Thursday, 31 October 2013

Jane Austen For Sale

Sotherby's will be putting this portrait of Jane Austen by James Andrews up for auction on 10 December, with an estimated value of £200,000. The only likeness of Jane made during her lifetime was her sister Cassandra's grim-faced sketch. That was not how Jane's nephew Rev James Edward Austen-Leigh remembered her. So, when he wrote a biography of his aunt, he commissioned Maidenhead artist James Andrews to paint a more acceptable portrait of Jane based on his own memories of her. This portrait gave a face to the biography and forms the basis of the depiction of Jane on the new £10 note (CLICK). In a strong hint to Ed Vaizey, a Sotherby's spokesman said this portrait is a "part of our cultural history" (CLICK).

Nazi Evil Update

Yesterday evening I posted news of Banksy's The Banality of the Banality of Evil (2013) and wondered if anyone would spot it (scroll down or CLICK). Somebody certainly did. The "thrift shop" is what Brits would call a "charity shop". This one on East 23rd Street is named Housing Works, which provides services for the homeless and HIV/AIDS patients in New York. Rebecca Edmondson, public relations director at Housing Works, said the store received a phone call from one of Banksy's team to assure them the "vandalised" painting was authentic. Banksy's intention was to have the work auctioned for charity. So that's what Housing Works has done. The first online bid was $74,000. That has now risen to $310,200 (CLICK). Bidding ends today.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Banksy's Evil

Banksy keeps coming up with new ways of displaying his art. Somewhere along 23rd Street in New York there is a thrift store containing this oil painting on canvas The Banality of the Banality of Evil (2013) (CLICK). My guess is that this was one of those unoriginal paintings churned out by Chinese artists and exported to the West for punters who want a nice oil-on-canvas landscape at a knockdown price. It's almost a factory process in China. The same artist paints the same picture day after day until he can do it with his eyes shut. That's how the prices are kept so low. Banksy buys this painting in a thrift store, paints the Nazi sitting on a bench enjoying the view, then re-donates his "vandalised" painting to the same thrift store. It's now worth a fortune as a Banksy, but will anyone have spotted it?

Daumier at RA

The Royal Academy of Arts has opened Daumier (1808-1879): Visions of Paris in the Sackler Wing of Galleries, Burlington House (CLICK). This is the first major exhibition devoted to French artist Honore Daumier for over fifty years, with 130 of his paintings, drawings, watercolours and sculptures on display, many never seen in the UK before. Shown is Lunch in the Country (ca 1867-1868). Ticket prices are £10 for adults, £9 for silver surfers. If you're a student of French history....


Money grubbers in the City of London have been getting a deservedly bad press over the last few years. So here's an exhibition to redress the balance: Philanthropy: The City Story. Today, for one month, historic The Charterhouse is opening its doors to the public (CLICK). The exhibition is curated by the Museum of London and funded by the City of London Corporation’s charity, City Bridge Trust. The Charterhouse began life as a Carthusian monastery in the 14th Century. The Dissolution of the Monasteries saw it closed in 1537 and its Prior was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. Various Tudor bigwigs turned it into a mansion and both King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I visited it. In 1611 it was further altered and extended to become a school for poor boys and an almshouse for gentlemen pensioners, all of which was generously endowed by Thomas Sutton, who had made a fortune from coal. The school has since moved away, but the almshouse for gentlemen pensioners, known as The Brothers, remains, called Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse (CLICK).

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Roman Sculpture

This sculpture of an Eagle clasping a Serpent is considered the finest Romano-British sculpture ever found in Britain. It was unearthed in September on a building site in the City of London. It represents the triumph of Good over Evil and is thought to be 1900 years old. It will be on display in the Museum of London for six months from tomorrow. CLICK for more information and graphics.

Banksy's Robot

Here's the latest in Banksy's Better Out Than In series in his one-month New York residency, a robot caught spraying a wall with a barcode, the tin vandal. It appeared in Coney Island yesterday. Banksy has missed only one day of his art attack "due to police activity" (CLICK).

