Thursday, 31 March 2011

Potato Earth

Here's the most lumpy picture of Earth we've ever seen, a geoid released by the team working on Europe's Goce satellite. It's a hugely exaggerated image which highlights variations of the pull of Earth's gravity. The yellow areas show the strongest pull, the blue areas the weakest. Click the title link to rotate this image and to learn more about geoids and the pull of gravity.

New Tyrannosaurus

Meet Zhuchengtyrannus magnus, illustration courtesy of Robert Nicholls. It's a newly discovered cousin of T. rex, unearthed by a team from University College in Dublin led by Dr David Hone, who named it after the city of Zhucheng, in eastern China's Shandong Province, where it was found. The name means "Tyrant from Zhucheng". And it's big, on a par with T. rex (title link).

Zurbaráns Saved

This is one of Jacob's twelve sons, a set painted by Francisco de Zurbarán from 1640 to 1645 and bought by Bishop Richard Trevor in 1756 for £124. To complete the set, Trevor commissioned a copy of the youngest son Benjamin from British artist Arthur Pond. According to The Jewish Chronicle Online, Pond's Benjamin hangs in Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire. What has JC got to do with this story? Apparently Bishop Trevor was a much-needed friend to Jews in England and his purchase of the Zurbarán paintings is still seen as a statement of support. JC was one of a number of organisations which raised concern last year at the possible sale of these paintings by C of E Church Commissioners (CLICK). The 8ft high portraits tower over diners in a room specifically designed to house them: the Long Dining Room in Auckland Castle, home of the Bishops of Durham for over 800 years and still the Bishop's official residence. To cut a long story short, investment manager Jonathan Ruffer has bought the paintings for £15m and given them back to the Church as a gift through the newly created Zurbaran Trust. They will remain in Auckland Castle (title link) which will be turned into a major tourist trap (CLICK).

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Ming Tombs

That's enough whoopsies for one day (next 3 posts down). Above is Ming Tombs (1954) by Stanley Spencer, who was personally invited to visit the new People’s Republic of China by Chou En-lai. Spencer went there with a British delegation long before the famous Nixon visit of 1972. Ming Tombs - estimated value £80,000 to £120,000 - is one of a huge collection of 20th-Century British Art which Sotheby’s will be auctioning in London from 15 June. It will also be exhibiting Ming Tombs in Hong Kong between 1 – 6 April.

Saatchi Whoops

Due to what it terms The Showdown Fiasco, Saatchi Online has changed the rules for its Showdown art competition, which it regards as "an important experiment in Social Curation". Here are the changes: 1. Community Voting - Select Top 300 Artworks, 2. Jury selects 30 Artworks, 3. Community Voting - selects final artwork from Jury, 4. NO more URLs to be displayed, artists cannot link to their matchup, 5. NO promotion of matchups (no more spam). The painting is Michael Gillespie's delicate Bluebonnets (detail).

StartUp Whoops

The next whoops is a huge embarrassment for David Cameron's new StartUp Britain website, which takes too long to load and features Jessica Ratcliffe, an earnest Cameron and a beaming Sir Richard Branson giving us the thumbs-up sign (CLICK). It was launched on Monday and promptly started diverting visitors to malware that poached their details for potential online fraud! What a whoops! Look out, Sir Richard, there's a naked girl with shaven pubes creeping up behind you! Oh, it's Denni Parkinson. Ignore her. She's just showing off.

BBC Whoops

The BBC website went offline for about an hour yesterday evening, and we didn't even get to see a BBC2 Test Card (1967). All I got was a boring old 404 message from my ISP. Steve Herrmann, editor of the BBC news website apologised for the system failure, due to a technical fault. Auntie denies it was a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

Elektra's Miss Marple

Has The Telegraph jumped the gun with an April Fools Day gag or has Disney gone dizzy? Click the title link for a lineup of actresses who have played Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and you'll see that pride of place is given to Jennifer Garner as Elektra (2005). A new Disney film allegedly updates Miss Marple and relocates her to an unspecified US location. This is headbanging stuff. The essence of Marple movies is in the olde worlde village charm of St Mary Mead, the puffing steam trains, vintage cars and Joan Hickson's knitting (or Margaret Rutherford's gabbling, if you prefer your Marple to be humorous with wobbly chins). Update it and you lose everything of value.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Jeffrey Archer Sale

