Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New Year Honours

The creators of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, ceramic artist Paul Cummins and theatre designer Tom Piper, are both made MBEs in the Queen's New Year Honours list. The installation attracted five million visitors, including Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh (shown). Joan Collins has finally made it from Rank starlet and pin-up girl to Dame, through her services to charity. Veteran actor John Hurt receives a knighthood. There is also a knighthood for Dr Simon Campbell, who was instrumental in developing viagra while he was senior vice-president at Pfizer. A total of 1,251 people have been honoured (CLICK).

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Don't Bother

If you were thinking of going into London tomorrow evening to watch the New Year fireworks display, don't bother. The £10 tickets are all sold out and ticket touts are flogging their tickets for £80 each. A quarter of a million people turned up last year and crowd control was impossible. Hence the new charge. Watch it on BBC TV instead. And something needs to be done about ticket touts grabbing fistfulls.

Monday, 29 December 2014

£100 Coins

The Royal Mint has produced 50,000 commemorative £100 coins showing Big Ben clock tower, renamed Elizabeth Tower. The coins are legal tender, but won't be in general circulation. They are aimed at collectors. So don't panic. This isn't a sign of inflation going through the roof (CLICK).

Shakespeare's Voice

The British Library's life-sized marble statue of William Shakespeare, commissioned by actor-manager David Garrick and created by Louis Francois Roubiliac, is the latest work to be included in Talking Statues, the public art project which has animated statues across London and Manchester. The competition to create a maximum of 400 entertaining words for the Bard to say was won by budding screenwriter Ed Wiles. That old ham Simon Callow does the voiceover (CLICK). To learn more about the history of the statue CLICK.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Fake or Fortune?

Here's one scrap of good news on the BBC front. A new series of Fake or Fortune? with Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce will go into production in the Spring for release on BBC One later in 2015. This will be Series 4. It is the most fascinating art programme on TV (CLICK).

John Carter Film

Amidst all the repeats and festive dross on British TV, I've actually found a premiere! John Carter (2012) is based on the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs' series of Mars fantasy novels A Princess of Mars (1917). It stars Taylor Kitsch as John Carter and Lynn Collins as Princess Dejah Thoris, the exotic beauty who captivates Carter. What's the point of being a hero with superhuman powers if you haven't got a princess in distress to rescue? The film is on today on BBC Two at 6pm (CLICK). Will the BBC let me see it on my PC?

Update: no, it won't. I got the usual copyright message telling me I can watch it on my TV. I would if I had one. Nowadays people are watching TV on laptops, even smartphones. The modern TV is a computer in disguise. So what is the BBC playing at? Why is it wasting licence payers' money on programmes those of us without TVs can't view, due to copyright restrictions?

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Chaplin's Tramp

It may have escaped your notice that 2014 is the centenary of the debut of Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp in Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914) an 11-minute silent short made by Keystone Studios and shot during the Junior Vanderbilt Cup. It was Chaplin's second released film. Note the camera in the background. Getting in its way was the "plot". Chaplin signed this photo. The Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland, delved into its Chaplin Archives to create the exhibition Chaplin Between War and Peace (CLICK).

Festive Cheer

What a load of old tat on British TV over the festive season! No wonder MPs were complaining to the BBC about repeats. Ancient shows and geriatric performers have been dragged out of retirement to give us seasonal cheer. The usual Church platitudes were intoned between cringeworthy carols. And most films halfway interesting the BBC blocked from computers and displayed a notice about copyright. Even the art world wilted under the strain of it all. The best artwork I spotted today was Mel Ramos's painting Hippopotamus (1967). And that's in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, displayed in the exhibition Ludwig Goes Pop (CLICK). Thank goodness for Downton Abbey on ITV, a two-hour Christmas special that flashed past so fast it seemed like half an hour.

Friday, 26 December 2014


Recognize him? Of course not. But he's the art dealer who foisted impressionism upon a sceptical world and who founded the modern art market in the process. His name was Paul Durand-Ruel, painted here by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1910. Durand-Ruel bought and promoted the work of a group of young artists which included Monet, Degas, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley. The National Gallery is bringing together around 85 works, some of them never seen in the UK before. Inventing Impressionism is the UK's first major exhibition devoted to Durand-Ruel. It opens in the Sainsbury Wing on 4 March 2015, cost £18 or £14 for silver surfers (CLICK).

