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 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