Thursday, 31 December 2009

Lauren Child MBE

Congratulations to children's author and illustrator Lauren Child for gaining an MBE in the Queen's New Year Honours List for her services to literature. Charlie And Lola (shown) are two of the cutest creations in kiddies' books of recent years, simply drawn yet very effective. The first book featuring these two characters was published in 2001. Clarice Bean is another of Lauren Child's creations.

Degas Painting Nicked

Edgar Degas' Les Choristes (The Chorus) has been stolen from an exhibition of his work at the Catini Museum in Marseilles. The painting, worth about £710,000, was on loan from the Musee D'Orsay in Paris. The police found no sign of a break-in, so they're investigating the possibility of an inside job. Some lucky lad will get to sit through hours of CCTV footage from security cameras.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Glamour Photography

Do you recognize the latest sex goddess? Clue: she is 19 years old. Clue: she is the highest-grossing female actress of the decade. Clue: she lists fly fishing amongst her hobbies. Red herring: she is a natural blonde. Clue: she was only 9 years old when cast for her first leading movie role. Clue: she starred in Ballet Shoes, premiered on BBC One on 26 December 2007. Final clue: she plays Hermione Granger in the hugely successful Harry Potter films. Still can't name her? Where have you been for the last decade? Pass your mouse pointer over the graphic.

Hannah Frank Competition

A year ago I remarked the passing of Scottish artist Hannah Frank (CLICK). Note: the bugs I commented on in that post have been fixed. The website devoted to her memory has now launched the Hannah Frank Art Poetry Competition, closing date 31 March 2010. The poem must be no more than 40 lines in Scots or English and must be based on one of Hannah's black and white drawings, such as the one shown: Flight. The competition is organised by poet William Bonar, on behalf of Hannah Frank's family, and will be judged by David Kinloch. Prizes - £200 for the winning adult and £100 for the winning 18 or under - will be presented on Hannah's birthday 23 August 2010. Entry costs £3.00 per poem for adults and is free for 18 and unders. Schools are also invited to take part. Click the title link for a gallery of Hannah's art.

Invasion of Santas

Ahhh! Gross! An invasion of garden gnomes! (Looks again.) No, they're Santa Clauses, almost as bad, 100 of them. Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik inflicted these ghastly sculptures on a beach in the tourist town of Puri, assisted by 20 students from the Golden Institute of Sand Art, which he set up. His message is green. He wants to save the planet from global warming. Really? Then stop attracting tourists to your beaches, old fruit. Tell 'em to get on their bikes and peddle off to their local park for their holiday fun.

Monday, 28 December 2009


More artistry in the special effects department: a two-part remake of John Wyndham's 1951 classic science-fiction novel The Day of the Triffids hits BBC One this evening at 9pm (CLICK). The concluding episode is at the same time tomorrow. What, you might well ask, is Eddie Izzard doing with a gun? I thought he was a stand-up comic. Oh well, this new BBC version can't be worse than the pig's ear director Steve Sekely made of the 1962 movie, with imported US star Howard Keel for a dash of box office appeal. I could never fathom why all those triffids wanted to invade a lighthouse! I suspect the film's low budget required it. The BBC trailer for today's fleshy feast of monstrous carnivorous plants promises higher production values. We'll see. For all you ever wanted to know about triffids, but were afraid to ask, click the title link.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Avatar: Correction

A voice from the ether tells me that make-up artists aren't responsible for the transformation of Sigourney Weaver in James Cameron's fantasy movie Avatar (next post down). The actors wore skull caps bearing miniature cameras which captured 95% of their facial expressions and eye movements, digitized to create their avatars as computer images (title link). The example here shows Sam Worthington as Jake Sully's avatar. He plays a crippled US marine who inhabits an avatar to allow him to mix with the indigenous population of Pandora, a moon with lush forests and deposits of a mineral lusted after by greedy humans. Of course he falls in love with the most gorgeous blue alien you've ever seen, played by the equally gorgeous Zoe Saldana. She's a female warrior; we must keep US feminists happy. Yes, folks, the plot is Yankee codswallop: Universal Soldier meets Bambi. However, the theme - avaricious humans destroying ecosystems - is a commendable and timely warning. The visuals are literally out of this world. Avatar is the movie of the decade. CLICK to view the official (short) trailer on YouTube. It isn't too hard to imagine how breathtaking these images will be when viewed in 3-D.

