Bill's Italian buddy
Despite grumblings in New York about the length of Bill de Blasio's family vacation in Italy (eight days), the city mayor has not been resting on his laurels. Only hours after landing at Fiumicino airport on Sunday evening, he met with Roman counterpart Ignazio Marino in front of a phalanx of local press. After a joint visit to the Capitoline Museums, De Blasio hailed Marino as a “new brother”, pledging to seek out investors for the ancient capital's numerous heritage projects as well as a possible Rome-New York exchange programme for young artists, the Italian media reports. The show of largesse marks De Blasio's return to his own Italian heritage, as he travels this week to Sant'Agata de' Goti and Grassano, the Southern hometowns of his maternal grandparents, to receive honorary citizenship.
Polke through the eyes of a palm reader
A magician, a palm reader, and a cultural historian walk into the Sigmar Polke show, "Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010" (until 3 August), at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (really?). On the evening of 23 July, they’ll all be there, along with a conservator, a critic and a curator, among others. And you’re invited too. The event is part of the museum’s Pop Rally series, which features events revolving around curatorial programming. Each expert will “illuminate aspects of Sigmar Polke's complex body of work through the lens of their respective areas of expertise”, according to the museum. So if you’ve ever wondered what the late German artist looks like through the eyes of an expert in hallucinogens (seriously), now is your chance. Tickets are $15 ($13 for members).
Louvre's masterpieces head to the beach
As many Parisians head off for a beach vacation, the Louvre has organised a staycation special that embraces the spirit of Paris Plage. Now in its 13th year, the artificial beach, which stretches three kilometres along the Seine from the Pont des Arts to the Pont de Sully, opened on Saturday (until 17 August). Along with the usual bargeloads of sand (5,000 tonnes), this edition is the first to boast an art gallery. The Louvre has selected five works from its collections to adorn – in high-quality reproduction – the corner of the beach by the Tuileries tunnel. Paintings of bathers by Watteau, Fragonard, Boucher and Ingres, and a sculpture of the goddess Diana bathing, could possibly tempt the city's sunseekers to take a dip. (Bathing is forbidden in the river.) Beach diversions offered by the museum include activities for families, exhibition catalogues to browse and prize draws for entry tickets.
Pinault's next show at Palazzo Grassi (more Martial Raysse)
Martial Raysse is having a moment. Last week, the French artist, known for his Pop art innovations, was among the winners of the Japan Art Association’s 2014 Praemium Imperiale Awards, given annually to artists for lifetime achievement. A 200-strong retrospective dedicated to Raysse is, meanwhile, drawing the crowds at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (until 22 September). And word now reaches us that the French collector François Pinault is due to open a show of the artist's works at his Palazzo Grassi space in Venice next year. Raysse recently told The Wall Street Journal: "A French art critic once asked me why I changed my styles so often in my painting. I replied, 'to do it better,' but he didn't understand."
On their bikes: Sotheby's Old Masters team cycles to Amsterdam
Members of Sotheby's London Old Masters, and British Paintings and Drawings, departments got out of the auction house and got on their bikes on Friday (18 July)—but this was no ordinary cycle ride. Twenty staff set out on a three-day sponsored bicycle ride from Sotheby’s in New Bond Street to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in a bid to raise funds for a permanently endowed postgraduate scholarship at London's Courtauld Institute of Art dedicated to Sophie Trevelyan Thomas (Sophie, who worked as deputy director in the Old Master Paintings department at Sotheby’s, died last November). The Sophie Trevelyan Thomas Scholarship will cover the tuition fees for one MA student each academic year, in perpetuity (a £125,000 target has been set). "This will be awarded each year to a student who is taking an MA in any module from the Medieval or Renaissance period, thereby reflecting Sophie's interests," the Courtauld says. To donate, please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/sophies-scholarship/
Flex those arty pecs
Students seeking to exercise their creativity can work up a mental sweat at Stanford University’s first arts gym. The California institution is due to transform a former athletic facility into an open-plan, multidisciplinary space for artistic experimentation. “Just as individuals are motivated to work harder and longer in a fitness gym by their teammates around them…students in the arts gym will be inspired by each other to experiment across mediums and to collaborate in unexpected ways,” the organisers say. Designed by the architecture firm Cody Anderson Wasney, the facility is due to open in 2016. The gym is part of Stanford’s push to expand its arts offerings, which also includes an $85m art history building due to open next year. Accessible to all students, the gym will feature a performance space, studios and art storage (aspiring video artists will even have access to a green screen.)