Freedom Prevails

Isn't it amazing how watching a dire movie that should have been aborted at the concept stage has been turned into a patriotic duty in the USA? The big cinema chains shunned The Interview after threats, but Sony released the "comedy" online and to independent cinemas for Christmas Day and the punters started queuing. Shown is the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta trumpeting "YES WE GOT IT" and "FREEDOM PREVAILS". Freedom to watch tripe, according to most of the critics (CLICK). Meanwhile the online services of Sony's Playstation and Microsoft's Xbox crashed yesterday, allegedly hacked by a group calling itself the Lizard Squad (CLICK).

9th Birthday

London Art News is nine years old today. I wrote my first post on Boxing Day 2005, noting the 80th birthday of Winnie-the-Pooh on Christmas Eve and moaning that Pooh's illustrator E.H. Shepard hardly got a mention. More than 7,000 posts later, I'm still blogging. It's addictive stuff this blogging.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Megumi Igarashi 3

I wasn't expecting the saga of a vulva-shaped kayak by Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi to feature on Christmas Day, but the latest news from Tokyo is that prosecutors have indicted her on three charges of distributing "obscene" data. (CLICK for my earlier posts on this saga.) Specifically the charges relate to CD-ROMs containing computer code for a 3D printer that would allow users to make copies of the vulva-shaped kayak. If convicted, Megumi faces up to two years in prison and/or a fine of 2.5 million yen (CLICK).

Happy Christmas

London Art News wishes all its readers a Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

National Gallery Strike

If you're thinking of visiting the National Gallery in London over Christmas or the new year, be warned that staff are striking against privatisation on 27 and 29 December and 3 January. The Gallery intends to privatise nearly 400 of its 600 staff. What on earth for? To make profits for a private company? CLICK to find out more and to sign the 38 Degrees petition. CLICK for the campaign Facebook page for updates. The painting used by 38 Degrees is Two Tax-Gatherers (1540s) from the studio of Marinus van Reymerswale (CLICK).

Coons Plagiarism?

The Centre Pompidou in Paris has withdrawn this porcelain sculpture from its retrospective of the works of Jeff Koons, following an accusation of plagiarism by Franck Davidovici, who created a similar image for an advertisement for French clothing brand Naf-Naf. Koons' sculpture Fait d'Hiver (1 of 4) has a pig with a barrel under its neck, like a Saint Bernard rescue dog, and the bust of a girl as though caught in an avalanche. Koons' sculpture fetched $3.7 million at a Christie's New York auction in 2007 (CLICK).

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Big Eyes

BBC News has interviewed Tim Burton about his latest film Big Eyes (2014) which tells the story of those ghastly paintings of wide-eyed children allegedly painted by Walter Keane. In fact they were painted by his wife Margaret Keane, played in the film by Amy Adams. Walter was a wheeler-dealer who made a fortune out of his wife's popular works. Eventually the truth came out when she divorced him (CLICK).

Les Edwards

It's been a busy year for Les Edwards, the UK's top science fiction, fantasy and horror artist. He was Artist Guest of the World Fantasy Convention in Washington DC. He describes it as "great fun but it took a lot of preparation". He has also been working on a top secret project for Centipede Press, which briefed him that his work should be as "Frazetta-like" as possible! The secret can now be revealed. Here is Les's jacket cover for Death Angel's Shadow by Karl Edward Wagner, which will be published in August 2015 by Centipede Press. The book also includes five black and white illustrations by Les. CLICK for his website.

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Miniaturist

Thriller The Miniaturist, the debut novel by Jessie Burton, has topped a public poll to find the best book of 2014 to win Specsavers Book of the Year. The Miniaturist has also been named Waterstones Book of the Year. Looks as though it might be worth trying (CLICK).

Architects as Artists

The V&A Museum in London is currently showing Architects as Artists, a free display in Room 127 which serves as the entrance to the recently redeveloped Architecture Gallery on Level 4. The display of about 50 works examines how making art has contributed to architects’ practice, from Raphael's drawing of the Pantheon in Rome to the present day with the FAT Architecture project with Grayson Perry for A House for Essex. Shown is William Burges's Designs for Truro Cathedral (1878). The display runs until 29 March 2015. CLICK for more information.

Billie Whitelaw RIP

That fine British actress Billie Whitelaw has passed away aged 82. She had the rare ability to make the characters she portrayed seem like real people, whether she was playing George Dixon's daughter in Dixon of Dock Green or the nanny from Hell in The Omen (1976). She began her long and distinguished career at the age of 11 in a radio broadcast. She died in a nursing home with her son at her bedside (CLICK).

