Shoes & Knickers at the V&A
The Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) forthcoming exhibition on “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” will present 200 pairs from around the world, from ancient Egypt to the most contemporary (13 June-31 January 2016). It promises to explore “the agonising aspect of wearing shoes, as well as the euphoria and obsession they can inspire”. Sponsorship is difficult in the present economic climate, but this show on the cultural significance of footwear has done rather well. The main sponsor is the shoe company Clarks, with additional support provided by the lingerie company Agent Provocateur. Meanwhile, the V&A is looking for an exhibition research assistant for its 2016 show "Undressed, 300 Years of Underwear in Fashion" ("a practically minded scholar is required to assist in the development and delivery of the exhibition," says the online job description for the show, which will no doubt reveal numerous interesting new aspects related to our undies).
Ruskin’s flirtation with photography
An auction sleeper lot of 188 daguerreotypes estimated at £80-£100 has turned out to have belonged to John Ruskin, making the collection potentially worth millions of pounds. They were either taken by, or under the guidance of, the art critic in the years around 1850. Two sets of dealers spotted what they hoped was a Ruskin discovery in a 2006 local sale in Penrith and got into a bidding war, with the Essex-based 19th-century photographer dealers Ken and Jenny Jacobson securing the collection for £75,000. The Ruskin find includes some of the best early photographs of Venice and what is said to be the earliest known photographs of the Alps. The Jacobsons have just published a detailed book on the collection through Quaritch, Carrying Off the Palaces but don’t yet have further plans for Ruskin’s snaps.
Adam Dant's art of electioneering
Adam Dant is to start work shortly as the official 2015 UK Election Artist, commissioned by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art. His task is to travel the country and document the campaign through art. Dant, who works in the satirical tradition of Hogarth and the 19th-century caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson, describes the 7 May general election as “a drama”, and sees his role as examining “who we are now as political beings”. He normally creates large narrative drawings in ink, full of dense detail. His election creations will go into the Parliamentary Art Collection. But the MPs who commissioned Dant are surely aware that his artistic efforts may end up ruffling a few feathers and be just as unpredictable as the election.
Racy royal sculpture back on display at Macba
A controversial show that was cancelled earlier this week at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona is now open to the public (until 30 August). According to El Pais, Bartomeu Marí, the museum director, was unhappy about an eyebrow-raising piece in the exhibition, "The Beast and the Sovereign", by the Austrian artist Ines Doujak. The headline-hitting installation, Not Dressed for Conquering, shows the former Spanish king Juan Carlos in a sexual act with a dog and the late Bolivian activist Domitila Barrios de Chúngara. Marí initially said that the installation is “inappropriate and contradictory to the museum's line”. The exhibition’s four curators, including Iris Dressler, issued a protest statement online, saying that the show will open instead at Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart in October. But Doujak’s work is back on show, so has Marí had a change of heart? “The publicity given to the work and the views expressed by many different sectors of society, from the art world, culture, politics and the media, as well as international art professionals, have made me reconsider the initial decision,” he says in a statement. And to censor or not ? “I never believed that my gesture was one of censorship: I perceived it as a disagreement with the inclusion of a particular work and the effects of its possible readings,” argues Marí.
Charles’s Afghan initiative stands out at the Smithsonian
The Prince of Wales wears many hats (an under-the-radar role of the royal is founder of the Turquoise Mountain organisation). But this aspect of Prince Charles’s philanthropic activities came under the spotlight earlier this week when he visited the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art in Washington DC. Turquoise Mountain, founded in 2006, was created to re-generate Murad Khani, a historic area of Kabul’s old city, and revive the country’s arts and crafts. The fruits of the project go on show next year (March-December) in the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler gallery. “The exhibition will showcase Afghan artisans' unique traditions of woodwork, calligraphy, ceramics and jewellery. Artisans from Murad Khani will be present to share their expertise and demonstrate their craft, allowing visitors to experience first-hand Afghanistan's rich cultural heritage,” the organisers say. The US government evidently considers the forthcoming show a pivotal cultural project (the United States Agency for International Development is backing the exhibition).
Wong is motoring along
Earlier this week, the artist Morgan Wong threw a spotlight on urban development in Hong Kong, exploring the city-state’s colonial-era “satellite towns” in his work, Untitled-Expressway. The installation, on show at the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Hong Kong showroom, was an intriguing interactive experience (participants were invited to sit inside the car and experience a “virtual voyage” while watching an abstract film that captured the ever changing cityscape). Wong’s project has, meanwhile, thrown up a fascinating fact: Hong Kong is believed to have the most Rolls-Royce cars per capita (the city-state was after all a British colony, and the plush vehicle was the motor of choice for top British officers and businessmen). Wong is in demand and will feature in "Essential Matters" at Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul (4 April-23 August) and in “Frontiers Reimagined” at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani during the Venice Biennale (9 May-22 December).
