November/December 2020

Dick Flasher, who looks more like a Ukrainian camp guard with every photo, offered to swap any of his works for the banana and gaffer tape stunt by Maurizio Cattelan once exhibited controversially at an art fair somewhere. The crack Italian conceptualist said no. According to Jemimas in the know, knocking one up for yourself is verboten, even if no one can tell the difference. It’s all in the idea, the wizard-like magic of the artist’s thinking, it says here…

… Meanwhile, later that same day, Senor Catamaran donated the very same Flasher-coveted, now “iconic” banana to the Guggenheim Museum who, one would have thought, could have afforded a bunch of their own. It is an important condition of the gift, according to the (beautifully typed and embossed) certificate of ownership, that when said banana starts rotting and attracting fruit fly infestation a replacement must be sourced in Costa Rica from a fair-trade collective famed for worker participation and untainted by a history of slavery.

Confronted by his own passage … Gormless has exceeded even his own unbeatable capacity for bollocks with explanations for his latest catwalk collection. “In the sculptures I want to enliven the viewer’s inquisitiveness and confront them with their own passage through space and time. They explore the tension between mass and space, open and closed, stability and the potential to fall.” Year after year he repeats crap like this. So what do said ‘passages’ actually look like? Familiar territory. If you piled high cuboids in the rough form of a standing figure this is what you’d get. Attending the vernissage Ray Winstone was thoughtfully impressed: “It’s all abart the in-play.”

In what seems like the Queen’s fifth birthday honour’s list of the year Frank Bowling was made a Sir. Knighthood? Really? Come off it. Meanwhile, Martin Bailey, spokesman for State Art has been awarded the MBE [I though that was reserved for lollipop men. Ed] for “services to art history and journalism”. The President for Life, who has accumulated more medals than Monty, said: “Martin Bailey is an exceptional and assiduous researcher who has been breaking stories in the art world for 30 years, mainly because I leaked them to him.” Brilliant Scottish printmaker Frances Walker bagged a CBE and sculptor Rebecca Warren an OBE. A few museum coves got ribbons for doing their jobs … whether well or badly doesn’t seem to matter.[Are you missing all those art fairs as much as I am? Ed]

The Tate and Anthony d’Offay have fallen out again. They first stopped working together in 2018 when allegations of the dealer’s dodgy conduct with female staff emerged. They re-started again when police investigations ended without charges. Now it seems they have begun again hence the new decision to cease co-operation permanently. The Tate was accused by outsiders of not having investigated the claims properly itself. And now a self-portrait has emerged of d’Offay posing in a mirror with a golliwog, which in the Wokeist sphere is worse than the sexual assault of a minor. He sent this picture to a former black employee who had accused him of harassment. [What planet is this guy living on? Ed] His name is to be removed from the Tate, his person airbrushed out of photographs, and works loaned by him returned. He hasn’t yet been convicted of anything but as far as posterity is concerned he might as well have assisted Charles Manson. The Scottish National Gallery quickly followed suit with its own ban.

Saatchi’s daughter, who doesn’t look old enough to drink, is opening a spacious gallery in Cork Street (that swish new bit that looks all polished glass and crispy clean roubles) to show the work of unknown but deserving young artists. First up is a Swiss lad who wears a baseball cap the wrong way round – always the sign of a good artist. He is showing 19 works at prices from £50,000 upwards. That’s right, you read it correctly … young, unknown and fifty grand a pop. Saatchi père, who recently relinquished control of his Chelsea gallery to a non-profit trust, is stumping up serious conkers for this new venture and is “very much involved” or “not very much involved” depending on which newspaper puff you believe.

The Jackdaw’s old friend Banksy has lost his lawsuit against a greeting card company because of his anonymity. They were using one of his images, the flower thrower, without permission. He could not be identified in court as the definite owner of the trademark because nobody could admit to who he was. The panel of three judges said that his activities were “inconsistent with honest practices”. Poor old Banksy. He wanted to have his cake and eat it, but his beloved EU weren’t having any of it. The next time he pops by The Jackdaw’s office we’ll stand him a pint of consolatory Horny Bitch Winter Warmer. And we’ll give a couple of hours overtime to editorial assistant Shantella, to whom the Bristolian ghost has on previous visits shown a willingness to intimacy, so she can go up and admire his stencils. 