Avatar: Make-up

I've already mentioned the groundbreaking computer aided graphics for James Cameron's Avater as a modern form of art (CLICK). Now consider a group of artists who usually get neglected by the media when the Oscars are handed out: make-up artists. Their work may not "sell" movies the way star names and directors do, but it is vital if the actors are to look as they should for their roles. I think it's a safe bet that the principal make-up artist for Avatar will be in the running for an Oscar next year. Recognize this actress with the huge golden eyes? Sigourney Weaver. What a transformation!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Brittany Murphy Poster

Following the sudden and untimely death of actress Brittany Murphy at the age of 32, US rental chain Redbox began withdrawing promotional artwork for her latest video release: Deadline (title link). In case you're wondering why Redbox saw fit to withdraw this material, here's one of the posters for Deadline. It shows the actress playing dead in a bath. Apparently in real life she died in her own bath (title link). It's a very creepy coincidence and Redbox did well to have the artwork withdrawn. Brittany was laid to rest on Christmas eve at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills (CLICK).

Happy Birthday

Coxsoft Art News is four years old today. In that time I've published 3,350 posts, had more than a quarter of a million hits, slanged off a lot of pretentious twits and, judging by your comments, have pleased more people than I've annoyed. I'm still waiting to be head-hunted by The Times. (Get yer finger out, Ed.) The new year may bring some changes. I'm thinking of renaming my blog, but that requires a modicum of work. Its XML code needs tidying and a few bits and bobs may be added or removed here or there. Of this you can be sure, I.C. will remain as discerning, as irreverent and as erudite as ever.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Face-painted Santa

BBC News likes to post a gallery of photos showing Christmas celebrations around the world, as though humanity is just one big happy Christian family despite embracing hundreds of equally whacky religions and sects. The graphic above is a cropped version from this year's gallery. You might well ask: What does a scowling Bangladeshi fairy having her cheek painted with Santa Claus have to do with that birthday the BBC thinks we're all celebrating? Don't ask me. I'm merely an interested observer of the human fruitcake. Ask Auntie.


A seasonal thought: "sewer abuse". More fat is poured down our drains at Christmas than at any other time of the year. The fat congeals, blocks the drains, and intrepid sewer men need to dig the filthy stuff out. So, the message for our effluent society is Cool it and bin it. Previous generations cooled it and ate it. I can remember as a boy eating "dripping" sandwiches with a lick of Marmite to give the fat flavour. As "dripping" is full of unhealthy saturated fat, you're better off binning it; but in the days of post-war rationing you conserved and ate everything you could. Our local butcher had a rack of dead wild rabbits hanging behind his counter. Rabbit pie was one of my favourite meals.

Michael Jackson Art

Recognize the person on the right, amid Bouguereau's cherubs? The pose is Michelangelo's David, the skin Caucasian, the title of the Bouguereau inspiration on the left The Return of Spring (1886). Slight change of sex and it's Michael Jackson, the most overrated pop singer ever. The painting Michael (1999) is by talented US artist David Nordahl, who recently broke his silence in an attempt to repair Whacko Jacko's tarnished reputation. This painting does more to damage Whacko's reputation than any slanderous whisper. You have got to question the sanity of a man who commissions a self-portrait like this. And do note that the only black cherub is fast asleep. Click the title link to see an online gallery of artworks starring Whacko.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Shearers Ban

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has slapped a temporary export ban on this painting by English artist Samuel Palmer: The Shearers (1833-34). It is considered one of his finest works and would be a cultural loss to the UK if it were exported. The ban allows time for the purchase price of £3.8m to be raised.

