The King in Germany
The citizens of Düsseldorf are all shook up over the King… of rock and roll. The German city is now home to the Elvis Presley Ausstellung, an institution that honours the man who famously sang about his “Blue Suede Shoes”, donned bejewelled jumpsuits and popularised grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches. This European Graceland holds an 1,800-piece collection of memorabilia, the largest outside of the US. Objects on view include Presley’s last hand-written letter from 15 August 1977. The collection concentrates in objects dating from 1958 to 1960, the years Presley served as a soldier in Germany.
Wearing's "grim and worthy" NPG portrait of Chakrabarti
The National Portrait Gallery in London has commissioned Gillian Wearing to take a photograph of human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti (right), director of Liberty (The National Council for Civil Liberties). What may come as a surprise is the £30,000 fee, which seems rather high to charge a public collection. But it was not simply a matter of snapping a picture. Chakrabarti first sat in September 2010, when she was digitally scanned to make a wax face mask. This mask was then sculpted and coloured, with glass eyes added. Last April Chakrabarti returned to Wearing’s studio, to be photographed holding the mask from a ribbon. The black-and-white image was inspired by Chakrabarti’s comment about her public persona being mask-like, and regarded as “grim and worthy”. The eyebrow-raising portrait is due to go on display in April.
Camilla’s mad about “modern British” art
The Duchess of Cornwall told our correspondent on Wednesday that her favourite art is "modern British", that is 20th century. She was visiting Swindon, to mark the publication of the Public Catalogue Foundation's latest volume, on Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. Swindon Art Gallery is in cramped premises (and looking for a more suitable home), but despite its low profile it owns one of the finest regional collections of modern British painting. On show for the first time is the back of its 1943 Lowry, which is normally hidden; the reverse of the panel has a picture of a family group, dating from more than 20 years earlier. Just as the Duchess was saying her goodbyes she was told that three quarters of the collection remains in store. She immediately asked for a quick peek, delaying her return to London.
Denmark's Right Royal Painter
Here's a sentence you don't see very often: "The Queen will be present during this part of the press opening and will answer questions from the press." The information comes courtesy of a statement from the Arken Museum of Modern Art in Denmark which is showing "The Essence of Colour: the Art of Queen Margrethe II" (28 January-1 July). Her Majesty, a Monet-esque monarch, is set to grace the press view on 25 January. "The Queen’s royal status involves sitting for many portrait painters, but at an early stage the Queen herself took up the brush. We are pleased to have a Queen with such striking artistic talent," reads the patriotic museum website. But there's no getting away from practicalities. For the vernissage "the press should gather in the Arken foyer by Damien Hirst's cows in formaldehyde no later than 4.30pm," adds the handy press notice.
Saatchi Gallery likes its online numbers
The Saatchi Gallery cheekily sent out a press release in January that proclaims the gallery is Britain’s Most “Liked” Museum. It earned the title through a bit of creative spin on data from the firm Museum Analytics, which published figures tracking the world’s most popular museums on Facebook. According to the chart, the Saatchi Gallery, with 336,076 fans, beat out London’s Tate gallery, with 329,293. They were both put to shame by MoMA’s 929,774 followers though. (1 million is sooooo close!) “Social networking sites have become increasingly important to museums in recent years, and all the major world art institutions vie to attract followers by creating interesting content on their Facebook pages. This promotes a loyal supporter base, increases museum attendance figures, and raises sales in museum shops,” the gallery intones in the press release. We’re not sure if we’ve seen any creditable data connecting virtual visitors to actual cash for museums, but we look forward to learning if the online multitudes result in real-life crowds when we do our annual attendance figures survey in the coming months.
Kehinde's Israeli initiative
US artist-provocateur Kehinde Wiley looks to Israel for his latest series of works which go on show in March at the Jewish Museum in New York. World Stage: Israel includes more than ten portraits of striking young Israeli men from a range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, including a selection of Ethiopian Jews. Each of the subjects are set against backgrounds influenced by traditional Jewish papercuts. "I entered Israel as a provocation," the artist boldly told Flaunt magazine. "Many of the reasons why I choose certain sites have to do with a level of curiosity, but it also has to do with their broader, global political importance, strategically for America and the world community at large."
Yoko’s message to Wall Street
The artist and peace activist Yoko Ono is collaborating with the Occupy Wall Street movement on a new work—a “conceptual project related to her ‘Wish Tree’ ” series, says Chris Cobb, one of the co-organisers of Occupy With Art and Occupypublishing. "After the park was raided and trees couldn't be used, the decision was made to re-imagine the project as postcards." Ono is providing the text that will be printed by the group in an edition of around 10,000 and handed out free at events. "It is kind of half way between a conceptual art gesture and a social sculpture where the art is the exchange between people when the card is given. It is also a sort of multiple, as the Fluxus artists often made," adds Cobb. A number of Occupy Wall Street groups involved in the project are holding a press conference in Zuccotti Park, the symbolic home of the protest movement, on Saturday 14 January at 1pm, and will start handing out the postcards to the public. In a press release, they encourage people to "Make a wish to any tree, in any occupation."
Saatchi's sea of video diarists
Christopher Baker's eye-busting, multi-channel installation Hello World! (2008) is making waves in the pop-up space set up by collector Charles Saatchi near his gallery off London's King's Road. Surprisingly, this is Saatchi's first ever screening for film and video and what better way to make a splash than with an ocean of video diaries gathered from the internet? Baker downloaded around 30,000 videos of individuals speaking to imagined audiences from their own private spaces (dubious kitchens and bedrooms no doubt loom large). With so many faces on view though, aren't we prone to spotting people we think we know?
"I have often momentarily thought that I recognized someone, only to discover that I did not know the person. Many people have had this same experience. I think we are always looking for a familiar face in the crowd," quips Baker.
This rather fetching image of film siren Keira Knightley looking less than pristine (the 1970s, mascara-smudged look really suits the "Bend It Like Beckham" star) by artist Stuart Pearson Wright goes on show from 9 January at Riflemaker Gallery in London. There is though a serious side to Keira's dishevelled demeanour: Pearson Wright focuses on 21st-century issues such as the mass media and celebrity culture, highlighting “the collective, hysterical conspiracy to appear happy [which] blights our visual world with endless images of overt disingenuousness". Knightley, who collaborated with the artist on a video work, Maze (2010), is used to playing the distressed heroine, taking the title role in a new film version of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.
Serra straight up in Qatar
Veteran US sculptor Richard Serra doesn't hold back in a recent interview with the French web publication Le Quotidien de l'Art. The brief, rather terse, tête-à-tête focuses on his recently unveiled 80ft-tall sculpture, named 7, at the MIA Park in Doha, Qatar. "Have you visited the neighbouring regions of Dubai or Abu Dhabi?" asks the correspondent. "No, I only go where I'm invited," says Serra. "What do you think we can learn from countries such as Qatar?" continues the reporter. "That depends on the people and how open-minded they are. If they only come to shop, they will learn nothing," the artist bluntly responds. But Serra waxes lyrical about the state's ruling dynasty, saying: "One evening during the installation, Sheikha Moza and Sheikha Al Mayassa visited the site and climbed the scaffolding to get a better grasp of the sculpture. Can you imagine an American president visiting an artist as a piece is being put together?"