The main art prize in Australia, their equivalent of the BP Portrait Award, has been won by an Aboriginal painter. How unpredictable was that? The victorious daub is truly appalling, but that’s not what counts. “I feel like this is a very important moment in Australian art,” declared the winner, stating an unfortunate truth.

A grand retrospective of Philip Guston’s work, scheduled next year for four US museums as well as the Tate, has been postponed because imagery in some pictures featuring Ku Klux Klansmen might cause a rumpus. Guston, of course, sided with decency but there are worries these pictures might inadvertently cause problems for someone somewhere who is eager to be offended by anything. 

Student degree shows were this year shown on line. The Jackdaw received invitations to many links, some of them to sites which had pre-selected what someone considered the better works from around the country. The hopelessness of many featured items was depressing and left one wondering how, having spent years in an art school, students could still be painting quite so badly. The standard was atrocious. They had paid good money to learn nothing. [But they did receive a certificate, which will stand them in good stead when they sign on. Ed] 

The British Council is offering a curator £12,500 to help Sonia Boyce with the strenuous task of organising her ‘works’ for the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2022. “Watson, this could easily turn into a two-lartys problem.” 

The Box, a new £46 million centre which has replaced the old Plymouth Art Gallery, has opened recently (a fiver entrance if you don’t live in the city). It features a woolly mammoth, a replica of the Mayflower and myriad nods and winks to Wokeism’s Ten Commandments. And whatever you do don’t mention the Plymouth Brethren.

Dick Flasher made some limited edition prints for sale to aid Save the Children and in particular Italian kids orphaned by the plague. He’s always been a generous fellow has Dick. The prints are based on details from a series of horrendous large paintings of cherry blossoms he has been working up for a few years (more like minutes by the looks of them). Depending on size (both small), the laminated (shiny) giclée prints, ponsy posters effectively, cost between £350 and £1,000  and are ‘digitally signed’ i.e. not actually signed signed. The editions are said to be limited but no numbers are cited on the website. They are probably ‘limited’ to the number they can sell. Comments about these daubs were well up to the newspaper arts correspondents’ usual standards of unwarranted, fawning hype. The prints were “inspired by Monet, Van Gogh, Seurat and Bonnard”. Yes indeed, all of them together and at the very same time because Dick is such a genius. This is as ridiculous as saying that a kid’s muddy mess purportedly depicting an apple is inspired by Courbet, Cézanne, Chardin and Delacroix. These berks must think we’re all blind idiots.

Some of Edward Hopper’s early works painted when he was a teenager were, it transpires, copied from other artists. Others were copied from How-To books and an art paper for amateurs.

An art centre in Rotterdam called after an official in the Colonial trade has been renamed: it’s now called The Melly … presumably after our own George. And on related matters the Colston Hall in Bristol has been renamed the Bristol Beacon.

Our old pal Yogi Shinbone has been awarded a prize given annually by the Government Art Collection. Called Hibiscus and the Rose, Yogi’s woodcut will be shown in embassies around the world. It’s in an edition of 15 with 11 for sale, although we couldn’t discover where they were for sale or for how much. 

A cache of 422 secret and erotic homosexual drawings by Duncan Grant (1885-1978) has been given to Charleston Farmhouse. When Charleston reopens it is hoped to put them on display. The drawings have been described as a Karma Sutra of gay sex and have been kept out of the public eye until now. They were thought destroyed but were appropriately hidden under someone’s bed all along.

The National Trust, which recently announced 1,300 job losses, has been given £6 million from the Chancellor’s emergency rescue fund of £1.57 billion.

A London dealer has asked for all evidence of Saul Fletcher’s work to be destroyed after the Berlin-resident British artist murdered his German curator girlfriend before committing suicide.

James Dyson – he of the overpriced Hoovers, and now, they say, the richest man in the solar system – is opening a public art gallery to show off his private collection of State Art at his Dodington Park estate in Gloucestershire.

A winter “landmark exhibition” called Turner’s Modern World is being held at Tate Britain until March 7th. 160 works have been selected from the Turner Bequest in an attempt to “explore what it meant to be a modern artist during his lifetime”. No mention yet how much they’ll charge us to see works we already own and should be seeing for nothing. Perhaps they will give their newly redundant workers a free pass. But there again maybe they won’t.

