unveiled today to publicize the London Design Festival 2008 (title link). It's called Arc and it's supposed to be a work of art.

Democratization of Art

Damien Hirst - Anatomy of an Angel (2008)Is there any benighted corner of the planet - maybe a Taliban crèche in an Afghan cave? - which doesn't know that Moneybags Hirst's two-day auction at Sotheby's in London begins this evening? Everywhere I turn this show pops up. Say what you like about Moneybags, he certainly knows how to manipulate the media. Beautiful Inside My Head Forever has grabbed more media attention than the latest blockbuster movie. Even the Daily Mail gave him a two-page spread last Saturday, albeit a caustic one! And the tosh that's being written about him: "one of the art world's greatest innovators" ... wants to "democratize art"! Advertising guru Charles Saatchi commissioned him to stuff his first shark. A restaurateur hired him to make pill cabinets. As for this conceit about democratization, look at the prices he charges. How about £1.5m for this part-flayed Anatomy of an Angel (2008)? Too expensive? It's better value than Death Wish, a piece of cardboard with cigarette ends glued all over it: £1.8m (cost, according to the Daily Mail, £3.49). Okay, Tightwad, how does £330,000 for The Immaculate Heart - Lost, a dagger through a pig's heart wrapped in barbed wire, grab you (cost £17.22)? No? Here's a cheapo: Neo Mycin Sulfate, a signed collection of spots; to you, guv, only £10,000 (cost £22.85). Democratization? Aw give us a break, Damien. It's as bad as Gordon Brown pretending to be left wing.

Out Of The Attic

Sir Winston Churchill - Windlesham Moor (ca 1934)Sir Winston Churchill never claimed to be an artist. So he gave away his daubs as keepsakes. This one - Windlesham Moor (ca 1934) - was so disliked that it was given away again and again, until it ended up in an attic, where it lay forgotten for 30 years. Its estimated value is now £150,000, thanks to auctioneer John Dickins' work in establishing its provenance.

George de Forest Brush

George de Forest Brush - The Head Dress (1890) detailThis oil painting isn't as gory as it looks. That's a flamingo being plucked. I didn't know that North American Indians hunted flamingos, let alone leopards, but that is obviously a leopard-skin rug. The myth is that Indian head dresses were made out of eagle feathers. (A warrior tarting himself up with a girlie bird knocks the image, doesn't it?) It's fair to assume that this painting The Head Dress (1890) is authentic, rather than fanciful, because it was painted by the American George de Forest Brush (1855 - 1941) who lived among the Arapahoe, Shoshone, and Crow Indians in Wyoming and Montana. (Click the title link for a painting of an Indian capturing a swan.) Brush studied under the great Jean-Léon Gérôme in Paris and his paintings were snapped up by private collectors. If you've never heard of him before, blame those collectors! Now, the National Gallery of Art and the Seattle Art Museum have brought together 20 of Brush's masterpieces. George de Forest Brush: The Indian Paintings opened last Saturday in Washington DC and continues until 4 January 2009. On 26 February it reopens in Seattle. Don't miss this rare treat.

Another Art Theft

Francisco de Goya - Tristes Presentimientos de lo que ha de suceder (1810-1815)I'm beginning to think stealing art is a national sport in South America. The latest picture to be stolen is Francisco de Goya's engraving Tristes Presentimientos de lo que ha de suceder (1810-1815) which Google translates as "Tristes presentation of what has happened". The engraving - from Goya's series Disasters of War - was stolen from the Gilberto Alzate Avendano Foundation in Bogota, Colombia, last Thursday night. Question: Why did the thieves select this engraving out of the 80 on display? Next question: Is there any sign of a break-in?

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Wife In The Picture!

Jane Allison - The Right Reverend Peter Price and Mrs Price (2008)Bishops, like royalty, have their portraits painted; but not like this! Jane Allison's excellent portrait of The Right Reverend Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells, standing in Wells Cathedral, is a first. Never before has the wife of a bishop been included in an official Church of England portrait. Mrs Dee Price may be in the background, playing a subordinate role, but she has struck a massive blow for women simply by being there. Bishop Price explained his break with centuries of sexism: "Having Dee in the portrait was my tribute to her and to all of the amazing work she's done." Nice one, Bish. How many more centuries will it be before there's a gay lover sitting coyly in the background?