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Caroline Flack Wins

Congratulations to TV presenter Caroline Flack and her professional dance partner Pasha Kovalev for winning Strictly Come Dancing's glitterball trophy. For the first time ever the judges gave their three dances maximum points. Viewers' votes decided it (CLICK).

Protecting David

I've discovered another of my own combined graphics from my old website Coxsoft Art, showing three views of Michelangelo's David (1501-1504). The news story that prompted my search for a picture of David is that the statue is to be protected from earth tremors by a new plinth. The region around Florence, where the statue stands, has had hundreds of earth tremors in recent days. Experts fear that micro fractures in David's legs could bring the statue crashing down. The Italian government will spend around £156,000 on the new plinth. The work will take about a year to complete. Fingers crossed it's not too late (CLICK).

Saturday, 20 December 2014

GOP American?

North Korea has reiterated its denial that it hacked Sony Pictures and has offered to hold a joint inquiry with the United States. One wonders who the FBI water boarded to point the flying finger of blame at Kim Jong-un. We know he's miffed, but the possibility that the hacking code was written on a PC with North Korean locale is no smoking gun. Hackers can relocate computers in cyberspace. The #GOP graphic with its gruesome image and its command of English makes it far less likely that the perpetrator was a nation state. It looks the sort of image the Hells Angels might dream up. I'm not suggesting the hackers are Hells Angels, but that America could be the source of the code. Sony has miffed a lot of music fans with its software protection of CDs, and in 2011 hacking group Anonymous launched a campaign to crash the PlayStation Network. So, domestic revenge looks favourite (CLICK).

Boris Approves Bridge

London Mayor Bouncy Boris has approved Thomas Heatherwick's controversial Garden Bridge to be built across the River Thames. Construction could begin next year (CLICK). I'm concerned about the copper cladding the bridge requires. Is it safe for water life?

Friday, 19 December 2014

Ennio Morricone

The BBC's art editor Will Gompertz grabbed the chance to interview veteran film composer Ennio Morricone during Il Maestro's visit to London to reshedule his concert at the O2 Arena (CLICK). Originally My Life In Music was booked for 10 December. It will now take place on Thursday 5 February 2015, beginning at 6.30pm. Tickets are transferable. If you haven't booked, you're probably too late. Console yourself with the thought that you've saved £66.25 or £142.75 (CLICK). Morricone has scored over 500 movies and TV shows during his career and is the only composer to receive an honorary Oscar. Shown is Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966). Its score is ranked No. 2 in the Top 200 best film soundtracks ever composed (CLICK).

Museum Night 3

The British Museum is celebrating its starring role in Night At the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, which hit UK cinemas today. Much of the film was shot in The British Museum after hours (CLICK). This is Ben Stiller's third visit to a museum in the dark and surely it must be his last. The trailer is enough to put anyone off (CLICK). More dire American tripe. The only fun to be had is spotting all the celebrities playing bit parts, like Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney. The film also stars the late Robin Williams in his final role.

Rossetti Sketch

Here's another gem to be auctioned in Bonhams New Bond Street sale of 19th Century European, Victorian and British Impressionist Art on 21 January. Dante Gabriel Rossetti drew this intimate pen-and-ink sketch of his muse Jane Morris reading a book in 1873. Lost for 150 years, it turned up in a private collection in America. Its estimated value is £20,000 to £30,000. CLICK to view the full sketch.

Sony Hack

It looks as though North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un is having the last laugh on Sony Pictures. Chubby Chops was miffed when he heard that in The Interview his head explodes like a ripe melon. Sony has since been hit with some very costly hacks. The last straw came when hackers The Guardians of Peace (#GOP) threatened cinemagoers that "the world will be full of fear" if the film were screened. Sony caved in and cancelled the release of the film altogether. Critics in Hollywood have bemoaned this as an attack on freedom of expression. The White House has classed it as a national security issue (CLICK). The film is dire American tripe that should never have got past the script stage. I'm reminded of the Yanks' decade-long attempt to extradite Briton Gary McKinnon to punish him for the "biggest military computer hack of all time" (CLICK). They need to recruit hackers like Gary, not persecute them.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Churchill Record

Yesterday Sir Winston Churchill's The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell (1932) fetched a record-breaking price at Sotheby's auction in London. It had been estimated at £400,000 to £600,000, but in the event it sold for almost £1.8 million. Undoubtedly one of his best paintings, it was accepted for the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition in 1948. If memory serves me correctly, the fishes are golden orfe (Leuciscus idus), not common goldfish. The sale raised £15.4 million for the estate of Mary Soames, who died this year (CLICK).