Mervyn Peake’s archive of 300 drawings has been acquired by the British Library. They comprise illustrations for his own books as well as for those of others, such as Treasure Island.

Francis Bacon’s last work, featuring a bull, is to be shown in an exhibition next summer at the Royal Academy. The show’s theme is Bacon’s animals.

A painting in the style of early Rembrandt, which had previously been kept in the basement of the Ashmolean, was included in their exhibition Young Rembrandt. The picture which hadn’t previously been displayed because it was thought a copy, has been analysed. A dendrochronologist deduced that the wood was felled between 1613 and 1628 and that the panel comes from the same plank as another genuine Rembrandt in the Mauritshuis also dated to around 1630. At the very least the work is a piece from Rembrandt’s Leiden studio. The exhibition has recently closed.

Michelangelo’s unfinished Pietà, which is usually housed in the Duomo museum in Florence and includes a self-portrait as  Nicodemus and was intended by the sculptor for his own tomb, is being cleaned up. Restorers are using “non-invasive cleaning methods”.  That’ll be alright then.

A Congolese activist is touring western museums trying to ‘steal’ African artefacts which he says were taken by colonial force. His colleagues film these stunts and broadcast them on social media. He objects to having to pay to see works which he feels he should be able to pay to see in his home country.

A man who in January damaged Benin bronzes whilst they were on loan from the BM to the Museum of Slavery in the East End has failed to appear in court. He toppled them from their plinths while claiming he was stealing back what he considered his own heritage. The man’s offence was threatening behaviour and using abusive language.

The Centre Pompidou in Paris, which opened in 1977, is closing from next year for between three and seven years for structural renovation, including asbestos removal. It will cost $235 million at current estimates. You could build a new one for less than that.

Extensive camera analysis of the Mona Lisa has revealed that parts of the picture were transferred to the panel by the spolvero method normally associated with fresco production. A drawing is placed on the panel or wall and drawn outlines pinpricked through on to the surface. The reverse procedure also applies. The pricks could have been made from the original in order to facilitate the making of a copy.

The V&A has announced that 10% of its employees are likely soon to be made redundant. This equates to 85 full-time jobs. The Museum has already cancelled the planned extension to a new satellite in Stratford.

Dick Flasher is organising a retrospective of his early works at his Newport Street Gallery (until March 7th). This will be a great event as we’ve never seen these works before. All the usual lines of merchandise will be in evidence; spots, swirlers, pills, picklings and stuffings, gargantuan sculptures, etc.. It’s free but you have to book, or alternatively just google it – one of the few instances perhaps where ‘virtual’ really is more than sufficient.

A graduating student at Goldsmiths had 32 tons of carrots (deemed unfit for sale on account of their unusual shapes) dumped outside the college. It was a comment, it says here, on almost everything in the Wokeist Manifesto and generated column yards of pictures in the papers. Anything in a degree show achieving over a couple of column inches is usually assumed to guarantee a first.

Former President George W Bush, a Sunday painter, is publishing his second book of daubs. It comprises 43 portraits of immigrants – that’ll go down well with Hogarth’s Pug.

Lockdown Stunts, Part 314… Tudor Sputnik, that bloke who takes photographs of crowds of nudes and calls himself ‘a performance photographer’, has snapped 200 socially distancing, mask-wearing nudists at Alexandra Palace. In one picture they are lying down with their arms in the air as though sleepwalking on their backs. In another they stand facing the camera with their arms up from their sides, palms forward, like Jesus playing world saviour. And in the third they are standing to attention with their heads turned sharply to the right as though a sieg-heiling Hitler is driving past out of shot. Canary Wharf is in the distance.

A number of flat rocks unearthed during a dig in Jersey is said to feature the earliest drawings made in the British Isles. Among a mesh of apparently abstract lines, many of them straight and even as though drawn with an edge, are the outlines of a mammoth and a bison. They have been dated to between 23,000 and 14,000 years old.

A man from west London has been jailed for eighteen months for attacking a Picasso painting with a padlock in Tate Modern. He said it was a “performance”; the judge condemned it as attention seeking.