Spending a Penny at the Ivy
The Ivy restaurant in the heart of London’s theatreland is a magnet for celebrities and headline-hitting artists such as Kate Moss, Ricky Gervais and Damien Hirst. Devotees of the famous eaterie, which is currently closed for refurbishment, can now buy a piece of the Ivy with items such as cocktail shakers, glasses, linen napkins and fish plates up for sale at Sotheby’s London on 25 March. Works that have hung on the walls of the culinary hot spot—by artists such as Peter Blake (Marilyn Monroe White No.7, 1990, est £3,000-£5,000) and Joe Tilson (Dionysus, the Ivy and the Vine, 1990, est £30,000-£50,000)— have also been consigned to auction. But the quirkiest lot is without doubt the rather elegant sign for the ladies’ loo (est £100-£150). Proceeds go towards the Child Bereavement UK charity.
On the edge in Hong Kong
Guests staying at the swanky Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong, will no doubt be taken aback by a vintage twin-axel Harrington Legionnaire coach teetering on the edge of the seventh floor Sun Terrace. But fear not Hong Kongers, this scary spectacle is simply a gravity-defying art installation by the UK artist Richard Wilson (until 8 April). The precariously perched, six-and-a-half ton sculpture, entitled Hang On A Minute Lads… I’ve Got a Great Idea, launches a three-year public art programme co-organised by the hotel and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. But the principal sponsor behind the original commission turns out to be just as surreal: the British comedian Eddie Izzard. When the eye-popping piece was first unveiled in Bexhill-on-Sea in 2012, Izzard said that “we [the UK] balance coaches on the edges of buildings like no one else ever could”. The comic will no doubt be heartened to see this feat re-created with such panache in a former British colony.
Going global is "bonkers", says Grayson
The Comfort Blanket tapestry by the artist Grayson Perry, Britain’s best known transvestite ceramicist, is emblazoned with individuals and organisations that make Britain great, from the Archers on Radio4 to Welsh warbler Tom Jones. Visitors to Victoria Miro’s stand at Art Basel Hong Kong (until 17 March) may be baffled by these UK idiosyncrasies but Perry, dubbed GB’s most famous frock star, is as up front as ever about why globalisation is a bad idea. "A phrase that makes my heart sink is ‘global culture'," he opines. “The art that we love is made in a local context. I always encourage my students never to be afraid of being who they are, when they are and where they are—of being specific and local. None of the great artists in the past worried about being 'global'. Why should artists now? It’s bonkers. I like Chinese art because it is Chinese, not because it is a version of what I enjoy over in Britain."
One-massage policy at the fair
Dealers feeling fraught and fair-tigued can unwind in a new pop-up spa at Art Basel in Hong Kong. Complimentary neck and shoulder massages are available for gallerists seeking solace after dealing with pushy collectors, but weary staff, take note: it’s “one massage per gallery”, according to the rather strict instructions. (Perhaps those who bag the most sales should get a rub-down.) And there is another service that will turn bedraggled dealers back into slick, stylish professionals. “For exhibitors who need tailor-made shirts, suits or adjustments, Jantzen Tailor will have a pop-up shop in room N107 on level one,” the fair’s organisers say. Jantzen, a local business, offers items such as “business suiting” and “ladies’ slacks” on its website, so dealers will be able to look more dapper than ever.
Where the parties are: tonight in Hong Kong
While most public events during Art Basel in Hong Kong kick off on Saturday (14 March), for those on the invitation lists, brunches and openings started before the fair’s vernissage on Friday. On Thursday evening a slew of gallery private views take place at the Pedder Building in Central, including "Rudolf Stingel" at Gagosian Gallery, "Alex Prager" at Lehmann Maupin and "Michelangelo Pistoletto" at Simon Lee Gallery. M+ , Hong Kong’s visual art museum in the making, is also holding an opening reception tonight at Midtown Pop. Meanwhile, at Duddell’s there’s the reception for London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts off-site show, “Hong Kongese” , which opened to the public today (until 22 June). The K11 Art Foundation and Palais de Tokyo collaboration, “Inside China: L’intérieur du Geant” is also now on at the foundation’s pop-up space in Cosco Tower, Central (until 3 May).
