Art's blockbusting couple
Edinburgh art historians Richard and Belinda Thomson are having a busy time. Richard is the main external curator of the Monet retrospective, which opened at the Grand Palais in Paris on 22 September. Belinda has curated the Gauguin blockbuster at Tate Modern, which launched on 30 September. The couple had a similar problem five years ago, when Richard’s “Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre” was inaugurated at the Art Institute of Chicago and Belinda’s “Gauguin’s Vision” opened at the National Gallery of Scotland - within a few days of each other. As Musée d’Orsay director Guy Cogeval told us, there seems to be more interest in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism among British scholars, than those in France.
"Is that you Doris?": Museum looks to the afterlife
The words "clairvoyance" and "museum" are not often seen in the same sentence - that is until The Art Newspaper received a press release proudly proclaiming that the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, is holding a clairvoyance evening on 6 October. But who will summon the spirits? "Raymond Faulkes is based in Doncaster. He has worked as a professional medium for many years across the UK and overseas. His work covers spirituality, spirit contact and also life in general. Raymond practises in using readings to connect with spirits," continues the press blurb. Tickets cost £10; the museum is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Greenaway's sound-and-light Leonardo at the Armory
UK film director Peter Greenaway just can’t help reinterpreting Renaissance masterpieces. His reimagining of Paolo Veronese’s Le Nozze di Cana (1562-3) was a 2009 Venice Biennale hit. Now the Big Apple gets a taste of his arty offerings with an eye-popping sound and light show reportedly set to bring a reproduction of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper to life at the Park Avenue Armory (2 December-6 January 2011). And the finishing touch? A recreation of the painting’s Italian home, the refectory of Santa Maria Delle Grazie, which means that Leonardo lovers can easily swap Milan for Manhattan.
Oops! Bad timing for spiky Saatchi Art Fund flyer
The Art Fund has just put out promotional flyers under the slogan “Charles Saatchi isn’t the most important art buyer. You are.” The message inside the leaflet is that the Art Fund charity, which depends on its members, is a greater purchaser of works for the nation. It’s unfortunate timing, since earlier this month the Art Fund got into discussions with Saatchi about playing a role in his plans to transfer ownership of £25m worth of works to a Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in London. As we reported, Saatchi was originally in negotiations with the government-funded Arts Council, but these broke down—and hence the current talks with the Art Fund. The Art Fund does not want to go into details, but confirms it is in discussions with the Saatchi Gallery.
Greek magnate moniker for Tate curator
The Tate has bestowed a major curatorial post with a Greek magnate's name. The entrepreneur in question is none other than the Athens-based financial services giant Dimitris Daskalopoulos who is certainly making his presence felt in the art world. The Greek businessman was elected to the board of trustees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation last year while a series of displays drawn from his contemporary art collection go on show at the Whitechapel Gallery in London (until May 2011). Jessica Morgan has been appointed the grand sounding Daskalopoulos Curator of International Art by the Tate. “Daskalopoulos has funded the post,” said a Tate spokeswoman.
Stephanie and Peter kiss and make up
All couples go through some rough patches, but when the husband is a billionaire publishing tycoon/polo player/art collector and the wife is a glamorous Victoria's Secret model/artist’s muse, people tend to gossip. And when private squabbles turn into a vicious public divorce, complete with allegations of drug use and domineering personalities, there’s no stopping wagging tongues. Well, all the schadenfreuders out there eagerly awaiting the outcome of today’s divorce trial between Peter Brant and Stephanie Seymour (What was going to happen to all the art?!) were shocked into silence when the pair walked into court hand-in-hand and told the judge, actually, they’ll be staying married, nevermind. The newly reunited couple, who have been married for 15 years and have three children, received some parting advice from Superior Court Judge Lynda Munro, who reportedly said, “After the first hearing with you, I said I thought you were going to reconcile and I'd forgotten about it… I'm a true believer in marriage. It's hard work growing old together, but it's actually sort of fun." It’s always nice to see a family—and an art collection—stay together.
Doug and Devendra ambush MOCA
It will be hard to top last year’s performance starring Lady Gaga and Francesco Vezzoli, but MOCA looks like it’s aiming to outdo itself for its annual gala this November, the first since former dealer turned director Jeffrey Deitch took over this summer. Los Angeles artist Doug Aitken has come up with an immersive project called We that he describes as a “cultural ambush”. Visitors to the event, which raised over $4m for the institution last year, will be involved in the performances set up on stages around the venue, including a musical set by avant-folk singer and songwriter Devendra Banhart. Considering Aitken's previous epic "happenings" and Banhart's trippy-hippy persona, prepare to get weird.
Get 'em art, says The Sun
The topless glamour girls found every day on page 3 of The Sun,a UK tabloid newspaper, are set to feature in an exhibition at London's august Royal Academy next year. Veteran artist Gustav Metzger will tear out and display Page 3 every day during the "Modern British Sculpture" show which opens in January. And who better to comment than a Page 3 lovely herself. Cue Peta Todd, 23, from Essex, who told The Sun: "It will be interesting to see people's reaction comparing what they see in the paper and what they think of it when it's all together in one place and they call it art." In contrast, the show's curator and director of Tate Britain, Penelope Curtis, commented: "We chose this piece because it reflects quite well on the literary, journalistic day-to-day quality of the way we perceive British culture now."