Claude Monet's ghastly daub La Seine près de Vétheuil temps orageux (1878) is one of the works of art Jeffrey Archer is putting up for auction at Christie's in London on June 28. You remember Jeffrey, don't you? Best-selling author and disgraced ex-MP who did bird for perjury. He recently turned 70 and thinks it's about time he changed his wallpaper. The Monet should fetch around £1m. He expects to raise over £5m ($8m) from the sale.

Ripples Wins

London-based Japanese artist Kazuya Tsuji has won the Grange Garden Sculpture Prize 2011 with this plan for an installation thingy Ripples to tart up darkest Bermondsey in south London. The award brings him prize money of £5,000 and up to £35,000 for materials to build his thingy. It has something to do with the aesthetics of Zen philosophy, whatever they are. Whether the denizens of Bermondsey will appreciate a dollop of Zen in their garden remains to be seen. I don't suppose anyone bothered to ask them. Click the title link to visit GALERIE8 and see plans from all the invited artists.

Monday, 28 March 2011

RA Submissions

Artists have begun submitting their work for the Royal Academy of Arts' 243rd Summer Exhibition, which opens on 7 June. BBC News has posted a slide show of some of the hopefuls (title link). This is cheeky artist Caroline Vollen with her equally cheeky Nude. Too good for the RA, I suspect, Caroline. The current crop of Royal Academicians are more interested in gimmicks than in art. I don't think there's a real artist among them.

Artists At Work

I previewed the exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 2011 a week ago (CLICK). The latest news from the Mall Galleries is that there will be artists at work in the gallery during the show. Above is Paul Banning's Looking down the river, Saramento Basilicata. He is one of the artists who will be demonstrating his skills. Here's the list:
Thursday 31 March - George Politis
Friday 1 April - Robert King
Saturday 2 April - Terry McKivragan, Paul Banning, Bill Toop
Monday 4 April - Robin Hazlewood, Chris Forsey
Tuesday 5 April - Terry McKivragan, Colin Allbrook
Wednesday 6 April - Delia Cardnell, Roger Dellar
Thursday 7 April - Bob Rudd
Friday 8 April - Julia Sorrell
Saturday 9 April - Chris Forsey, Tony Hunt.
These demos are included in the admission price.

Anna Chapman

Anna Chapman was one of ten people the Americans accused of espionage for Russia last summer. New York prosecutors claimed Russia's External Intelligence Service (SVR) had ordered the ten to infiltrate policy making circles and gather information, which is a general description of the work of the "sleeper" spy. All ten pleaded guilty to "conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign country". Clearly a plea bargain had been struck to facilitate a spy swap. This left us all wondering whether the ten sleepers had been activated or not. The BBC's Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg has finally managed to interview Ms Chapman during a break in her weekly show Secrets of the World for Russian channel Ren TV (title link). It was the exact opposite of an interrogation: Ms Chapman was strongly backlit, her face in shadow, and Steve Rosenberg had the light in his eyes. I've had to tweak brightness, contrast and gamma settings to clarify her face in this video still. Conclusion? She epitomizes the art of the social climber. She's beautiful, charming, ambitious, articulate, has a head for business and knows how to milk a situation. In fact she reminds me of Kate Middleton. You don't suppose .... No. Wisely Ms Chapman doesn't reveal whether she was a spy or not. I suspect she enjoyed her social climbing too much to worry about gathering useful information for her spy master.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Pooh Sticks

I nearly overlooked another British institution which took place today. Luckily that office boy who looks after the BBC website when most staff take their weekend break didn't forget it (title link). Saffron Sollitt, a nine-year-old girl from Oxfordshire, won the individual prize in the 2011 World Pooh Sticks Championships, beating 500 other entrants. Well done, Saffron. Just for you, here's Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin playing Pooh Sticks with Piglet watching, illustrated brilliantly by E.H. Shepard.