Escaping Winter

It must be a tough time of year for the paparazzi, sweltering on tropical beaches while they seek out celebrity refugees from the big freeze disporting themselves in skimpy bikinis. Better still if the celeb goes topless or an octopus snatches her bikini bottom. You can imagine the Daily Mail caption: Ooooh, I've an octopussy in my knickers! The cynical editors of UK newspapers pay handsomely to bemuse their female readers with this sort of thing. The paparazzo who snapped this shot caught a charming image of Tamara Mellon frolicking in the sea with her daughter Minty (short for Araminta) on the Caribbean island of St Barts. But who is this Mellon? A film star? The wife of a European president? No. She's a British shoe mogul cum socialite, one of that army of elite parasites on society who have nothing better to do than increase their wealth and throw lavish parties (CLICK). What does a Mellon care if her jet-setting lifestyle hastens global warming? The name of the game is Make Money, Burn Up The Planet's Resources And Have Fun, Fun, Fun. You didn't seriously expect anything worthwhile to come out of Copenhagen, did you?

Travel Photo Awards

The winners of the international Travel Photographer of the Year 2009 awards have been announced. The exhibition of winning photos and best-of-the-rest opens on 29 January at Adventure Travel Live in the Royal Horticultural Halls, London, and continues until 31 January 2010. Only three days! In the meantime, click the title link for a slide show of some of the outstanding photos that will be on display, including great shots of polar bears and cute penguins. The overall winner was G.M.B. Akash with a shot taken on top of a moving train in Bangladesh, but his photo makes my eyes go funny; so here's Jonathan Allen's atmospheric photo of Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, a worthy winner of the First Shot category.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Caravaggio Update

Caravaggio's remains, which I mentioned on Sunday, have been located in an ossuary in the Italian town of Porto Ercole and have been removed to the University of Bologna for scientific examination. The remains will be compared with those of his descendants. In a macabre twist, what's left of Caravaggio will then go on show in Rome's Borghese gallery until 24 January 2010 before being reburied. Who on earth wants to see Caravaggio's bones? It's an insult to a great artist. Graphic: Caravaggio's Amor Victorious (1602-03).

Lady Gaga Headlines

Some people will do anything to get into the news! Stripping naked and having headlines stuck to one's person is a ploy I haven't come across before. The person calls herself Lady Gaga. (I reckon it's safe to assume her parents didn't give her such a daft name, although parents have been known to drop some real clangers in the offspring-naming department.) This cropped graphic shows one of her shy poses for photographer David LaChapelle (title link). The question is: Does her headlining tomfoolery make her a work of art or a piece of work? I'll leave you to decide.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Banksy's Latest

Here's the latest Banksy - Boy Fishing (2009) - one of four murals he's painted along the Regent's Canal in Camden, north London, to mark the idiotic ending of the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. The most telling mural states "I don't believe in global warming", which is shown reflected in water! What is going to make our fat-cat world leaders recognize the need to curb those greenhouse emissions which are destroying our planet? At least the Chinese are limiting the growth of their population, the boldest step any country has taken so far. Dare you try that, President Obama?

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Caravaggio Gallery

The Telegraph has posted an online gallery of paintings by one of my favourite artists: Caravaggio (title link). The reason for its sudden interest? A team of anthropologists is hoping to solve the mystery of his burial place. They believe it's in an underground crypt in the small town of Porto Ercole in the Italian region of Tuscany. It will be nice timing if they succeed, because next year is the 400th anniversary of his death. Above is a graphic of Caravaggio's superb painting The Conversion of Mary Magdalen (ca 1599).

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Hard Act To Follow

No, this isn't one of those spams advising you to beef up your meat to amaze the girl in your life. It's a billboard outside St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican Church in Auckland, New Zealand. At least it was until a miffed parishioner defaced it with yellow paint. Naive Archdeacon Glynn Cardy thought the poster would promote religious debate, but it has caused outrage among the faithful. Its message "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow." reminds me of the Ancient Greek myth of Danaë's being impregnated by Zeus in the form of golden rain; another hard act to follow. Joseph's mournful countenance suggests he's having second thoughts about his wife's fantastic explanation for her pregnancy.