Monday, 28 October 2013

Red Ed or Pink Ed?

I didn't know Ed Miliband was a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community, but he attended the annual Pink List awards ceremony on Saturday. I wonder what category he fits. And does his wife know? Maybe he's just desperate for votes. The lovely young lady shown is Paris Lees, who was born a boy. So she's transgender and a work of art. She won the Pink List award as the most influential lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender figure in the UK. She works for the BBC and also does freelance writing (CLICK). I must say she's a vast improvement on any 24-year-old male.

RAF Photo Winner

At the historic Royal Air Force Club in London, Senior Aircraftman Graham Taylor from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire was presented with his award as 2013 RAF Photographer of the Year (CLICK). His winning portfolio of stunning images includes this photo of a Typhoon silhouetted by desert sunrise in the Middle East. CLICK for a BBC slide show of SAC Taylor's photos. Wow!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Summer Time Ends

Having wasted an hour last night putting back my clocks (the mechanical ones need to be wound forward 23 hours to avoid breaking them) today I discovered why we sod about with this insanity of daylight saving time. We've guessed that it had something to do with blackouts in World War II or milking cows. Wrong. It was first tried out at the end of World War I to conserve fuel, but we can blame Londoner William Willis who wanted longer afternoons to play golf and ride his horse (CLICK)!

Chinese Art at V&A

Yesterday the V&A Museum in London opened its autumn biggy: Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 - 1900. This ambitious survey of one of the world's greatest artistic traditions "brings together the finest examples of Chinese painting from the beginning of the 8th to the end of the 19th century, from small-scale intimate works by monks and literati through to scroll paintings over 14 metres long, many of which have never before been seen in the UK" (CLICK). Shown is a detail from Chen Rong's Nine Dragons (1244). This really is a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, so the cost of admission isn't too bad for adults at £12, but £10 for silver surfers is OTT. Advance booking recommended.

Merkel Bugged

Does anyone remember what a party line was? You shared your telephone line with a group and sometimes, when you lifted the receiver, you broke into someone else's call. This has nothing to do with modern bugging. According to Der Spiegel magazine, the US has been bugging German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone since 2002 and it was still on a surveillance list in 2013 (CLICK). She must think living under the Americans is as bad as living under the commies in East Germany!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sculpture by the Sea

Despite all the bad news we've heard about out-of-control bushfires in the Blue Mountains threatening Sydney, the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition has opened on the Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk (CLICK). This is the world's largest free open-air exhibition of contemporary sculpture. Shown is a visitor pointing to Chinese artist Qian Sihua's giant head of a boy blowing Bubble Gum. Not a cloud nor a wisp of smoke in the sky. The show runs until 10 November, bushfires permitting.

Bouncy opens Bonhams

Watch out! There's a Bouncy about with upraised gavel. What's he up to? He's officially opening Bonhams new £30m headquarters at 101 New Bond Street. He gave a Bouncy-style spiel to a packed reception. “Well done Bonhams for bringing jobs and growth and investment to our city – and renown to London as the leading cultural, artistic and auctioneering capital of the world.” The new HQ is open to the public and showing an exhibition of its top goodies in forthcoming auctions (CLICK).

Crytek Off The Map

Further to my assertion that video games are art (next post down or CLICK) here is a video still from Pudding Lane Productions' Crytek Off The Map (2013). A team of six second-year students from De Montfort University, Leicester, turned historic maps and engravings from the British Library into an atmospheric 3D walk-through video of 17th-century London. The team won first prize in the UK competition Off the Map sponsored by games developer Crytek and run with the British Library and GameCity. The students used Crytek's games developing tool CRYENGINE to create their winning entry (CLICK).