Rococo, American style
No, that's not the President's office, nor is it a Hollywood set for a drama about the American government. It's the booth for Kraemer Antiquaires as it will appear at the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris' Grand Palais from 15-22 September. Perhaps inspired by the President Obama's own recent redecoration of the Oval Office, which some critics have labelled as too bland, the gallery has taken to imagine what the Oval Office would look like furnished with some of its own 18th-century French décor. We wonder, how well would the lavish Versailles style go down in recession-wary (-weary?) Washington.
Stokes' knees-up at Stratford Station
UK artist Matt Stokes plans to bring some Cockney charm to Stratford Station in London's East End next month with his jauntily named installation The Stratford Gaff & Serio-Comick-Bombastick-Operatick Interlude. A multi-channel video work showing a selection of cheeky East End entertainers will draw on the tradition of the Penny Gaffs (infamous Victorian one-penny theatres). The project is part of the Jubilee Line Series organised by Art on the Underground.
Scenes from an American Qur'an
With all the furor over the proposed community centre in the financial district—more familiarly labelled the "ground zero mosque"—the installation "American Qur'an" by artist Sandow Birk opening at P.P.O.W. Gallery in Chelsea this weekend could not be more perfectly timed. Since 2004 Birk has been transcribing the entire Qur'an into English, illustrating each sura (or chapter) with paintings evoking Persian miniatures, but depicting everyday scenes in America. According to the press release, the Detroit-born, California-based artist "hopes to reflect how consistent the similarities are in the teachings of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. To bring this to light enables more understanding and compassion, versus fear of the unknown. The conversations and also the misunderstandings that are still occurring about what the Qur'an is and who Muslims are will benefit from this series and will allow others to join in these conversations with more knowledge." An exhibition of the works was held at galleries in San Francisco and Los Angeles last year, and Birk plans to continue creating the intricate pieces for another 3 years, until he has finished all 114 suras on over 300 pages.
Tracey takes Tate to task over Tony
Tracey Emin protested in a letter in the Guardian dated 8 September (along with other luminaries such as Vivienne Westwood and Brian Eno) that a party celebrating Tony Blair's memoirs due to be held at Tate Modern last night should be scrapped. "Tate Modern is a public building with a deserved reputation for being one of the most important cultural institutions in the world...Mr Blair is widely held to be incriminated in war crimes and a majority of the British public belive he lied to parliament to take Britain into the illegal Iraq war...we urge the gallery to reconsider its decision to host this event," thunder the letter signatories. Tracey and her crew have since triumphed as the event was cancelled amid fears of an anti-Iraq war protest.
Bring an object no bigger than your head
Intriguing exhibition concepts no 1,331: London's Wellcome Collection "is calling on the public to loan or donate objects and become co-creators of its new temporary exhibition, Things, over seven days between 12 and 19 October. The object can be any single thing they own, be it special or boring, rare or common but must be no bigger than their head", according to the blurb on the so-called bring-a-thing-athon. All objects will be catalogued, photographed and labelled and will be on display at the Wellcome Collection 12-22 October. All participants are invited to reclaim their items next autumn in a (you guessed it) take-it-back-athon.
UK museum chief makes a splash
A UK museum director has decided to don her bathing costume, pop on the goggles and swim across the Solent to raise funds for her gallery. A team from the Watts Gallery in Guildford will valiantly attempt to swim across the 2.65-mile strait separating the Isle of Wight from mainland England this weekend. The intrepid squad comprises Perdita Hunt, director of Watts Gallery, Sarah Giles from Project Five, an IT company which supports the museum, and Leo Hacking, Perdita's nephew. "The swim strengthens Watts Gallery's historic link with the Isle of Wight where G.F. Watts had a house in Freshwater to join his friends Alfred Lord Tennyson and Julia Margaret Cameron," points out a gallery spokeswoman. To sponsor Perdita's Olympian efforts and help raise funds for the Watts Gallery Hope Emergency Fund, go to: www.wattsgallery.org.uk/
Millennium Dome "should never have been", admits Blair
Among the admissions in Tony Blair’s new book, “A Journey”, published yesterday, is the mistake he made over the Millennium Dome (now the O2 concert venue). Built in Greenwich, in east London, “the great British exhibition” turned out to cost nearly £800m, with its lack of content being widely derided. Although defending it at the time, Blair now says that it “should never have been”. As to the prospect of the opening night, the prime minister would have “preferred a visit to the dentist”. It turned out even worse, thanks to the breakdown of the train carrying VIP guests. Fortunately the royal family had their own transport. “I don’t know precisely what Prince Philip thought of it all, but I shouldn’t imagine it’s printable.” As the proceedings got under way, the prince pointed out that the acrobats didn’t have safety harnesses. Blair suddenly feared one would fall and land on the monarch, who was in prime position. He even composed the headline: “Queen killed by Trapeze Artist at Dome.” Blair says in his book that “I joke about it now but at 11.30 pm on New Year’s Eve 1999, I was absolutely convinced.”
Who will man the tills at House of Voltaire?
Word reaches us of the various luminaries that will work on the shop floor of the new House of Voltaire pop-up store set to open 11 November above Rupert Sanderson’s Bruton Place boutique in Mayfair. All proceeds from the swish emporium, where art aficionados can snap up specially commissioned pieces, will go towards the non-profit South London contemporary arts space Studio Voltaire. But who will be stacking the shelves and sweeping the floor? Design critic Alice Rawsthorn, artist Julie Verhoeven, Frieze projects curator Sarah McCrory and performance artist Linder will soon be asking "Can I help you sir?"....