Avatar: Modern Art

BBC News' Click has posted a short video of some of the special effects needed for James Cameron's epic fantasy movie Avatar, which is more than 50% computer aided graphics. Ignore the hype and watch truly modern art. Anyone who thinks Saatchi is leading the field in modern art needs to view this video and think again. He promotes old-fashioned tripe that requires no artistic talent. The graphics for Avatar are groundbreaking. The 3D effect isn't viewable on the video, but you get a glimpse of how it was achieved. This graphic shows Zoe Saldana as Neytiri.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Yarnwinder On Display

Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna with the Yarnwinder (ca 1505) is back on public display in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. It was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch's home at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire in August 2003 and was on the FBI's Most Wanted list until it was recovered by Scottish police in 2007. It is on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Prince Miffed

His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein isn't feeling very serene at the moment. In fact he's miffed. He bought this painting - Sanchez Coello's The Infante Don Diego - through a London dealer in 2006, but the UK refused him an export licence. HM Revenue and Customs has been dragging its heels over the issue ever since. So the prince has refused to release the stars of his collection of paintings for a major exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. Who cares about a few paintings from a piddling principality? you might ask. Oh, the ignorance of some people! His Miffed Highness is the world's sixth wealthiest leader with an estimated pot of USD $5 billion! So the stars of his art collection are not to be sniffed at. HM Revenue and Customs, get your finger out and keep the fat cat happy.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Trunk Wins Saatchi

I have been avoiding BBC Two's School of Saatchi show, because it was easy to predict that something ghastly and inartistic would win it. How right I was. Here's the winning entry: Eugenie Scrase's Trunkated Trunk (2009). And yes, it is merely a log impaled on a fence. Believe it or not, Eugenie is studying sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art. What for, if rubbish like this wins her fame and fortune? Stop wasting tax-payers' money - and licence-payers' money - on so-called "artists" who churn out tripe like this. Pretty girl, 20 years old, with no discernible artistic talent, wins art show; somebody convince me this isn't a casting-couch job.

Monday, 14 December 2009

ArtDaily in Top 100

Congratulations to ArtDaily for being included in The Guardian's top 100 websites for 2009 (title link). A link to it has been in my sidebar for years. There are only 3 websites in the visual arts category. The other two are the Saatchi Gallery (my sidebar too) and Culture 24, which covers everything about UK galleries and museums (CLICK). The list isn't brilliant, because it missed out on Coxsoft Art News! Grumble, grumble, mutter, mutter, moan, groan.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Keira Knightley Nude

Keira Knightley in the nude. So what else is new? you ask (CLICK). As far as I know, this is the first time Keira has sat for an artist. Between performances in the updated stage play The Misanthrope in London's West End, she's popping into the Halcyon Gallery to pose in the buff for artist Mitch Griffiths, who is painting a number of subjects for an exhibition in 2010. As his work is a cut above that of Peter Howson and Lucien Freud, his painting of Keira should be worth looking out for. Keira is obviously proud of her svelte chest with its polished sternum, as displayed above, because she vetoed any breast enhancement in publicity photos for The Duchess. After the pig's ear somebody made of her boob job for King Arthur, I don't blame her (CLICK).

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Flame Nebula

I imagine historians will look back on the 20th Century as the period when society gave up on art. Maybe they'll blame Freud, two world wars, the Holocaust, lack of imagination, the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism or the inability of traditional artists to compete with new technology. Whatever they decide, here's another example of science beating art at its own game: The Flame Nebula as captured by VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy). VISTA is British. It's based at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile. And it weighs three tonnes; so don't expect to find it on the next generation of mobile phones.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Turk Drops A Brick

I do not believe it! A brick made and signed by Gavin Turk - one of a series of ten - has been stolen from a London art gallery: Area10 Project Space in Peckham. A pile of ordinary bricks was also on display, with visitors invited to take one. Somebody did take one, printed "thank you, have a nice day, next" on it and substituted it for one of Turk's bricks. Fair swap, you might think. Oh, no. The gallery claims Turk's brick is worth £3,000! It notified the police about the theft of this "important art" and is offering a reward. Turk has alerted art valuers and auctioneers to watch out for his brick. The entire episode sounds like a script for one of those old Whitehall farces. All it needs is a lovely young curator dashing around the stage wearing nothing but her knickers and a bra and a clumsy male dropping his trousers and a brick falling out. It's The Art Lark. Yer gotta larf.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Broadband Tax!