Golden Joysticks

Did you know that the Golden Joysticks are the largest publicly-voted video game awards in the world? This year more than 10 million gamers cast their vote. Grand Theft Auto V won Game of the Year at a ceremony in London (CLICK). Shown is a terrific still from the game. It's sad to note that the BBC subsumes this news under Technology, not under Art or Entertainment. That's what's wrong with the BBC and with ArtReview's Power 100. Top video games make fortunes. And they are Art.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Top Bint

The UK's ArtReview magazine has published its 2013 Power 100 (CLICK). These are the top 100 movers and shakers in the international art market, ranked according to their influence and/or buying power. Top of this year's list is a bint: Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bint al-Thani (2008). She's the sister of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, and is head of the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) with an estimated $1 billion per year to spend on art! This is 3 times what MoMA spent last year and 175 times what Tate spent! No wonder Moneybags Hirst hotfooted it to Qatar to unveil his The Miraculous Journey, to mount an exhibition and to stay with the Qatar royal family (CLICK). Picasso's Child with a Dove also went to Qatar this year (CLICK). And the QMA outbid Larry Gagosian and William Acquavella to buy Cézanne's Card Players for £158m, making it the world's most expensive daub sold at auction (CLICK).

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Sir Anthony Caro Dies

Sir Anthony Caro has died of a heart attack at the age of 89 (CLICK). The photo shows his Blazon on the Roof Garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011. He was much loved by the Anti-art Establishment. Sir Nicholas Serota, "The King of Crap", says Caro was "one of the outstanding sculptors of the past 50 years". I regard "sculptor" as a misnomer to describe a man who welded girders and other bits of metal into abstract shapes and painted them lurid colours. Engineer maybe? CLICK for a BBC slide show.

Warts And All

British-born Samuel Cooper (1609-1672) was our first truly international artist, collected across Europe. His reputation as a "limner" was such that not only did he serve as painter to Charles I and Charles II, but also to Oliver Cromwell, the Protector! The exhibition title Warts And All: The Portrait Miniatures of Samuel Cooper (1609-1672) derives from Cromwell, who instructed the artist to paint him "warts and all". Philip Mould & Co will open this not-to-be-missed loan exhibition of Cooper's miniatures at 29 Dover Street, London, on 13 November. This is the first exhibition of Cooper's work since 1974 and features over 65 portrait miniatures borrowed from the Royal Collection, the V&A, the Ashmolean, other national museums and leading private collections. There are also rare drawings (CLICK).

Uncle Paddy

Aussie artist Nigel Milsom has won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize 2013, worth $150,000, with his painting Uncle Paddy, which to me looks suspiciously like the Frankenstein monster as played by Boris Karloff in James Whale's 1931 classic. All Uncle lacks is a neck bolt. Milsom completed the painting while on bail awaiting sentencing for armed robbery. He is currently serving six years in prison (CLICK). I guess he didn't make it to the award ceremony.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Freud and Freud

The Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna has stolen a march over the Freud Museum in London. The former is currently showing Lucian Freud: In Private: Photographies [sic] by David Dawson. This is a joint venture with the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which is displaying a selection of Lucien’s key works. The excuse is that Sigmund was Lucian's grandfather, who encouraged the lad's artistic bent. Dawson was Lucian's assistant for years and took many photos. This example is Falling Over (2005). Lucian must have hated women to make beautiful models look so ugly (CLICK).

Turner Prize Piddler

The Turner Prize exhibition opened today at a former Army barracks at Ebrington, Derry, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, the first time it has been staged outside England. And good riddance, you might say. It makes a joke of Derry's being the UK City of Culture 2013. City of Unculture? Shown is David Shrigley's Life Model 2012, an installation thingy with a pathetic nude manikin piddling into a bucket. Visitors are invited to draw the piddler, as though this were a real life class. It has already caused outrage, with school visits shunning it (CLICK). What did they expect? Art?