A new book has identified IRA member Rose Dugdale as the probable architect of the theft of a Vermeer from Kenwood House in 1974.

Analysis of fingerprints in a painted cave in southern Spain has discovered that the ‘prehistoric’ pictures were painted by two people, one a man over 35 years old and the other a woman between the ages of 10 and 16. This is achieved apparently by examining size and depth of ridges in the print. The paintings are not of the oldest type and are thought to be only from 4,500 BC. 

21 landscapes depicting north Wales by Paul Sandby (1731-1809) have been bought for £240,000 by the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.

The Havering Hoard of 453 items from 800 BC, found in 2018, has gone on show at the Museum of London. The collection includes swords, axe and arrow heads, some of which are of continental origin. A number of copper ingots, for example, might have been from as far afield as the Alps.

French/Algerian photographer Mohamed Bourouissa has won this year’s Deutsche Borse photography prize for pictures of marginalised communities.

Billionaire hedge-funder and art collector, Steve Cohen (who owned the shark), has bought the New York Mets, a rounders team.

145 jobs at the Historic Royal Palaces, such as the Tower of London and Hampton Court, are under threat owing to a 90% loss in revenue during recent travails.

For the third time thieves have stolen a Frans Hals, Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer, from the Hofje van Aerden museum in Leerdam. It had previously been stolen in 1988 and 2011. At the time the museum was closed to the public due to the plague – the back door had been jemmied open.

What would have been the largest photography complex in the world, Fotografiska London, a large block on the Whitechapel Road, has been dropped. It’s no longer viable. Audible sighs of relief from The Photographers’ Gallery, which can now continue with impunity doing virtually nothing for a lot longer.

As part of an ever so challenging, subversive stunt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, some ‘famous’ folk, and others not so famous, have been asked to sweep a pile of rice across the gallery floor. It was all to do with “a soulful spiritual journey” and “having conversations with the rice”. You’d be amazed, some State Art types take this sort of fluff seriously. And then next week they take something else inane equally if not more seriously.

As a result of financial losses the Brooklyn Museum is selling twelve works from its collection in order to pay for running costs, a reason for deaccessioning previously frowned upon in the museum industry. Among the dozen for the block is a ‘Corot’ which looks like a dud – hard to believe anyone else would want to own it.

103 drawings from 1829 by Hokusai, intended as illustrations for a book, have been acquired by the British Museum. Let’s hope they’re on show soon – currently the Print Room is closed. Why?

It has been proposed by writer William Dalrymple, a historian of the East India Company, that Britain should build a Museum of Colonialism, as the Americans have done already. It would provide an opportunity to house sculptures of difficult figures removed from prominent positions and also to teach visitors about the less savoury aspects of our history in dealing with other countries. Dalrymple is particularly scathing about three individuals in Indian history who by today’s standards would be considered mass murderers. 

Are you an ‘innovative art-worlder’? You probably think you are but according to those in the know there are only 51 of them. They’ve just been listed by an art magazine, but don’t bother looking them up because we’ll guarantee you haven’t heard of a single one of them.

Until October next year the Rijksmuseum is exhibiting a selection of Dutch Barbizon landscapes – Mauve, Israels etc. – at Schipol Airport outside Amsterdam. This sounds like a grand idea generally. The Royal Academy could show free of charge some of its Diploma Collection at Stansted. Now that would constitute charity … providing they didn’t charge for it.

The V&A and the Smithsonian have cancelled their joint venture to open a museum in Stratford; the reason given was ‘evolving strategic priorities’, also known as China Syndrome.

An official portrait by Alexander Chamberlin of centurion Sir Tom Moore, who raised £32 million for the NHS, has been unveiled at the National Army Museum.

­The Pitt-Rivers in Oxford has removed from view shrunken heads from Ecuador because they “reinforced racist and stereotypical thinking that goes against the museum’s core values”. It is a malicious calumny to suggest that these civilised peoples, who boil the heads of their ancestors, could possibly be considered savages.

The Barber Institute in Birmingham, built in 1939, has been awarded Grade 1 listed status: Robert Atkinson was the architect. Atkinson, who also designed Art Deco cinemas, many now regrettably demolished, designed the interior of the Daily Express Building on Fleet Street, architect Owen Williams. 