Towa Takaya

The 5th Base Gallery at 23 Heneage Street, London, E1 5LJ, has opened Plastic Rendez-Vous by Japanese artist Towa Takaya. The blurb has the smack of teenage angst about it. "These paintings and drawings will unravel the transient shapes of love that mainstream pop-culture chooses not to present" (CLICK). So much for Tokyo. It's all fleeting, plastic liaisons. The exhibition runs until 21 December.

Twilight Painting

This atmospheric oil painting Yew Court, Scalby by Twilight (1877) by that fine British artist John Atkinson Grimshaw has emerged from a private collection to be auctioned in Bonhams New Bond Street sale of 19th Century European, Victorian and British Impressionist Art on 21 January. This painting - Lot 97 - is estimated at a conservative £70,000 to £100,000. It isn't the only gem in the sale (CLICK).

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


If you're into the naked female body as landscape, then Ladyscapes - A Celebration of the Female Form, photography by Sean Pines, is the exhibition for you. It's on at Gallery 320 in Bethnal Green, London, until 28 December. "Sean explores different ways to capture form and light and the interaction of both to convey differing moods, styles and interpretations of womanhood from a male perspective" (CLICK).

Elvis at The O2

Seeing this monstrous Lincoln Continental reminds me of Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile (1965). But that's beside the point. The photo shows Priscilla Presley posing with Elvis Presley's Lincoln Continental at the O2 in London (15/12/14). The O2 is staging the "largest Elvis exhibition ever in Europe" over the next nine months, with over 300 artifacts direct from the Presley family’s Graceland Archives, Two prices: £10 or £20, plus "service charges" (CLICK).

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Four Times of Day

The National Gallery in London is celebrating acquiring The Four Times of Day by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, which the Gallery boasts is "A Christmas present for the nation" (CLICK). Corot painted these four large panels to decorate the studio at Fontainebleau of his friend and fellow painter Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps. They represent Morning, Noon, Evening and Night in that order. Corot completed the cycle in one week. I've combined the four panels into a single graphic so that you can view them side by side.

Peshawar Outrage

There are some evil sons of bitches in this world, not the least of them belonging to the Pakistani Taliban. Their brutal attack on an army-run school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar killed at least 140 people, mostly children. This is the same cowardly mob that shot Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai for campaigning for the right to an education. The object of today's attack was to kill as many children as possible before security forces regained control. Five or six Taliban gunmen marched through classrooms firing indiscriminately at children. A Taliban spokesman said the assault was in response to army operations, a feeble excuse for murdering children (CLICK).

William Blake

The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, attached to the University of Oxford, is currently showing William Blake: Apprentice and Master, which brings together more than 90 of his most celebrated works and offers new insights into his remarkable originality and influence (CLICK). Shown is Blake's Los howl’d from The First Book of Urizen (1796). Tickets cost £10 for adults, £8 for silver surfers.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sydney Siege

You might think that a refugee who was granted political asylum would owe his host country a debt of gratitude, but that's not how self-styled Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis saw it. He was soon convicted of sending offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers. He set himself up as some kind of healer with the emphasis on the hands-on approach. At the time he took hostages in the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney's Martin Place, he was on bail facing more than 40 sexual and indecent assault charges plus being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. He decided to go out with a bang and commandos from the Tactical Assault Group obliged him (CLICK).

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Stuart Little Art

If you look above the head of Jonathan Lipnicki, the small boy between Hugh Laurie and Geena Davis, you'll see Hungarian artist Robert Bereny's avant-garde daub Sleeping Lady with Black Vase (1928) on the wall. It was used as a prop on a set of the Columbia Pictures' film Stuart Little (1999). A decade later art historian Gergely Barki spotted the long-lost daub while watching the film with his daughter Lola. Yesterday the painting fetched over 200,000 euro-thingies at an auction in Budapest. It's a long story (CLICK).

Small Stories

Yesterday the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green opened Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls' House, which runs until 6 September 2015. The museum has a fine collection of dolls' houses, dating back 300 years. For this new exhibition they've been updated with characters that light up and tell their stories when buttons alongside the showcases are pressed, the small stories of the title. Entrance is free. There are also daily activities: storytelling, arts and crafts, tours and trails. So this is a venue to keep in mind for school holidays, when bored cherubs are driving you crazy. There's a lot more information on the website: CLICK.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Two Shows at Mall

The Mall Galleries in central London recently opened two new exhibitions. The first is Andrew Stock Visits Ulusaba, a private game reserve near the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Andrew is displaying 40 new oil paintings, watercolours and sketches of the wildlife he observed there. His work is in the Threadneedle Space, admission free, until 18 December. The second show is The Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI) Annual Exhibition, which runs until 21 December, admission £3 or £2.50 for silver surfers (CLICK).

