The Duke stacks up
It may come as a surprise, but Prince Philip is an avid reader of remaindered books, which are sold with at least a 50% discount off the cover price. Bibliophile, which bills itself as offering "Britain's best postal book bargains", has just been awarded a Royal Warrant as a bookseller "by Appointment to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh". The Duke has always received the best service, but there was one occasion when the courier couldn't believe that the package had to be delivered to Buckingham Palace. According to Bibliophile owner Annie Quigley, the Duke normally goes for "history, militaria and art". He also regularly buys Taschen art books, which Bibliophile distributes.
Anita goes nuclear on her Finnish retreat
The London-based energetic art patronne and collector Anita Zabludowicz is expanding her empire with plans to open an "art park" on the remote island of Sarvisalo one hour east of Helsinki. Zabludowicz and her Finnish husband Poju will show works from their contemporary collection on the eleven sq. mile chunk of land, commissioning artists James Ireland and Richard Woods to create public art for this Finnish idyll. But the most intriguing project taking shape on Sarvisalo must be the humongous concrete nuclear bunker conceived by Matthew Day Jackon, star of Hauser & Wirth's current London show (Savile Row, until 30 July). This apocalyptic art makes us think, however, that Anita knows something about world events that we don't...
What Dasha did next (a new art mag...)
In a saturated market, what exactly will be different about the new art magazine set to be launched in September by Dasha Zhukova, contemporary art aficionado and partner of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich? "It's going to be a girls' magazine," Zhukova told the Wall Street Journal. "I have more ideas than I know what to do with. I guess I'm a bit of a fantasist and a daydreamer—all sorts of things come to me during the day." Named Garage, after the Center for Contemporary Culture established by Dasha in Moscow three years ago, the anticipated publication will reportedly fuse fashion and art. The Russian heiress is also an advisor to the new art.sy online art database which is currently under development.
Barney gets YouTubed
Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle has a lot of things going for it. But like other cycles – Ring, laundry – it runs a bit long. The Flux Lasers channel on Youtube has solved this problem, creating three-minute animated homages to each film. The clips, which were made via Little Big Planet on the PlayStation 3, condense Barney’s seven-hour series into short game-like videos replete with cutesy characters. The episodes transform Barney’s esoteric art world into a much more gamer-friendly one.
Cut to tapestry
Like most of the media world, we have been engrossed by the phone-tapping scandal besetting Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire, so of course we were watching the live feeds today of the Parliamentary hearing investigating the case. As we listened to Murdoch pere et fils defend themselves, we wondered: what was that interesting colour block tapestry behind the MPs that was getting so much air time? The work was thrust into the spotlight even more when a protestor broke into the court room and tried attacking Rupert with a pie plate filled with foam, as cameras cut to a close-up of the art for over ten minutes. Ever the investigative journalists ourselves, we discovered that the work is among a series of tapestries by London artist Kate Blee, and was commissioned and installed in Portcullis House in 2000. According to the artist's website, they are "flat weave tapestries, stretched like canvasses over hardwood stretchers. The taut surface absorbs light and sound. These tapestries act as acoustic panels, enhancing acoustic separation." So no worries about any eavesdropping in that room, then.
Do you do take out?
There was some serious schadenfreude in Oslo when Norwegian art collector Christen Sveaas had to briefly close his restaurant Bagatelle this spring, just months after its long-awaited re-opening. The restaurant, which boasts two Michelin stars, shut it doors for two weeks after losing its wine and liquor license. This news follows a 2009 spat between Sveaas and Eyvind Hellstrøm, the founder and chef of Bagatelle. Hellstrøm abruptly quit two years ago, citing irreconcilable differences between himself and Sveaas, the chief investor. The restaurant closed for more than a year while Sveaas searched for his replacement and last year reported a loss of 12m krone. Bagatelle serves as a showroom of sorts for Sveaas’ extensive art collection. Said to be one of the top three collectors of contemporary art in Norway, he holds works by Ed Ruscha, Damien Hirst and Marina Abramovic. The restaurant is now closed again for the summer but plans to reopen in August.