British Farce Day

Today brings two costly and outmoded British institutions: Census Day and putting the clocks forward by one hour to mark British Summer Time. In the days when changing the time meant adjusting your wristwatch, the clock on the mantelpiece and an alarm clock, it didn't take too long. Nowadays we are surrounded by clocks in central heating systems, ovens, TVs, video recorders, microwave cookers and mobile phones, most of them with fiddly controls and microscopic instructions. My PC is the only thing that adjusts itself. What does all this time-wasting cost us in man-hours? As for the Census, our cities are overrun with immigrants, both legal and illegal, who don't speak English. Half of London's prostitutes are estimated to be Eastern European sex slaves smuggled into the country. If you were their pimp, would you fill out an honest census form? Then there are African children smuggled into the UK to become household slaves (CLICK). Many legal immigrants don't bother to learn English; if they work, they work in language ghettos like the kitchens of Chinese or Indian restaurants. In the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, only 64% of its population filled in the 2001 census form (title link). That was the worst in the country, but the average in London was only 85% for something that is required by law. Did you notice the list of languages which came with the 2011 census form? It covers languages from Akan/Twi-Fante to Yoruba. How much does it cost us to translate all this gibberish? In a futile attempt to drum up trade for 2011, the Census Bus (above) is on its way to a Yoruba-speaking native living somewhere near you (CLICK). What a farce!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Street Children

This terrified boy, caught out alone at night, is about to be shot by Brazilian police officers. Street children are a big problem in many parts of the world, from India to Russia. They are thrown out by their parents, who can't afford to feed them, and must survive alone or in gangs, stealing, begging or prostituting themselves. For years Latin America has been infamous for its death squads that hunt and kill street children. The police officers above shot this boy several times in the chest and left him for dead. He survived. The attack was recorded by a private security camera. Ironically, this boy did have a family to go home to. He wasn't truly a street child. His attempted murder was in August 2010. Afraid of police reprisals, the family, the person in charge of the security camera and the reporter he showed the video to all dithered over reporting the crime. Recently they decided they must report it. The boy and his family are now in a witness protection programme. Five police officers have been arrested and face charges of attempted homicide. It puts today's anti-cuts march in London into perspective.

Save Our Placards

The Museum of London is in the news twice in one day! With an estimated 250,000 people marching through London to protest against Government cuts, students from Goldsmiths University have set up a stall in Hyde Park to Save Our Placards. They want marchers to select historic protest material to be preserved in the Museum of London. Let's hope they can handle one of those big Unison balloons. I can't help thinking that the protester holding No Cuts is confused. She seems to think that today is Red Nose Day. You're not going to topple David Cameron with a red nose, luv; but at least you're showing those Arab rebels how Brits protest. Be silly, show solidarity and waste taxpayers' money on policing the event, plunging us deeper into debt. That's the stuff. I hope you had a nice day.

Street Cries

Yesterday the Museum of London opened a new art exhibition: Street Cries: depictions of London’s Poor. This explores the fashion for depicting the urban poor - street vendors, carpenters, cane-weavers, prostitutes and criminals - in Georgian London. The paintings, prints and drawings are taken from the museum's own collection and include artists such as Gustave Doré, Théodore Géricault, Paul Sandby and Thomas Rowlandson. Shown above is Paul Sandby's Shrimp Seller (c. 1759). Her calculating look implies that she would sell you more than a bag of shrimps if the price were right. The exhibition runs until 31 July, admission free. CLICK for slide show.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Out Of This World

It's Amazing! The British Library has discovered science-fiction! Its first ever exhibition on sci-fi opens on 20 May and runs until 25 September: Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it. Oh yeah, I thought, having been reading and listening to sci-fi since I was an infant. (Anyone else recall Charles Chiltern's BBC radio serial Journey Into Space, from 1953 to 1958?) However, this exhibition has already taught me something. The first work of sci-fi was Lucian of Samasola's True History, published in the 2nd Century. Wow! You'll find BL's sci-fi in its PACCAR Gallery, admission free (title link). CLICK for a BBC slide show.