Head of Augustus

The British Museum in London has put on display The Meroë Head of Augustus, unearthed in 1910 in northern Sudan. The bronze head was decapitated in celebration of a victory by Kushite forces over the Roman Empire and buried beneath the steps of a victory monument at Meroë, so that worshippers symbolically trampled Augustus’ head as they entered the building. The free display is in Room 3 (CLICK).

Friday, 12 December 2014

Audrey Hepburn 3

Yesterday I chanced upon the BBC Two series The World's Most Photographed, Episode 3 Audrey Hepburn, made in 2005. It's available on iPlayer for the next four weeks (CLICK). It's an eye-opening 29-minute film beginning with Audrey as a young girl joining the resistance in Nazi occupied Holland to convey messages on her bicycle. The Nazis confiscated food for their troops. Starvation led to Audrey being too weak to go to ballet school after the war. Her Fascist father deserting the family was another deep trauma in her life.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Eagle Face

Meet Aquilops americanus, which means "American eagle face". Paleontologists working in Montana unearthed a 3.3 inch skull of this creature, which makes it the size of a crow. This miniature dinosaur lived during the Early Cretaceous Period some 108 million years ago, which is 20 million years older than the next known horned dinosaur in the area. Eagle Face is the oldest dinosaur found in North America (CLICK).

Venus Verticordia 2

Two months ago I reported that the watercolour version of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's most sensuous painting Venus Verticordia (1868) would be up for grabs in Sotheby's London auction of British & Irish Art on 10 December, estimated at £1m to £1.5m (CLICK). Yesterday four bidders drove the sale price up to £2,882,500, the highest price ever paid for a watercolour by Rossetti at auction. The winning bidder is a UK private collector. At least it won't be leaving the country. The oil painted version of Venus Verticordia is in the collection of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth. The model was Alexa Wilding (CLICK).

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Merry Pissedmas

This amusing face caught my eye when I flicked through Monday's London Evening Standard. Its label is Merry Pissedmas and it draws attention to an appalling load of trivia by Phoebe Luckhurst, who regards December as one long hangover. Her advice is to revel in it, order fry-ups straight to your door, buy expensive hair-of-the-dog alcoholic mixtures and iffy salves for the bags under your eyes (CLICK). Tongue-in-cheek or not, this is trite, irresponsible journalism at its very worst. Drunken young women are likely to get raped or arrested in the streets when caught tottering about or fighting. And only alcoholics need a hair of the dog. A hangover is caused by dehydration and the best cure is a pint of fresh water. Make it fruit juice if you prefer.

Nobel Peace Prize

Congratulations to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, who received their joint Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 in Oslo Town Hall today. At 17 Malala is the youngest ever recipient of a Nobel Prize, awarded for her dogged campaign in favour of girls' education, despite being shot in the head by a cowardly Taliban gunman. Kailash Satyarthi, aged 60, has campaigned for years against Indian child labour, which amounts to slavery. He has also been threatened with death and two of his colleagues have been killed (CLICK).

Poohsticks 3

Yesterday, in Sotheby's London sale of English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations, E.H. Shepard's ink drawing of Poohsticks "For A Long Time They Looked At The River Beneath Them" (1928) fetched a record-breaking £314,500 ($490,470). This is a world record for any book illustration. It shows those much-loved A.A. Milne characters Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin and Piglet inventing the game of Poohsticks. The illustration was first published in The House at Pooh Corner in 1928 (CLICK).

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Phillip King

Tate Britain is celebrating the 80th birthday of sculptor Phillip King with a free display of his works from the 1960s. Shown is his Genghis Khan (1963). Eh? To me it looks like a moose threatening a camper in a tent. The display runs until 1 February 2015 (CLICK).

Last Christmas

Don't you just hate those daft TV programmes that toss in a handful of tinsel and claim to be a Christmas special. The festive edition of Doctor Who has tossed in Santa Claus and a couple of elves. BBC One screens Last Christmas on Christmas Day at 18:15 hours ... er ... 6.15pm (CLICK). Shown are Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald, Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who and Nick Frost as Santa Claus. In November I bemoaned the descent of the last series of Doctor Who into utter silliness as it plagiarized classic science fiction and other stories (CLICK). This special looks like it could take the biscuit for rip-off dross. Cara in slippers and dressing gown is the one bright spark.