Banksy at Queens

I see the NYPD still hasn't collared that "vandal" Banksy. His latest work in New York City popped up at Queens yesterday: No Turn Unstoned (22/10/13). He claims it's "A 1/36 scale replica of the great Sphinx of Giza made from smashed cinderblocks" (CLICK). I thought that face looked familiar. I think I'll take the scale with a pinch of desert salt.

Barbican Pop Art

The Barbican Art Gallery in London has opened an exhibition celebrating 50 years of Pop Art (CLICK). More than 200 works by over 70 designers and artists are on display. Admission costs £12 adults or £10 silver surfers. CLICK for Gallery Manager Catherine Ince's sales pitch.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Take A View

The 16 winners of Take A View have been announced (CLICK). My favourite is this magnificent Catbells Sunrise, Cumbria. It won Bart Heirweg the VisitBritain You're Invited Award. All the winners will be on show at the National Theatre in London from 7 December.

Beyond El Dorado

If you're into gold, this is the exhibition for you. Beyond El Dorado: power and gold in ancient Colombia has opened at The British Museum and runs until 23 March 2014 (CLICK). The photo shows an Anthropomorphic Pectoral, Colombia, Tairona (AD 900–1600) © Museo del Oro – Banco de la República, Colombia. The exhibition explores the rich and diverse cultures of Colombia before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century. Admission costs £10 for this once-in-a-lifetime show.

Trafalgar Day

Did you know that today is Trafalgar Day, celebrating our victory over the combined Franco-Spanish fleets? The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, has chosen this day to open its new permanent exhibition Nelson, Navy, Nation, which explores the rise of the Royal Navy in the 18th Century (CLICK). Admission is free. Shown is Lemuel Francis Abbott's portrait of Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson (1799) who was taking a break from naval battles, having recently lost his right arm. The BBC has posted an audio slide show by Paul Kerley, narrated by co-curator Quintin Colville (CLICK).

Spanish Sojourns

Here's my favourite oil painting of today: Robert Henri's The Green Fan (Girl of Toledo, Spain) 1912. Henri is best known as a leading artist of the Ashcan School, but he made seven visits to Spain. Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain is the first exhibition dedicated to his Spanish paintings. It opened on the 18 October at the Jepson Center, Telfair Museums, Savannah, Georgia, USA, and runs until 9 March. It will then go on tour (CLICK).

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Upper West Side

They seek him here, they seek him there
Those New York coppers seek him everywhere.
Is he in Hell's Kitchen? Is he in Central Park?
That damned elusive Banksy having a lark.

(With apologies to fans of Baroness Orczy.)

Saturday, 19 October 2013

A New Brueghel

Those of you who know something of art history will think the above painting is Pieter Bruegel the Elder's The Census at Bethlehem (1566), which has been known about for yonks. You can buy prints of it online. But this new discovery shown is Peter Breughel the Younger's The Census at Bethlehem (c. 1611). For some reason best known to himself the Younger Breughel added an "h" to his name. The Pieter has been Anglicized to Peter. This new Breughel belonged to the same English family for 400 years. In the 1940's it was moved to South Africa, where it was recently discovered. Its first showing to the public is on the stand of Johnny Van Haeften Ltd at Frieze Masters in London (CLICK). Sold.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Banksy's Ronald

The photo shows a live shoeshine boy polishing the boots of a fibreglass replica of Ronald McDonald outside a McDonald's joint in South Bronx last Thursday. Banksy has promised the same event at lunchtime outside random McDonalds in New York City for the subsequent week (CLICK). I'm still wondering how the NYPD are coping with this threat. Will there be an armed stakeout at every McDonalds throughout the city? How many McDonalds are there? will screeching police sirens announce the latest polishing? Will the fuzz confiscate the fibreglass Ronald? Will they arrest the shoeshine boy and give him the rubber-hose treatment if he fails to disclose the real name of Banksy and his location? Or will they try the more subtle approach and park plainclothes detectives in unmarked cars to trail the van that comes to collect Ronald? Better still, bug the replica Ronald with a tracking device to locate his hiding place.