Shock! Horror! Piracy! Not content with making the rich richer and the poor poorer and damn near bankrupting the country, New Labour in the shape of chancellor Alistair Darling intends to levy a £6-a-year broadband tax on every household with a fixed-line telephone! Now we can clearly see the flag flying over No. 11 Downing Street; it's The Jolly Roger! When do we get to make these cut-throats walk the plank?

Travian UK

If my posts were sporadic a few weeks ago, it's because I was in the closing stages of the award-winning Travian browser game. If you're in one of the top alliances, as I was, the end game is very intensive. The object of the game is to build a Wonder of the World (shown). It's a bit like the Olympic Games: a totally pointless exercise, but every city that hosts the games must have one. Also like the Olympics, vast resources are wasted on the damned thing; but you have to help build one to become a winner. You can play for free, as I do, or you can pay for certain advantages. The game takes a year to play. The latest UK server started yesterday, and I'm back for more! Click the title link to join. If you like the game and do well enough to build a second village, I'll get 20 gold. But be warned, my Teuton raiders will be hunting weak villages to steal supplies!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

London Ice Bear

Here's a truly artistic project to highlight the threat of global warming, which the Flat Earth Society of diehards still refuse to believe in: The London Ice Bear. This graphic shows a glass maquette of the life-sized London Ice Bear that will appear in Trafalgar Square on Friday 11 December and slowly melt until its bronze skeleton is revealed. The display ends on Sunday 20 December. The sculpting team include Duncan Hamilton, Mark Coreth and Jamie Hamilton. The project is supported by the World Wildlife Fund.

Muse Makes £29.2m

Christie's sale of Raphael's drawing Head of a Muse yesterday is worth noting for two reasons. Firstly the winning bid of £29.2m is a world record price for any work on paper, roughly twice its estimated value. Secondly, it shows that the recession hasn't hit the value of quality works by the old masters. While interest in contemporary codswallop by Big Names With No Talent has taken a tumble, Christie's sale of Old Masters and 19th-century art on Tuesday evening fetched a total of £68m from 28 lots sold, the highest total for an auction of old masters. Rembrandt's Portrait of a Man, Half-Length, With His Arms Akimbo, fetched £20.2m, a record for a Rembrandt at auction (title link).

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Turnip Prize Winner

Forget the Turner Prize. Here's the one you've all been waiting for: the winner of the Turnip Prize for bad art 2009, awarded yesterday by the landlord of the New Inn pub in Wedmore, Somerset. The winning entry by Frank Van Bough (a female) took pride of place above the bar, a pair of baggy old Y-fronts entitled Manhole Cover. Co-organiser James Timms proclaimed the contest had reached "new standards of low". And what does the winner receive? You guessed it: a turnip. She was "completely underwhelmed" by the award. CLICK for Sue She's mistresspiece Knickerless Cage.

Green Cross Code

Okay, kiddies, HM Government is determined to make you safer online, whether you want it or not. So here are its new Green Cross Code graphics for teaching you Internet safety in school: Zip it, Block it, Flag it (title link). Cute graphics; shame about the child psychology. A survey by Symantec (CLICK) scanning 3.5 million Internet searches between February 2008 and July 2009 - a huge sample of the target population - found the top 10 children's search terms are:

1. YouTube
2. Google
3. Facebook
4. Sex
5. MySpace
6. Porn
7. Yahoo
8. Michael Jackson
9. Fred (YouTube star)
10 eBay.

Nanny State Internet Safety Rule No 1, kiddies:
Stop looking for sex and porn!

Wright wins Turner

The Turner Prize furnishes us with further evidence of the validity of The Peter Principle (scroll down or CLICK). Richard Wright wins this year's £25,000 for old rope with an elaborate, gold-leaf fresco which virtually covers one wall of a gallery in Tate Britain (title link). As wallpaper goes, it's a bit too Rococo for me. Might look better in Buckingham Palace.