Dame's Largess

London's Tate Britain and the new Museum of Liverpool, which opens on 19 July (above), are two of the eleven institutions which will benefit from a total of £8.2m which philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield is donating in order to create learning areas for children and young people. My first thought is that there is something radically wrong with our taxation system when someone, no matter how well intentioned, can give away £8.2m during a recession. My second thought is that Dame Vivien is out of date. Her largess would have been better spent on attracting young people into the UK video games industry, which appreciates real art and needs support for research and development. The Chancellor did signal a token £7m in R&D tax credits for the industry in his budget, but TIGA says more is needed (CLICK).

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Badger Update

Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones isn't the only unscientific fathead in the Senedd. She won her vote and the futile and expensive cull of badgers will go ahead in north Pembrokeshire and parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. "This is a pointless piece of lunacy," commented Queen guitarist Brian May. "It makes a mockery of Welsh law in my opinion”. True.

EAC Art Finals

Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) - a national charity that helps older people make informed decisions about meeting their housing and care needs - has posted an online gallery of 121 artworks that have made it through to the finals in the 2010/2011 EAC Art Awards competition for older amateurs. The excellent oil painting above caught my eye, because it shows up well as a thumbnail. The portrait is Darfur Refugee by Ray Foxell, aged 74. He's asking £550 for it. If only.... Click the title link to vote for your favourite three artworks. You must register with EAC to vote. The winner of the EAC People's Choice Award will be announced at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists' Gallery on 14 May.

New Invaders

At first glance this looks like a Buddha wearing a strange necklace. At second glance you might take it for another of H.R. Giger's aliens. Getting warmer. The latest illegal immigrant to hitch a ride into the UK is the European meadow tick (Dermacentor reticulatus). The photo shows a male tick mating with a bloated female. The University of Bristol asked 173 veterinary practices to send any ticks they found to a lab to be identified. Collectively these vets checked more than 3,500 dogs, which is a good sample of the doggy population. Almost 15% of UK woofers had ticks during the summer. Of those found, five from south-east England and west Wales were identified as European meadow ticks. These pests not only suck a dog's blood, but also transmit a number of diseases, such as tick-borne encephalitis. They lurk in long grass, waiting for a woofer to pass. Dog-owners be warned.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Elizabeth Taylor RIP

Another Hollywood icon bows out: Dame Elizabeth Taylor died this morning in a Los Angeles hospital of complications from congestive heart failure. Born in London, she became a child star in Lassie Come Home (1943) and National Velvet (1944). At her peak, she was one of the greatest beauties of her day, famed for her violet eyes (top). She won two Academy Awards and entranced a string of husbands. Richard Burton married her twice. She was honoured for her charity work.

Fake Maya

Last Monday the Binoche–Giquello auction house in Paris sold this sculpture for $4 million. The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have issued a joint statement declaring that the sculpture "was manufactured recently and in no way belongs to any of the Prehispanic Mexican cultures"! The apparent erosion was made to give it an antique appearance. INAH also criticizes the shoe laces, which look to me more Saxon than Mayan. That the $4m sculpture is a fake is bad news for one punter, but worse is to come. INAH experts reckon that of the 207 lots that were auctioned, 140 pieces are prehispanic and 67 were recently made (title link). So there is a thriving market in fake Maya artifacts.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Naomi Tydeman RI

The next show at the Mall Galleries in London will be the annual exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 2011, from 30 March to 10 April. Figurative, abstract, experimental and traditional work will be on display at "affordable" prices. Admission costs £2.50, silver surfers £1.50 (title link). The painting above is a perfect example of how a great artist gets the best out of what might at first seem an unpromising landscape: Naomi Tydeman's Marsh Moon. CLICK to visit Naomi's website and see more of her atmospheric landscapes. Her studio/gallery is in Tenby, Wales.

Tesco Turtles

While I'm on the subject of animal welfare, did you know that Tesco in China is selling live turtles for the cooking pot? Here are the poor creatures, bound into their shells by tight netting, awaiting sale in a Tesco supermarket (title link). They can't be fed or watered. The Chinese are infamous for their cruel and disgusting ways of obtaining food and fake medicines: cutting off the fins of living sharks for soup, beating living dogs to tenderize their meat before slaughter, having rhinos killed for their horns, draining bile from tightly caged Asiatic bears, importing the gallbladders of poached American black bears, killing tigers. Tesco should lead by example, not pander to Chinese ignorance and cruelty. Mark Jones, director of Care For The Wild International, has been calling on Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy to stop selling live turtles, but has been given the runaround (CLICK).