Frieze Masters

ArtDaily has been swamped with press photos of the Frieze Masters art fair in Regent's Park, so much so that for two days running it has posted a collection as The Best Photos of the Day (CLICK). It's worth looking at them to see the appalling trash you're avoiding by not visiting the show. Sadly, one of the worst offenders is British artist David Shrigley, whose idiotic doodles and a statue entitled Lady Taking A Poop hit rock bottom. So far, I've noticed only two works worth a place in any art show. Yesterday I posted The Abduction of Ganymede. Today it's Vanessa Von Zitzewitz's charming and tasteful nude photo of Carla (1999). Not thee Carla married to the ex-president of France?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Get Banksy

Banksy has posted a copy of the New York Post on his website (CLICK). The headline Get Banksy is followed by this tongue-in-cheek news story: "Quick, call the cops! We're having an art attack! The elusive British street artist/vandal known as Banksy has driven the NYPD [New York Police Department] bonkers during his 'residency' in New York - and police are going all out to find him." Various New York politicians have either condemned Banksy as a "vandal" or admitted they've never heard of him, which shows just how clueless these right-wing plonkers are (CLICK). At his own considerable expense, Banksy is giving his fans the best art exhibition New York has ever seen. And it's a democratic show for the man, woman and child in the street. America prides itself on being the guardian of Democracy. So why is the NYPD running around with egg all over its face? Surely it has better things to do than try to arrest Banksy.

Frieze London

The 11th Frieze London art fair and its companion show Frieze Masters opened in Regent's Park today and runs until 20 October (CLICK). More than 150 of the world's top contemporary galleries have invaded the park to flout their wares at the well-heeled. Shown is The Abduction of Ganymede (c.1615-1620) painted by an unknown artist, possibly Tuscan and active in Rome. So much for provenance. As for artistry, if Zeus had grabbed Ganymede round the calves like that, he would probably have broken the lad's back when he took off. If you need to ask how much admission costs, you can't afford it. This is for the elite. You can see some of the sculptures in Regent's Park for free if you go toward the fair. Take your dog for a walk and see which sculpture he cocks his leg against (CLICK).

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Paul Klee Show

Today Tate Passé lived down to its nickname by opening The EY Exhibition: Paul Klee - Making Visible (CLICK). This major retrospective runs until 9 March 2014. I couldn't think of a more passé artist if I tried. And the price for viewing this outmoded tosh is £15 for adults or £13.10 for silver surfers! Mathew Gale, the curator of the show, describes some of the exhibits as "achingly beautiful" (CLICK). He must live on another planet. The best I could find was this watercolour: A Young Lady's Adventure (1922). For some reason she reminds me of Mr Magoo. Maybe Mr Magoo's granny? Give it a miss.

Wildlife Awards 2013

The winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 have been announced and the BBC has posted a slide show (CLICK). This most unusual photo Mother's Little Headful won 14-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar from India the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 award. It shows hatchling gharial crocodiles crowding on the mother's head for protection. Udayan camped overnight on the bank of the Chambal River in Madhya Pradesh, India, to get this early morning shot of a rare species. Gharials (freshwater crocodiles) are under threat, due to illegal sand mining and fishing. There are only around 200 left in the wild. The exhibition of 100 top photos opens at the Natural History Museum in London on 18 October and runs until 23 March 2014, admission £10.90 adults or £5.45 silver surfers, excluding donations. Half price! Sadly, entry to this must-see show for kids (4-16 years) is £5.40 (CLICK).