Monday, 7 December 2009

London Chess Classic

This post may not be about art, but the artwork above is mine (© Coxsoft 1987). I wrote Learn Chess for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K more than 20 years ago. Believe it or not, you can still use it online at World of Spectrum (CLICK). That's the illustration; now here's the news. Tomorrow, 8 December, the London Chess Classic 2009 opens at the Olympia Conference Centre, Kensington, and continues until 15 December (title link). This will be the highest level chess tournament in London for 25 years, with England's four leading grandmasters taking on world chess champions. The price of admission is £10 per adult or £50 for a season ticket for all seven rounds. Children are allowed in free to help promote the game. So, if you have a budding chess cherub, this is the place to take him or her.

Pregeonetric Age?

I'm a firm believer in The Peter Principle: "In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence" (CLICK). You need look no further than the Royal Bank of Scotland to find a bunch of greedy and incompetent fat cats to prove the point. Symptomatic of this problem is a plethora of art colleges and public galleries run by people who are clueless about art, but who can give you loads of gobbledygook to hide that fact. Take the next tosh at the Camden Arts Centre, Katja Strunz: Sound of the Pregeonetric Age, from 11 December to 7 March 2010 (title link). Anyone who thinks that recycled junk is artistic has reached his or her level of incompetence. Even with free admission, it isn't worth the price.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

BP Portrait Entries

The National Portrait Gallery in London has issued its call for entries to the BP Portrait Award 2010, worth £25,000 to the winner. The competition is open to anyone over the age of 18. (Why 18? CLICK to see a wonderful portrait by a 16-year-old schoolgirl.) The closing date is 14 February 2010. If you fancy your chances, click the title link to find an entry form, rules and more details. This portrait of Guillem (2008) by Miriam Escofet gives you an idea of the high standard expected.

Story-telling Art

Sky TV has released a promotional video for its forthcoming Got To Dance series. Written and directed by Matthew Goodwin and creative director Andi Granger, the 45-second video recreates an audition scene from Flashdance. It is a perfect example of the art of visual story-telling. The script has only one essential word: "Next". The show's hostess, the ubiquitous Davina McCall, struts her stuff convincingly, although a double did the vital stunt. Wow! Guess who got the job. Click the title link and scroll down to see the video.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Piglet's Got Talent

Boing, boing ... I've featured some ... boing, boing ... artistic animals ... boing, boing ... on my art blog ... boing, boing ... but this one ... boing, boing ... takes the biscuit ... boing, boing ... Meet Scarlet ... boing, boing ... the trampolining ... boing, boing ... woolly Hungarian mangalitza ... boing, boing ... a very posh piglet ... boing, boing ... She takes after her dad ... boing, boing ... Percy, who got too fat ... boing, boing ... for bouncing ... boing, boing ... She's the next entrant ... boing, boing ... in the TV show ... boing, boing ... Britain's Got Talent ... boing, boing ... if she passes the audition ... boing, boing .... I can't wait ... boing, boing ... for the video ... boing, boing....

Frieze Magazine

While I'm on the subject of art magazines, here's the eye-catching cover of the latest edition of Frieze (title link). I have no idea what this picture is all about and I'm not going to lash out £29 on a year's subscription to find out. For your money you get 8 magazines delivered to your door. If you're in the trade, it's a legitimate expense. If not, you can can get approximately 365 copies of Art Daily delivered to your inbox for free (CLICK). No contest.

Art Review At 60

The December 2009 edition of Art Review is a 60th Anniversary Special. You can read the magazine online for free. Just click the title link and register. The print is tiny and the tone pretentious and elitist, but if you want to bluff your way in art it's a must. You'll find a grovelling review of a stupid installation thingy at Ancient & Modern in London, until 16 January: Hans-Peter Feldmann: Stamps with Nudes. There's also a news item on why Tracey Emin is bad for the environment. Let me guess! And Mayor Bouncy Boris gets the bird for cronyism over his appointment of Veronica Wadley as chief of London Arts Council. Ho hum.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Hughes' Valkyrie

Here is the sale of a painting I regard as more newsworthy than that of the Rubens below. Edward Robert Hughes was a great British master, and his Dream Idyll (or Valkyrie) is a gobsmacker. Last October it went under the hammer at Sotheby’s New York sale of 19th Century European Art including Important British Paintings, Lot 37, estimated value £90,645 ($150,000). I assume it is now lost to the Nation. Not a flicker of interest from BBC News. Not expensive enough? Not a big enough name? No fat-cat BBC deal with Sotherby's New York? Gone! Where? Auntie doesn't give a fig!

