Art market

The London latest: It’s art, but not as Beck’s intended it

A typo on their beer bottle turns it into an instant collectors’ classic


Dealer fails to see the funny side

The matter of the beer at the ICA Beck’s Futures awards caused red faces all around. For the 2006 prize, the company had commissioned one of their special edition bottles from artist Yinka Shonibare, one of the judges. But just as all the special bottles had been put on ice, and the guests were about to arrive for the private view, someone spotted that the name of the artist’s dealer, Stephen Friedman, was prominently misspelt on all the labels as “Freedman”. Amidst much howling and gnashing of teeth it was hastily agreed that the evening’s allocation of beers would be consumed, but that the label would be corrected immediately afterwards. With Beck’s edition bottles currently being exchanged on ebay for tidy sums, this typo promises to reap financial dividends for those abstemious partygoers who spotted the mistake and refrained from swigging their free bottles.

Pet Shop Boy lost for his own words

Wherever they find themselves, those White Cubers always know how to have a good time. After the opening of Sam Taylor- Wood’s show at the Gateshead Baltic contemporary art centre in the north of England, a hard core of inner-circle revellers ended up in Newcastle’s Chinatown Karaoke bar where, thanks to gallery supremo Jay Jopling playfully requesting the Pet Shop Boys classic “West End Girls” for a certain “Neil T”, the assembled group (along with some bemused locals) were treated to the memorable sight of the Pet Shop Boy himself, Neil Tennant, singing along to his own hit. However his rendition was apparently somewhat halting as he grappled with the novel experience of reading his lyrics off a screen and keeping up with a pre-recorded backing track.

Secret service flipped over view on bridge

There was much praise for the special exhibition at the Photo London photography fair, assembled this year by Christopher Bailey, Creative Director of Burberry. Bailey’s photographic portrait of London included images of the capital by John Deakin and Sam Taylor-Wood. However, amidst the assembled fashionistas there was some bemusement at this large- scale image by Sophy Rickett of a chic female relieving herself whilst standing upright on Vauxhall Bridge. What was perplexing the assembled viewers was not the model’s impressive ability to assume the male urinating stance but the fact that the MI6 building appeared to have jumped to the other side of the Thames. The general consensus was either that the government intelligence service had developed special teleporting skills to move its base and observe this unorthodox public display. Or the artist had (deliberately we hope) printed the work the wrong way around.

Chapmans raise Hell for dinner party

The notion of a hellish dinner took on a whole new meaning for the Outset contemporary art fund patrons and Tate top brass who recently assembled in the studio of Jake and Dinos Chapman to launch the 2006 Frieze Fair Special Acquisitions Fund. It wasn’t just the East End location (although venturing out to E9 was pretty shocking for some of the guests) but the fact that the Laurent Perrier fuelled, sit-down dinner took place amongst the apocalyptic tableaux being created by the Chapmans as their remake of the epic nine-part sculpture Hell (detail, right), which was destroyed in the Momart fire of 2004. Despite Jake’s joking claim that this new version is being fashioned from asbestos, there was emphatically no smoking allowed; and while the proximity of so many pocket-sized figures could have proved a temptation to the light fingered there was no reported pilfering of the miniature hellraisers. (Dinos took the precaution of informing the gathering that they were very well glued down). The work is scheduled to go on show at White Cube in 2008.

End of the line for Whiteread’s Embankment

There’s always a moment of melancholy as each Tate Modern Turbine Hall project comes to the end of its lifespan. However, in the case of Rachel Whiteread’s Embankment, there’s comfort to be had in the fact that, according to the artist’s wishes, the 14,000 polyethylene boxes which made up the piece are to live on as recycled plastic goods. So who knows, maybe the wheelie-bins that we encounter in our future daily lives may once have had a glorious previous life in Tate Modern. They certainly won’t end up on coffee tables though as Whiteread’s dealer, Gagosian Gallery, assures us not one of the cubes will be sold.

Sober, not surreal, at Nahmad private view

The top brass of the London art world turned out in force to swig cocktails in Helly Nahmad’s Cork Street Gallery and admire a show of Class A Max Ernst paintings which had been released from the Nahmad family vaults. Despite a dress code of “surrealist attire”, it was sober suits all round for the illustrious gathering which included Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota and Sotheby’s MD Robin Woodhead. Conspicuous by his absence was Britain’s last surrealist survivor George Melly, whose sartorial sense could have been guaranteed to brighten up proceedings, but instead of wearing a fish, he was reportedly up in Scotland trying to catch one. Perhaps the restrained garb reflected the seriousness of the sales: four works had apparently been sold before the exhibition even opened at prices ranging from $500,000 to $5m.