Versailles gets knitted
The Palace of Versailles's ambitious, and at times controversial, contemporary programme continues apace with an exhibition of works by the Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos scheduled for spring 2012. Vasconcelos is known for her elaborate, large-scale sculptures and installations that incorporate found objects, handmade crochet and knitted fabrics. Vasconcelos’s Contamination (2011), a patchwork sprawl of brightly coloured materials, is currently on show at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice (“The World Belongs To You”, until 31 December).
While the UN General Assembly is considering voting to recognise a Palestinian state this September, the artist Khaled Jarrar has designed a passport stamp for visitors to the West Bank. He is offering to mark tourists' passports with the unofficial seal which says "State of Palestine" in English and Arabic and features an image of a hummingbird next to some flowers. "I believe in art that makes a difference, that talks change. And [my art] is making a political statement," he told Reuters at a Ramallah bus station where he was greeting visitors.
Lobsters, Dobermans, Willem & Antony: Marina's life laid bare in Manchester
Art glitterati packed out the Lowry in Salford on Saturday to see the high priestess of performance art, Marina Abramovic, present her absurdist and astonishing biographical piece "The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic" (until 16 July). Tate director Nicholas Serota and musician Rufus Wainwright were among the top notch guests taken aback by narrator Willem Dafoe's manic Joker-esque narrator and singer Antony Hegarty's soaring accompaniments. A pack of dobermans rabidly sniffing around three effigies modelled on Marina set the suitably disorienting scene. Cue dancers dressed in garish Disney-like garb, beds on fire, masturbating men and a lobster on a lead (brandished by Hegarty) in an epic tale of the personal and professional travails of Abramovic (who knew of the fraught relationship with her ma and pa? "I have a huge problem in my life with my mother," says the artist). And the best bit? The Manchester International Festival audience was treated to an exquisite masterclass in ancient Serbian singing, a rousing rendition designed to melt even the most hardened art world heart.
Tourists trapped gaping at Gormley's Iron Men
Two tourists had that sinking feeling last week during a visit to Antony Gormley's "Another Place" installation on Crosby Beach near Liverpool. According to local press, the two pensioners became trapped in the quicksand while photographing the 100 cast iron, life-size figures dotted across three kilometres of the foreshore. Coastguards thankfully came to their rescue with Ian Jackson of Liverpool Coastguards striking a note of caution: "The sand can at first appear to be OK to walk on but there are patches of mud just underneath, which you simply cannot predict." The press report points out: "After being saved from [the] sinking sand, the women are now supporters of the Don’t Sink the Coastguard campaign."
Nest down at Wales' new National Museum of Art
Wales will get a brand spanking new National Museum of Art at the National Museum Wales (Amgueddfa Cymru) in Cardiff this week when historic and contemporary works go on show for the first time in a series of integrated spaces. The £6.5m project includes revamped Old Masters and Impressionist art galleries as well as the jauntily named West Wing, a suite of six new contemporary art galleries featuring pieces by Josef Herman, Shani Rhys James, Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Rachel Whiteread. Carwyn Evans' Unlliw (2002), an installation of 6,500 bird boxes made from cardboard, may well make waves in this new Welsh art mecca. "The work was originally made in response to Ceredigion County Council’s plan to build 6,500 new homes in the county. It engages with a contemporary debate about the way such planning policies can impact on the cultural balance of rural areas in Wales, in particular by encouraging non-Welsh speakers to the heartlands of the Welsh language," notes a press statement. And for those keen to improve their Welsh, the title is taken from a Welsh proverb Adar o’r Unlliw, Ehedant i’r Unlle (Birds of a Feather, Flock Together).
Louvre's non for Levete
Architect Amanda Levete doesn't hold back in the latest edition of UK current affairs magazine New Statesman. Levete says that the Louvre in Paris asked her to submit ideas for a revamp of the museum's entrance area. "[I.M. Pei's 1989 glass pyramid] was orginally designed for visitor numbers of four million. They now get nine million," she says. Levete's plan to ease visitor flow included four new entrances at ground level and turning the space beneath the pyramid into an area for "contemplation and repose". And the Louvre's response? "We were told weren't 'playing the game'. I was furious," exclaims the architect. But the Louvre experience was not lost on Levete as the French competition fed into her design for the new temporary exhibition space at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The V&A's subterranean extension is scheduled for completion in 2014.