Our pick of what’s on
M+ West Kowloon Cultural District/ “Mobile M+ Moving Images”
Levels 17 and 18, Midtown Pop
Level 3, Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell Street
“ICA Off-Site: Hong Kongese”
until 22 June
K11 Art Foundation
Pop-up Space, Ground Floor, Cosco Tower, 183 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan
“Inside China: L’intérieur du Geant”
until 17 May
7th Floor, Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street
until 9 May
407 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central
until 16 May
Simon Lee Gallery
304 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central
“Michelangelo Pistoletto: Partitura in Nero”
13 March-25 April
For more see our daily papers, in print at the fair and online from 13 March
New culture czar for Moscow
Sergei Kapkov, who has served as Moscow’s culture czar since 2011 and is credited with transforming the Russian capital’s parks, theaters and museums into hipster havens, resigned on Monday. In a Facebook post—his preferred form of communication—he wrote that “I’m not tired, but I’m leaving”, adding that he was amused by the various conspiracy theories surrounding his departure from the city’s cultural department. Kapkov, 39, urged his successor to remember that “the city’s residents and not its bosses are our employers”. Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has already appointed Alexander Kibovsky, 41, as his replacement. Kibovsky, who previously ran the city’s cultural heritage department, is known for his efficiency and patriotic views.
How to make a Joshua Reynolds painting blush
The fourth Duke of Queensbury (1724-1810), known to his friends as “Old Q”, is not the man he used to be: in Joshua Reynolds’s 1759 portrait of the notorious womaniser, the nobleman is a paler version of his former ruddy self. But “Old Q” is not alone. Many early works by England’s great 18th-century portraitist suffer from the same malady because of Reynolds’s choice of pigments. The organic red lake pigment he mixed with white to create flesh tones is light sensitive and consequently faded within a few years. When Reynolds became aware of the problem he switched to a different red pigment so the complexions of his later sitters, such as Mrs Mary Robinson, whom he painted around 1783, fortunately retain their rosy hue. In his quest to capture the pictorial qualities of the Old Master painters he so greatly admired, Reynolds often experimented (with varying degrees of success) with different materials and techniques. The 20-piece exhibition “Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint” (12 March-7 June) at the Wallace Collection in London presents the results of a four-year research project into the artist’s techniques. The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art is one of the major supporters of the project.
Happy Birthday Michelangelo!
Sixth March marks the 540th anniversary of the birth of Michelangelo Buonarroti. The Italian sculptor, painter and architect is well-known for works like the monumental statue David and the Sistine Chapel in the Palace of the Vatican. But there are some lesser-known facts about his life, such as his career starting off with an elaborate art con, or his side-job as a romantic poet. The History Channel has a list of “9 Things You May Not Know About Michelangelo” that put the Old Master in a new light.
Is Haacke’s Fourth Plinth an ode to the Tube?
This morning’s unveiling of Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse as the latest commission for the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square (5 March) by the capital’s Conservative mayor Boris Johnson was always going to be interesting.
The four-metre-high horse skeleton, with a London Stock Exchange ticker tied in a comical bow around its foreleg, is Haacke’s sardonic comment on deregulated markets and economic inequality. What would Johnson, a right-wing free-market champion, say in his usual tongue-in-cheek speech at the unveiling?
“There will be those who say that this undeniably underfed beast, this emaciated quadruped that you’re about to see is a warning, a memento mori, a symbol of the excessive pursuit of austerity and the [UK chancellor] ‘George Osborne diet’ approach to life,” he said. “But I say, no, my friends, absolutely not.” He first identified the horse as an emblem of “the vital transport infrastructure of this city for so many centuries”. Valid enough, perhaps.
“And now in those fabulous tubular structures that are about to be unveiled”—he’s referring to horse bones, here—“you will see symbolised the vital infrastructure, the Tube that must run beneath the surface of any great and beautiful city. The Tube that has been the tubular structure that has received such fantastic investment, thanks of course to our chancellor, now running further and faster and carrying more passengers than ever in history and indeed is playing part in the greatest economic recovery this city has ever seen, and the driving force of the UK and indeed the European economy. That is what it stands for.” It’s certainly creative.
He turned to Haacke. “I hope you share my artistic interpretation of your wonderful piece,” he said, with a laugh. Haacke later said he “only heard it halfway. I was standing behind him. It sounded as if he, as is to be expected, did his own interpretation.”