Save Welsh Badgers

On the left is the fathead who wants to kill badgers in Wales: Elin Jones AM, Rural Affairs Minister for Wales (CLICK). She claims to have reached her crass decision after a "full consideration of the matter”. Either she is a liar or a fool, as the weight of scientific evidence is contrary to her decision. It is manifest that farmers unknowingly spread bovine TB by moving infected cattle around the country. The sedentary badger is the farmers' innocent scapegoat. New restrictions on the movement of cattle are already proving this point. Last year, in the Court of Appeal, the Badger Trust won its case against Welsh Assembly Government plans for a trial cull, but this reprieve was due to a procedural failure by the Welsh Assembly, not to a review of the scientific evidence. The Badger Trust is now appealing to assembly members to oppose the cull of badgers in west Wales (CLICK). The big question is: Are assembly members as ignorant, prejudiced and stupid as Elin Jones? They vote tomorrow. If you are confused about this issue, it is because the BBC has fallen well short of its code of impartiality. CLICK for a blatant example of BBC propaganda against those who try to save Mr Brock.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Marriage A La Mode

The Cartoon Museum in London is jumping on the bandwagon of the royal wedding with its next exhibition: Marriage A La Mode, Royals and Commoners in and out of Love, from 23 March until 22 May. The title is taken from William Hogarth's Marriage A La Mode of 1745 which will be on display. And of course there'll be a comic strip featuring the royal couple (detail shown). CLICK for a brief BBC slide show. The title link takes you to The Cartoon Museum website.

Psychedelic Stella

Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckist art movement, has noted the sale of his own painting Psychedelic Stella - portrait of Stella Vine (2001). Despite the painting's optimistic bright colours in oil and acrylic on canvas, Charles' marriage to Stella was a short-lived disaster. (Better than a long-lived disaster!) The portrait is up for grabs at Auction Atrium's Kensington Sale, which has already begun and has only two more days to run, Lot No. 16611 estimated value £400 to £500 (title link).

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Alien Beauty

Here's another example of the influence of H.R. Giger. This alien beauty with strange skull extensions is a Titan from the Travian browser space game Imperion. As you can see, the artwork is superb. This is one of those German games I mentioned earlier today which are persuading Brits to dig deep into their pockets (CLICK). The title link takes you to Imperion. You can play it free.

Nude in Boots

You don't need to look far to spot the influence of H.R. Giger. This is part of the latest ad campaign for trendy UK fashion label Thomas Wylde. The model having a bad hair day is Rosie Huntington Whiteley. I've no idea of the retail price of those studded boots, but a pair of sandals will set you back £1,270. Clients with more money than sense include Charlize Theron, Lindsay Lohan, Cameron Diaz and Sienna Miller. What a delicious egg-shaped curve! If only I could find my calipers; I'm sure there's a golden section in there. Nice one, Rosie.

HR Giger Gallery

Ten days ago I previewed the exhibition HR Giger - Dreams and Visions at the Kunst Haus Wien in Vienna (CLICK). Thanks to a tip-off from Anonymous, I've been browsing the online gallery of Giger's works in the exhibition. I was surprised by how many sculptures are on display. This sculpture shows the alien beauty of some of his works. Click the title link to view the gallery.
N.B. "eBay Buyers Beware: Mr Giger forewarns his collectors and fans that much of the merchandise sold on eBay using his name are fakes, forgeries and cheap imitations in violation of his copyright."