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Russian Art Week

If you're into Russian or Greek Orthodox icons, the Willow Gallery in London will be showing 60 important pieces gathered by Jan Morsink Ikonen of Amsterdam, mainly from private collections. It's part of Russian Art Week in London, which takes place from 22 to 29 November. Major auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams and MacDougall’s will join together to present a series of Russian sales in London (CLICK). Shown is Saint Aleksei (1904). Don't ask me why he carries a furled pink parasol. Maybe he's showing his feminine side. I suppose it could be a souvenir from his cross-dressing days. I must admit I find these icons predictable and boring. CLICK for more info.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Army Photo Awards

The National Army Museum in Chelsea, London, is currently showing a display of the Army Photographic Awards 2013, until 22 October (CLICK). There are some crackers. I was torn between Cpl Mike O'Neil's Dawn Patrol in Helmand, Afghanistan, and Sergeant Adrian Harlen's photo of Captain Charlie Fitzroy with Thomas, at 22 one of the oldest horses in the Household Cavalry. As you can see, I plumped for Thomas. CLICK for a BBC slide show.

Banksy Stall

Banksy artworks sell for thousands of pounds. We've seen them cut from walls and shipped abroad at vast expense. So, imagine the scepticism when a stall selling Banksy artworks for $60 each was set up in New York's Central Park on Sunday. Just 8 of the canvases were bought for a grand total of $420 (£263). One woman actually negotiated a 50% reduction for buying two. They were all authentic original signed Banksy canvases worth about £20,000 each! CLICK to view Banksy's video. Note: this was a one-off.

Madeleine McCann

UK police have issued two e-fits of a man they want to interview concerning the abduction of Madeleine McCann (CLICK). I've added an artist's impression made a few years ago, prior to the Scotland Yard investigation, possibly of the kidnapper. The two e-fits just released are of the same man as described by two different witnesses. This proves just how unreliable witness descriptions are. The one on the left looks like Desperate Dan. The one in the middle has similar sharp features to the man on the right, although the hairstyles are completely different. All the latest developments in the case, including a 25-minute reconstruction, are to be shown on BBC One's Crimewatch at 9pm tonight (CLICK).

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Emma Watson

In case you missed this news, the readers of Empire Magazine have voted British actress Emma Watson the sexiest female movie star. Here she is in The Bling Ring (2013). The Telegraph has posted a slide show of Emma wearing some of her collection of red-carpet dresses (CLICK). And the sexiest male movie star? Benedict Cumberbatch, another Brit. CLICK for Empire Magazine.

Kara Walker

The Camden Arts Centre is the latest gallery in London to open an X-rated art show. "Please note the subject matter in the exhibition is challenging and explicit." Kara Walker, who describes herself as a "Negress", takes an uncompromising view of American slavery which is both racist and rude. Black cutouts feature rubber-lipped, big-bummed blacks receiving the unwanted attentions of nasty white slavers in silhouette. Shown is a video still from Kara Walker's Fall From Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale (2011). I usually give Camden Arts Centre shows the bum's rush, but this one looks thought-provoking and artistic. Admission is free. So, if you're not easily offended, it looks worth a visit (CLICK).

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Mall Galleries

The Mall Galleries in London opens two exhibitions next week. On Tuesday 15 October it opens the annual show of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters Sculptors and Gravers. This is the world’s foremost showcase for contemporary miniature art, with a size limit of 6in by 4in. Around 700 works will be on display: landscapes, portraits, still-lifes, interiors, birds, animals and sculptures. Admission is free. On Wednesday the Gallery opens the Royal Society of Marine Artists annual show. Anything that involves tidal waters is a potential subject for these artists: the sea, harbours, shorelines, racing yachts, traditional craft, historical work, beaches and creeks. Shown is Digging for bait at low tide, Staithes by David Curtis ROI RSMA. Atmospheric misty quality. Admission is £3 adults, £2.50 silver surfers. Both shows run until 27 October. If you can't make the RSMA show, CLICK for an online gallery.

Oh, Lesus!