Pop group Air provides groovy backdrop to museum collection
You don’t often hear disco sounds within the hallowed walls of the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille. But visitors to the museum can now savour the songs of the hip French group Air as they peruse the prestigious paintings there. This pop-tastic experience launches the “Open Museum” series, allowing leading creative figures from other disciplines to interact with the museum’s collection and space. Air has composed music to accompany a varied slice of the collection's masterpieces, from Veronese to Sonia Delaunay, as well as contemporary works scattered throughout the museum’s stately halls. The dashing music duo is even making an appearance in the Medieval and Renaissance department in the form of two Makassar ebony sculptures by Xavier Veilhan (Jean-Benoît and Nicolas, 2012). Their run of the museum continues until 24 August.
Monty Python's giant dead parrot lands in London
Londoners are more used to seeing pigeons in the UK capital, but a 50ft-long fibreglass model of a dead blue parrot has been installed on the Southbank in homage to Monty Python. In one of the best-loved sketches of the British comedy, John Cleese tries to return a dead “Norwegian blue” to a pet shop, staffed by a tenacious Michael Palin. The sculpture, designed by Dave Crosswell, Iain Prendergast and Toby Crowther, was commissioned to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the first screening of the famous pet shop scene. The model is due to travel to the O2 in Greenwich where the final Monty Python show live is being performed by the last Pythons—Cleese, Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones on 20 July. The performance is also being broadcast on UKTV Gold.
Adjaye's culture hub for historic Johannesburg station
The British architect David Adjaye expands his portfolio with yet another high-profile cultural project on the horizon. The “starchitect” has been commissioned to design a temporary pavilion in Johannesburg’s central transport hub, Park Station Precinct. “The pavilion will not only be a beautifully designed structure, but will form part of a much larger project to cement a space for food and culture in the inner-city, reigniting the old station concourse into a bustling public space once again,” says a spokeswoman for Designing_SouthAfrica, the non-profit organisation behind the project (the Johannesburg Development Agency is also a project partner). Adjaye’s dramatic venture, to be unveiled next February, will be based on the sweeping grand arches in Johannesburg’s historic Park Station.
Painting a picture of the art world
Artists, we know, are not keen on art fairs. So the art world will be intrigued to see New York-born artist Eric Fischl's take on the contemporary art market with his "art fair paintings" due to go on show at Victoria Miro gallery in London during Frieze London, of course (16 Wharf Road, 14 October-19 December). The starting point for the series are photographs taken by the artist himself at events such as Art Basel Miami Beach and Art Southampton in the Hamptons. Fischl says: "The space in these paintings is collapsed, cluttered, irrational and aggressive. Those depicted in the scenes seem oblivious to the mania of their condition... For a painter, it is a rich environment to try and capture. Layers of consciousness on top of layers of cross-purposes. I am falling in love with it. Not because it is the proper place for art but because it is such a rich environment to make art about." The paintings, we are promised, are a "sharp social satire" (art world players will no doubt be on tenterhooks).
Lights off for Creed at Christie's
Did Tate overpay when it bought Martin Creed’s The lights going on and off last year for £136,000? On 1 July another example, with an estimate of £60,000-£80,000 (and a lower reserve), failed to sell at Christie’s London. There was a slight difference between them: the Christie’s installation (known as Work No. 127, 1995) has the lights going on and off in a room every 30 seconds, whereas the Tate’s one (Work No. 227, 2000) changes every five seconds. Normally an earlier example of an artist’s best-known work would be considered more valuable, although the Tate piece has the added cachet of having been presented in the exhibition which led to Creed winning the 2001 Turner Prize. Whatever the price, one simply gets a certificate and conceptual instructions—lightbulbs cost extra.
London's newest gallery (just by the O2)
A swish new art space courtesy of the Hong Kong company Knight Dragon will soon grace the Greenwich Peninsula in south London. The new 130 sq. m NOW Gallery, which is due to open in September, is housed within two buildings designed by Marks Barfield, the architects behind the London Eye. The opening show is dedicated to the Dutch designer Simon Heijdens who will present an “immersive installation” and site-specific work (19 September-19 December). “It is going to be Simon's largest and most ambitions work to date and really symbolises the way forward for us in terms of having exciting, ambitious installations which react to the building and include in this case—with its use of wind and sunlight—a reflection of some essence of the Peninsula,” says Jemima Burrill, the gallery curator. NOW Gallery is working with its neighbours, such as Lazarides Print Studio, to create a series of art and design-led events, she adds.
Producers looking to spice up a track are more likely to invite T-Pain or Pharrell to contribute than Yoko Ono. But the Fluxus artist and activist is among several unlikely contributors to a forthcoming album from the German electropop group Chicks on Speed. (Others include the Austrian theorist Peter Weibel and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.) Like the electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, who performed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate Modern in London, Chicks on Speed plan to take their show to the white cube. The group will perform selections from their forthcoming album "Artstravaganza" this autumn at venues including the Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art in Amsterdam and MoMA PS1 in New York. Keep an ear out for their first single, Utopia, which features Ono instructing listeners to “unite and focus on what we want and we will get it, one of the things is peace, because we don’t want a violent world”.