Rubens' Mystery Woman

I often wonder what persuades the BBC to give an art auction a free plug when it isn't supposed to be involved in commercial advertising. Take this unfinished and rather uninspiring portrait of an unknown woman by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, which comes up for auction in Sotheby's London evening sale of Old Master and British paintings on 9 December. Its estimated price tag of £6m hardly makes it newsworthy. And the centuries old mystery of the identity of the woman isn't going to be solved by this auction. Spanish lady or courtesan? The answer wouldn't have readers of The News of The World frothing with excitement. So why should the BBC advertise this sale? Could it be that one of the BBC fat cats gets a backhander for doing so? Surely not!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Titian Doge?

Does this look like a Titian to you? Vladimir Ostrovsky, director of the Museum of Western and Eastern Art in Odessa, Ukraine, claims that it is. The State Hermitage Museum in Russia has analysed the materials used in the painting and found the canvas and paints to be of the right period. But! This could be yet another example of wishful thinking. Painting a portrait of a doge was rather like painting a portrait of a king. I would expect more detail in the rich clothing and background from a master painter of that period. This looks too impressionistic. Perhaps a preliminary sketch in oils? By whom? And did he get the commission? And which doge is depicted?

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A Girl And Her Teddy

While dipping into the interminable rubbish of Saatchi Online the other day, I came across this amusing picture of a young woman having fun with her Teddy bear: Lily Lyn's Confusion of Desire 1 (2008). Believe it or not, this is an oil painting, not a photo. Lily's painting technique is masterly. She's not doing badly with her Teddy, either! I thought socks like that went out with The Wizard of Oz, but never mind. Guys, think carefully before you give your girlfriend a jumbo Teddy for Christmas; it might replace you. Click the title link for more of Lily with her furry companion, but be warned: some of her paintings are even more revealing!

Earth Art!

The Royal Academy of Arts and GSK Contemporary present Earth: Art of a Changing World from 3 December to 31 January 2010 at 6 Burlington Gardens in London (title link). This is one to avoid like swine flu. The usual suspects have contributed some amazingly inartistic tripe under the guise of creating debate about climate change. This garish, neon-lit Hot Spot 2006 from Mona Hatoum is the best of a puke-inducing load of cobblers. Don't believe me? CLICK for a BBC News' slide show. Full price admission for this rubbish costs an unbelievable £7.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The War of Troy

It seems I jumped the gun when I announced that the V&A Museum's new Medieval & Renaissance Galleries opened on 2 November (CLICK). Sorry, folks. They open tomorrow: 2 December. Must get new spectacles. Above, Antonio Minello's Statuette of Mercury (1527) examines the War of Troy Tapestry, which will be on display to the public for the first time in 20 years. The 10 new galleries tell the story of European art and design from the fall of the Roman Empire to the end of the Renaissance (AD300 to 1600). Click the title link for a BBC News' video showing some of the treasures to be seen.

Yuletide Skids

It's the first of December and already I'm sick of Christmas! You can't pass a shop or open a newspaper or switch on the TV without hordes of greedy fat cats pushing "bargains" at you, in order to snatch your money and leave you up to your ears in debt for the new year. Beautiful models and "trustworthy" celebrities, hired at vast expense, hawk the fat cats' planet-plundering goods. And yesterday some daffy bishop started moaning about "nonsense" carols (CLICK). Isn't there always one? Why these religious twerps keep trying to claim a British pagan festival as their own is beyond me. Kelly Brook posing in front of a Christmas tree with artificial snow, advertising Calendar Girls at the Noel Coward Theatre in London, is about as good as it gets (title link). Mistletoe, anyone?