Jerwood Open Prize

By a strange coincidence, only yesterday I wondered what had happened to that costly white elephant Jerwood Visual Arts (JVA). Today the answer arrived: four crafts persons have been awarded an equal share in the first Jerwood Makers Open Prize of £30,000. One is a jeweller, one a glass maker, one a ceramic artist and one an installation thingy person (title link). They were selected from 200 entries. I guess the pointed but pointless glass objects are by joint winner Heike Brachlow. The Jerwood Makers Open exhibition will be at JVA at Jerwood Space, London, from 13 July to 28 August (CLICK). Although its very nice of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation to spread its largess around the UK, I wish it would do something useful with its money, such as a prize for the creation of a Brit. online browser game. Germany dominates this field, worth millions.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Van Dyck Found

This painting The Virgin and Child with Repentant Sinners (ca 1625) by Sir Anthony van Dyck was found in the basement of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. It had been categorized as "an old copy" in the Academy's 1964 inventory and put in the basement. Recently cleaned and restored, it has been authenticated as the original painting by van Dyck. Documents support its attribution. It goes on display in Spain on April Fool's Day (oo-er) in the exhibition Echoes of Van Dyck.

Charlotte Leatherbarrow

That 12-year-old girl who was knocked down and killed by a number 68 double-decker bus in Herne Hill, south London, on Thursday has been named as Charlotte Leatherbarrow, a dancer in the hit show Billy Elliot The Musical. My sympathy goes out to her family and to the cast of the show. Police are appealing for witnesses to the accident (title link). The bus driver was treated by ambulance crews at the scene, presumably for shock. No arrest has been made. The sad deaths of actor Michael Gough (CLICK) and The Shadows base guitarist Jet Harris (CLICK) were also announced this week.

Mask of Janus

So what else did you expect?

Friday, 18 March 2011

Jameel Shortlist

The V&A has named the ten artists and designers shortlisted for the biennial Jameel Prize 2011 (title link). Shown are Hadieh Shafie's Two Scroll Books (2010). The winner of the £25,000 prize will be announced at the V&A on 12 September. Don't hold your breath. The cartoon in the next post down strikes me as a more interesting example of contemporary Islamic art, but I doubt if Gaddafi will give the artist a prize if he catches him!

No-fly Zone

Here's an art twist on one of the vital news stories of the day: a UN resolution authorising "all measures necessary" to enforce a no-fly zone over Lybia to protect civilians. The rebels thought booting Colonel Gaddafi out of Lybia would be easy, as this rebel cartoon shows. Now they are under heavy attack and threatened by Gaddafi with "no mercy". He will carry out his threat if he is allowed to do so. This is the man believed to have ordered the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockabie.

Kate Middleton Model

Yesterday's big news story for royal watchers is that the see-through skirt - yes, skirt; not dress - modelled by Kate Middleton at a charity fashion show at St Andrews University in 2002, when she was 19 years old, fetched £78,000 at auction in London. That price includes a £13,000 buyer's fee. Auctioneer Kerry Taylor had valued the garment at between £8,000 and £10,000. She must be over the moon. The high price paid reflects the historic value of the garment, the contents of which allegedly stirred Prince William sitting in the audience. That's the myth. The reality is they were already shacked up together. So the sight of Kate in her underwear can hardly have been a revelation. What strikes me is the novelty of a healthy and beautiful young woman on a catwalk, instead of those emaciated, knock-kneed models in the early stages of Anorexia nervosa we are used to seeing. Doesn't she make that garment look good? Fashion houses take note.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Canary Wharf Junk

Canary Wharf Group plc has installed its latest pile of abstract junk in Montgomery Square: Drawing Cube (Blue) by Suresh Dutt. I can't find a photo of the 3.5m high monster, so here is its maquette, photo by Stuart Blakley. Believe it or not, Dutt won the First@108 Public Art Award 2010 with this "sculpture". The prize was a £10,000 grant and a prominent public display space. Why on earth would anyone pay £10,000 for this inartistic tosh to be built? Ask the Royal British Society of Sculptors, not me.

Dennis The Menace

It's only two years since D.C. Thomson's The Beano celebrated its 70th Birthday. Now it's time for Dennis The Menace to apply for his bus pass. He first appeared in 1951 and is 60 years old. But will he retire? No way. He's still going strong and he knows that David Cameron expects us all to work till we drop. Gnasher, his loyal canine companion, joined him in 1968. In doggy years, Gnasher should have expired yonks ago. BBC News Magazine wonders how Dennis has managed to survive for so long (title link).