Shown is a special commemorative coin honouring Pope Francis. Nice artwork. Shame about the cock-up. I've marked the spot with an X. Jesus was misspelled Lesus. Nobody at the Vatican noticed the misspelling before the mould was sent to the Italian State Mint and Polygraphic Institute to be turned into coins. Lasers were used to trace a digital image based on the mould. Nobody checked the spelling. So 6,000 coins were minted in bronze, silver and gold and sent to the Vatican. Still nobody checked the spelling. It wasn't until the Vatican began distributing the coins to dealers that somebody noticed the mistake. Dealers have a keen eye for this sort of thing, because it can make them a small fortune. Yesterday the Vatican withdrew as many of the Lesus coins as it could retrieve from the dealers (CLICK). Oh, Lesus!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Banksy's Sirens

Of late I've been ignoring Banksy's month-long residency in New York. Here's the very latest in his Better Out Than In series: The Sirens of the Lambs (2013). He's fitted out a slaughterhouse delivery truck with glove puppets making pathetic sqeaking sounds. The truck began touring the meatpacking district today and will then go citywide for the next two weeks. Sounds grim, but it's actually very funny. CLICK to watch a video of pedestrians' reactions to the mewling puppets.

Facing the Modern

Yesterday The National Gallery in London opened its autumn biggy in the Sainsbury Wing: Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900 (CLICK). This major exhibition examines the central role of portraiture in Viennese painting and the upheaval in traditional art that marked the years around 1900. Gustav Klimt's Portrait of a Lady in Black (1894) is the peak of quality before it all plunges into the depths of modern art with people like Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. I'm not at all sure it's worth lashing out £11 for adults or £10 for silver surfers to view Vienna's descent into the abyss of modern art. One good point is that admission is only £5.50 for silver surfers on Tuesday afternoons 2.30–6pm.

Zombie Fungi

Did you know that Sunday 13 October is National Fungus Day? To celebrate this fact the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in west London will open its Fungarium to the public. This is the largest collection of dried fungi in the world (CLICK). If dried fungi aren't your thing, how about willow sculptor Tom Hare's Fungi Fairy Ring (2013) shown. He depicts seven different species of native edible fungi in gigantic form. CLICK to view a BBC audio slide show by Paul Kerley and learn about Zombie Fungi. Yuck!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Elizabeth & Raleigh

It always helps to have a new exhibition kicked off by a discovery. Elizabeth I & Her People opened today at the National Portrait Gallery in London (CLICK). While cleaning a portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh in preparation for the show, conservators found a moon and strip of sea in the top left corner. This is taken as a sign of Raleigh's secret passion for the Queen, represented by the moon. He of course is represented by the sea. To me it looks like monumental crawling to the most powerful woman in England. CLICK for a close-up and a lot more waffle on this subject. It doesn't persuade me that the exhibition is worth £12.20 or £11.30 for silver surfers. On Wednesdays silver surfers can enter for only £10.40, saving 90p. Big deal!

The Mekon

It occurred to me that my younger readers won't have understood my reference to the mekon in yesterday's post on Moneybags Hirst's gangnam style neonate (scroll down or CLICK). So here is The Mekon, created by Frank Hampson in 1950 for the Eagle comic strip Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future. For everything you ever wanted to know about The Mekon, but were afraid to ask, CLICK. Interesting footnote: Eagle was founded by Marcus Morris, an Anglican vicar who felt that the church was not getting its message across. He and Frank Hampson created a comic based on Christian values: Eagle. The idea was rejected by a number of publishers before Hulton Press took a chance. Huge success (CLICK).

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Miraculous Journey

Continuing today's theme of motherhood, here's the latest from Moneybags Hirst, one of 14 giant bronze sculptures depicting the development of a foetus from gestation to birth: The Miraculous Journey (2013). This is the neonate dancing Gangnam Style. Whoop! Whoop! Its face reminds me of the mekon in Dan Dare. A go-ahead member of Qatar's royal family commissioned the bronzes to stand outside Sidra Medical and Research Center in Doha, at a reported cost of £12m. Religious nutters are outraged, but not by the price (CLICK).