Richard Long’s hike through the Andes
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” Nietzsche said. The same is true of Richard Long’s art. The British land-art pioneer’s exhibition at the Faena Arts Center in Buenos Aires (Mendoza Walking, until 28 July) is the result of 16 days spent hiking through the Andes mountains in Argentina in 2012. The excursion marked a return to South America for Long, who walked through Bolivia and Peru in 1972. The landscape of Argentina has now become fodder for several new works. Long used mud and clay from the Paraná River to create a site-specific painting, Andes-Paraná, directly onto the wall of the centre. And the circular sculpture Pampas Dreaming is made of wood from the Littoral region in northwest Argentina. Also on show are photographs Long took of modest towers of rocks that he built along his route. This artist sure knows how to kill two birds with one stone.
Ommegang’s all here
Uniformed men on camelback, festooned floats, men wearing devil costumes and a sea of people dressed in conservative black: there is a lot to see in Denys van Alsloot’s buzzy painting of the “Ommegang” or pageantry surrounding Archduchess Isabella’s entry into Brussels in 1616. But now, there is even more to see thanks to the work of a team of four conservators from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Discoloured varnish, old inpainting and years of grime had obscured the faces of some figures and compromised the composition's spatial depth. “It’s the kind of painting you want to linger in front of so that you can take in all of the lovely details. Unfortunately many of these were masked by overpainting and varnish,” says the V&A’s paintings conservator Clare Richardson. The treatment revealed some unexpected surprises, says Richardson, including pentimenti showing that some of the figures on horseback had swapped identities. “We could see evidence of hats being swapped between them.” She would have liked to X-ray the painting to see what other changes Van Alsloot might have made but that the picture “is too big to fit in the museum’s lead-lined room”. The work will be redisplayed in the museum’s new Europe 1600-1800 galleries, which are due to open in early 2015. The painting’s unveiling on Thursday was timed to coincide with the annual “Ommegang” held in Brussels each July.
Night-time jellyfish beamed to London from Liverpool
You don't often see jellyfish on the streets of Toxteth in Liverpool. But an installation featuring more than 20 of the gelatinous animals, housed in an abandoned building, is stopping Liverpudlians in their tracks in High Park Street every night from 10pm (until 26 July). The ambitious aquatic piece, which runs alongside the Liverpool Biennial, is by the artist duo Walter Hugo & Zoniel (the title, The Physical Possibility of Inspiring Imagination in the Mind of Somebody Living, might ring a few bells as well). But this mesmerising work is not just on view in Liverpool. A video within the tank is livestreaming the jellyfish's nocturnal activities on to the front of Gazelli Art House in Mayfair, London. "The enlarged visions of jellyfish can be seen floating through the London night, linking the two cities. If you look closely, you can often see cars go by and observers from the street in Toxteth gazing back at you through the installation," the artists say.
Van Gogh’s missing oeuvre
Vincent van Gogh was only 37 when he died in the French town of Auvers-sur-Oise. And whenever an artist dies young, the question is always the same: what more could he have done if tragedy had not struck? The contemporary Dutch artist Jeroen van der Most is not content just to wonder. Trained as a statistician, van der Most conducted a study of van Gogh’s pictures to make a prediction about what his next step could possibly have been. And after doing all the maths, van der Most then picked up his brushes and painted the work he thinks Van Gogh would have done. As for van der Most’s motivation? “I hope it gives people a new perspective on the oeuvre of Van Gogh.”
From ancient Egypt to a Parisian suburb
Just how did an ancient Egyptian mummy end up in a Parisian suburb? In June 2000, in the streets of Rueil-Malmaison, west of Paris, a local garbage collector salvaged a small and mysterious casket. The object had been thrown away by a new resident in the neighbourhood, who had been shocked to find the object among the belongings of a previous owner. Scans carried out at the Bégin Hospital in Saint-Mandé revealed the body of a child in a relatively good state of preservation, aside from an absence of kneecaps, later identified by experts as a middle-class girl, around five years old, named Ta-Iset, or “she of Isis”. It is assumed that the mummy and her coffin were taken out of Egypt during the 19th century for Western collectors. She has been entrusted to the Centre for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France in Versailles—but the suburbs want her back. Rueil-Malmaison has launched a public fundraising campaign to secure funds to have the mummy restored and presented to the local history museum, with €6,900 raised so far.