But we wonder if the German-born New Yorker wished that, as when Elmgreen and Dragset’s Fourth Plinth sculpture was revealed in 2012, Johnson was “away”.
Forbes’ Rich List includes art patrons and collectors
There are some familiar faces on Forbes’s latest Rich List. Among the top ten—well eleven—of the world’s wealthiest people, a handful are involved in the arts:
#1 Bill Gates: With a staggering $79.2bn, Microsoft founder Bill Gates retains his position as the wealthiest person on the planet. Gates, who bought a notebook by Leonardo da Vinco, the Codex Leicester, for $30.8m in 1994, supports the arts in various ways: paintings by American artists such as Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer hang in the Gates’ private residence; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently launched a cultural initiative with artists including Vik Muniz to promote the use of vaccines, “The Art of Saving a Life” project; meanwhile, the Microsoft Corporate Collection includes more than 5,000 works of art.
#2 Carlos Slim: Mexican telecom billionaire Carlos Slim has an estimated fortune of $75.1bn. Slim, who is the largest stakeholder in the New York Times with an almost 17% share, founded the non-profit Museo Soumaya in Mexico City in 2011. It has more than 66,000 works of art dating from the 15th- to the 20th-centuries and was the 56th most visited museum in the world, according to The Art Newspaper’s 2013 attendance figure survey.
#5 Larry Ellison: The founder of tech company Oracle, Ellison is a collector of Japanese art: an exhibition drawn from his holdings went on show at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum in 2013. Ellison, who lived in Japan in the 1970s, is worth an estimated $54.3bn and is the fifth wealthiest person in the world.
#6 Charles and David Koch: The controversial Koch brothers tie for sixth place on the rich list, with $42.9bn. There were protests last year when the Metropolitan Museum unveiled the “David H. Koch Plaza” after the billionaire donated $65m to the institution. The ultra-conservative pair have been criticised for their political maneuvering.
#10 Liliane Bettencourt: The 92-year old L’Oreal heiress, who is the richest person in Europe with an estimated $40.1bn, made headlines in 2008 after it was reported that she had given almost $1bn in art and other gifts to a photographer and society figure François-Marie Banier—much to her daughter’s chagrin. Françoise Bettencourt Meyers went to court to prove her mother was unfit to manage the business, and was awarded guardianship of Liliane’s fortune in 2011. A separate trial of ten people accused of stealing hundreds of millions of euros from Bettencourt began in January 2015.
#11 Alice Walton: Heiress to the Wal-mart fortune, Alice Walton has an estimated $39.4bn in wealth. Her personal collection is valued at hundreds of millions, and she founded the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, which opened in 2011. Her sister-in-law Christy Walton ranks above her on the rich list, in eighth place with $41.7bn while her brother Jim Walton is ninth, with $406.bn
How Karsten convalesced at Claridge's
The stalwart London-based dealer Karsten Schubert, who represents Bridget Riley and Alison Wilding, was diagnosed last summer with medullary cancer which is one of the rarer forms of thyroid cancer. After successful surgery (or in technical terms, a total thyroidectomy with selective dissection of cervical lymph nodes), Schubert moved into a suite at Claridge’s in London courtesy of two friends. “Room 225-6: a Novel” is his entertaining and absorbing account of his time at the swish Art Deco hotel, relaying his reflections, feelings and fears during his three-week recuperation. Schubert describes his daily routine and how art is a tonic (a small early landscape painting by Piet Mondrian purchased from the Connaught Brown gallery in London is a real boon for the post-op gallerist). In other ruminations, Schubert believes he is morphing in to the late socialite Brooke Astor, points out that he detests serving trolleys and imagines that a political prisoner has sought refuge in the hotel. Schubert has fully recovered and has generously decided to donate all proceeds from the book—published last week by his own company Ridinghouse—to the charity Oracle Cancer Trust.
Motion's poetic send-off for Sandy
Sandy Nairne, the retiring director of London’s National Portrait Gallery, was honoured with a send-off from the former poet laureate, Andrew Motion, who spoke at his farewell party last week (23 February). The two men have known each other since schooldays, so Motion felt he could include a slightly cheeky comment on Nairne’s sartorial style when he stood up to read his eulogistic verses, composed for the occasion. We reproduce just a few lines from Motion’s detailed portrait in words, in which he praised Nairne for:
the way sense matches humour in your talk;
the way your long black coat and big black hat
make us reflect, ‘He’s got away with that
when I would certainly be thought a prat’;
the way you learn your speeches off by heart
and make formalities a gracious art;
the way your energy and stamina exceed
the normal human store