Plans for yet another Picasso museum, this one in Aix, have been halted after one of the artist’s relatives fell out with the local council. The dispute concerns the valuation of the convent property which was to house the museum and which is owned by the daughter of Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s last wife. The museum, which would have held 1,000 works, was to have dealt with the relationship between the artist and Roque.

Having announced three months ago that it was to close in New York, Marlborough Gallery has reversed its decision. The London shop is unaffected. This hasn’t stopped Paula Rego jumping ship to join Victoria Miro and swapping the boondocks of Albemarle Street for the Mecca of Wharf Road.

88-year-old Gerhard Richter has made three huge abstract stained glass windows for the Tholey monastery near Munich. The monks asked him in the hope that his work would become an attraction and therefore help generate income for the twelve impoverished inmates. Richter did the work for nothing. In 2007 the painter made stained glass windows for Cologne Cathedral.

Banksy, busy lad, has sponsored a boat operating in the Mediterranean to pick up migrants in distress. He stencilled one of his familiar images, the girl with a balloon, on the side of the ship. The tub promptly broke down, its passengers and crew having to be rescued and the boat taken in tow.

To celebrate what would have been her 60th birthday on July 1st next year, Princes William and Harry are to unveil a statue of Princess Diana at Kensington Palace. The sculpture will be by Ian Rank-Broadley, whose other commissions include the Armed Services Memorial in the National Arboretum and Lord Lovat for Sword Beach in Normandy.

A petition has been started to have a Confederate statue in South Carolina replaced by one portraying black actor Chutnee Postman who featured in a telly programme, Game of Two Halves or something, and who died recently of cancer.

Activists want seven statues in Washington DC to be removed and 50 schools and parks called after controversial figures to be re-named. By the puritanical standards of modern wokeness few historical figures are without taint; few names are untarnished by conspicuous sin.

A statue of Mary Magdalene has been destroyed in a church in the Var of SE France. Her nakedness was covered as usual by long tresses but this was no deterrent to the vandals, who left a note. This stated that such a depiction of a religious figure should not be allowed in a church. It could be that the worst of the Colston Effect is that it emboldens and gives a sense of entitlement to others with a grievance who feel they can destroy with impunity art they happen not to like.

A brass statue of television character Alan Partridge has been unveiled outside an arts centre in Norwich, where the character either worked or is thought to have been world famous, whatever. Anyway, the sculpture by Nick Dutton and Gavin Fulcher was a gift and was sited for only a week, which is an expensive-sounding stunt. Steve Coogan, the actor who invented and played Partridge, has said he thinks the statue should remain permanently in place. 

A Russian billionaire has offered to buy all statues which for ideological reasons are being taken/knocked down in the US. He plans to ship them all to the Soviet Union, sorry Russia, and preserve them for some sort of dubious posterity.

A statue of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the recently deceased Supreme Court judge, is to be erected in her native Brooklyn. 

A statue of a mayor of Vienna, who is said to have inspired Hitler’s anti-semitism and features in Mein Kampf, has been the subject of vandalism and demonstrations. 

A statue of Jefferson Davis has been removed from outside the State Capitol building in Fairview, Kentucky and placed in store in the ‘President’s’ home town. In October statues of Abe Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, both of whom are claimed by perpetrators to have been ‘genocidal racists’, were pulled over in Portland, Oregon.

Hurricane Laura blew down a Confederate monument outside a courthouse in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Two weeks prior to the storm it had survived efforts to topple it by protesters. The Lord heard their plight.

A statue in Montreal of the first Canadian PM, John Macdonald (1815-1891), has been pulled down and decapitated by protesters accusing him of genocide. Macdonald is said to have ill-treated indigenous people and held views on race typical of his time. Local authorities have said they will restore and replace the statue.

The City of London is consulting about statues of those with links to slavery. The main one under consideration is that of William Beckford in the Guildhall itself. He owned over a thousand slaves on plantations in Jamaica.

A crack American conceptualist has had a motto etched on to 120,000 pennies. The word is called Tender and the legend reads THE BODY WAS ALREADY SO FRAGILE. The ‘artist’ claims to be commenting on the relationship between economics and health raised during the plague. They were distributed through corner stores. The $1,200 cost represented the stipend given to workers during their enforced lay-off.