Video Game BAFTAs

Sony's God of War III won the Artistic Achievement Award at yesterday's Video Game BAFTA ceremony at the London Hilton. Mass Effect 2 was crowned Best Game. Call of Duty: Black Ops took the public vote. The big winner was the unusual and censored Heavy Rain with three awards: Original Music, Technical Innovation and Story (CLICK for censored full frontals). Assassin's Creed Brotherhood won the Action category (my tip for Artistic Achievement). And Peter Molyneux gained a Fellowship; remember Populous? A new category the Social Network Game was added this year; it was won by My Empire, a Greco-Roman city-building game playable via Facebook. Click the title link for all the winners.

Film of the Decade

First Light is a Lottery-funded charity supported by the UK Film Council. Its aim is to help young people develop their skills in all aspects of film-making, including animation. Since its launch in 2001 it has helped 40,000 youngsters aged five to nineteen try out their skills and make 1000 films (title link). On Tuesday it held its annual First Light Awards at the Odeon, Leicester Square, London. And what did BBC News report? That Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) was named Film of the Decade (CLICK). This is the third of the Potter franchise, in which Daniel Radcliffe looks stern, Rupert Grint as confused as ever and Emma Watson sports a new bust, wears pink, gets injured and has a bad hair day. Interesting choice, but I'm sure Time Warner doesn't need the publicity. What about the amateur winners, BBC? Anything worth putting on TV?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Justin Bieber in Wax

I suppose this must be yesterday's big art news story. Such is the popularity of teens heartthrob Justin Bieber that Madame Tussauds unveiled new waxworks of him in London, New York and Amsterdam. I suspected the sculptors might have problems with his image, because he is still a growing lad. His measurements were taken eight months ago, when he was still 16, and he appears to have grown 2 inches since then. His face has also matured slightly. He made a surprise visit to the London unveiling. If you can stand the shrill girlie screams of the cameramen, click the title link for a BBC video.

Renaissance Photos

This striking image taken by Heather Buckley, Fish, Chips and Mushy Peas, is one of 100 photos longlisted for the international Renaissance Photography Prize 2011. Renaissance raises money to support the fight against breast cancer. The exhibition opens at the Mall Galleries in London on Monday 21 March and runs until 26 March, admission free. Click the title link for details.

Brit Winners 2011

The Brit Insurance Design Awards winners 2011 have been announced (title link). I'll skip the silly light bulb and the boring old Boris bikes and go straight to the Graphics Award, won by Swedish Interactive graphics agency Forsman & Bodenfors with their novel idea for presenting the ingredients of 30 recipes in their Homemade is Best cookery book, created to promote IKEA kitchens. Of course I don't recognize half these ingredients. My idea of cooking is to nuke something in the microwave. CLICK for a BBC slide show of winning designs.

Big Baby

Here are two brief news items in one post.
1. Christie's in London will auction some of Kay Saatchi's collection on 28 June. This includes Ron Mueck's Big Baby (1996).
2. Watch out, there's a Weiwei about! His Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads will go on display in the courtyard of Somerset House on 12 May (CLICK). Personally I don't see why he should be allowed back into the UK until he clears up that poisonous mess he dumped in the Turbine Hall of Tate Passe (CLICK).

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


Visitors to London's Trafalgar Square will notice a new display, unveiled yesterday evening by Mayor Bouncy Boris and a gaggle of former Olympians: a vision in brushed stainless steel panelling with a giant clock counting down the days to the 2012 Summer Olympiad. One side counts down to the Olympics, the other to the Paralympics. It looks suspiciously like a work of art, but as far as I'm aware no artist has owned up to it. For years BBC London News has bored us with daily reports on Olympic tittle-tattle, trying and failing to whip us all into a frenzy of excitement. I don't think I can stand another 500 days of such relentless monotony. Buy tickets for this jamboree? You'll be lucky if I switch on my TV.
Clock latest: it has stopped!
There's a fine recommendation for the Swiss-based Swatch Group (CLICK). Haw, haw, haw.