The search for the Holy Grail of video games is due to begin this weekend in what is being billed as “the first archaeological expedition in the gaming era”. Organisers are counting on the fact that American deserts are still one of the best place to find aliens as they prepare to excavate a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico on 26 April in search of more than a million cartridges of Atari’s ill-fated video game “ET the Extraterrestrial”. Atari is rumoured to have buried the cache in 1983 in the middle of the night following the commercial failure of the game based on the Academy Award-winning 1982 film. The dig, organised by Fuel Entertainment and Xbox Entertainment Studios, is being filmed as part of a documentary series about the start of the digital revolution. And for the hardcore gamers who are already dusting off their Atari 2600 consoles, the public is welcome to watch the excavation of the “Atari Graveyard” live in the desert. For more info: www.fuelentertainment.com.
An artistic turn of mind
Do artists really think differently? Yes, it turns out. A study recently published in the journal NeuroImage reveals structural differences in the brains of art students and “non-artists” in areas dealing with visual imagery, fine motor performance and procedural memory. Brain scans of 21 art students showed noticeably more grey matter in the precuneus area of the parietal lobe—a region of the brain “linked to creativity”, according to the study’s lead author, Rebecca Chamberlain. Meanwhile, those who performed better on drawing tasks had more grey and white matter (which facilitates communication between regions of the brain) in the cerebellum and the area related to fine motor control. So, are artists truly born and not made? While the study may seem to suggest this, the researchers stress that its still not clear what facets of artistic performance are innate or learned. However, in the words of a co-author of the study, Chris McManus, the study “has given us a handle on how we could begin to look at this”. Back to the drawing board then?
Make the connection: Momart and the Falklands
What links the London-based international art shippers Momart and the Falklands? Six years ago, Momart was bought up by Falkland Islands Holdings, which runs the Falkland Islands Company, established by Royal Charter in 1852. It used to look after 300,000 sheep and still has major fishing interests. The holding company has announced that Momart brought in profits of £760,000 in the first half of last year, more than twice that generated by the venerable Falkland Islands Company. Among Momart’s recent contracts was the Manet show at London's Royal Academy, Houghton Hall loans from Russia, and, appropriately (considering the Falklands’ location off Antarctica), "Ice Age Art" at the British Museum.
Room and board
Le Lutetia, Paris’s first Art Deco hotel, is a Left Bank institution. Pablo Picasso and General Charles de Gaulle spent their honeymoons there; it is where James Joyce wrote part of Ulysses; and Pierre Bergé, the partner of Yves Saint-Laurent, lived for a decade in a suite on the third floor. His auction house, Pierre Bergé & Associés, is now overseeing the sale of 100 pieces from Le Lutetia’s quirky art collection—along with 3,000 items of furniture and 8,000 bottles of wine and spirits—as the hotel closed last week for a three-year renovation. Coming under the hammer in May are works of art by César, Takis and Arman, who decorated the biggest suite on a musical theme (a headboard and bronze chairs in the form of violins and plush sofas backed by instrument cases). The Arman suite, complete with a signature Shooting Colours painting, could fetch more than €250,000 alone, Le Monde reports, although it’s a fraction of the estimated €80m-€100m price tag on Le Lutetia’s five-star makeover.
Fear and loathing in New York
Ralph Steadman, best known for the wild and wiry illustrations he did for his friend, the journalist Hunter S. Thompson, gets a show of his own in New York this week. In celebration of the release of “For No Good Reason”, a documentary about Steadman featuring appearances by the filmmaker Terry Gilliam and the actor Johnny Depp, Red Bull Studios in Chelsea is putting on a display of the illustrator’s prints, photographs and Polaroids. But take note: the show is only up briefly (23-25 April), so those looking for a fix of Steadman’s work need to act fast.
The Eternal City™
An ancient city whose countless crumbling monuments only survive by being sponsored by corporate brands, from cars to pasta, shoes to handbags. Welcome to Rome, as seen by the Spanish artist Miguel Cuba Taboada, one of the 16 fellows in the show “Estación XV” (Station XV) at the Real Academia de España en Roma (until 25 May). And as with any parody, its genius lies in how closely it mirrors reality: Tod’s shoe empire really has paid €25m to restore the Colosseum, albeit minus the zeppelin, and the accessories giant Fendi is giving €2.1m to preserve the Trevi Fountain. Could Peroni, Campari and Martini be the next to jump on the bandwagon? “My project was to create a city that shows this invasion of businesses in the world of culture,” Miguel Cuba told the Spanish newspaper El País. “It’s good for them to contribute to the conservation of artistic heritage. But it’s troubling to see that companies are appropriating icons like the Colosseum to improve their brand value.”
Pharrell the curator: art makes him HAPPY
Emmanuel Perrotin knows how to make a splash, so it is fitting that the French dealer has asked one of the world's most exuberant pop stars to curate an exhibition of works in his new gallery in Paris. Step forward Pharrell Williams who has chosen 40 works by 32 artists, 16 of whom are women, for the show which is catchily entitled "G I R L" after the musician's latest best selling album (27 May-25 June). "The works selected mix images of women and of love, viewed from a variety of angles," says a pithy press statement. Tracey Emin, Alex Katz and Bharti Kher are among the artists represented while ten new works, by practitioners including Daniel Arsham and Gregor Hildebrandt, also feature in Pharrell's round-up. "Some" of the works are for sale, says a gallery spokeswoman who throws light on the new Salle de Bal gallery in the swanky Marais district. "This space [Perrotin's third Parisian venue] will be dedicated to special projects, and open to the public, but also reserved for private visits as a showroom," she says. The last word (naturally) goes to Pharrell: “I’m like a student when I’m with visual artists, I love to learn from them. Artworks teach you how to live and think differently."
Art that melts in your mouth, but not on the wall
Sticky-fingered viewers will find it difficult to heed the “look but don’t touch” rule when confronted with Anya Gallaccio’s chocolate-smeared work, which goes on show at the Jupiter Artland sculpture park in Edinburgh on 17 May (until 13 July). And with a title like STROKE, the public might be forgiven for doing just that. For the first time since 1994, when the work was conceived, Gallaccio will coat the walls of one of the park’s galleries with 40kg of Belgian dark chocolate, which will rot over time. Sweet-toothed art lovers are advised to visit early, before decay sets in. “For once, I’m praying we don’t get 30°C and sunshine,” says Jupiter’s owner Nicky Wilson.
Norway, then and now
The Oslo-based artist Trond Hugo Haugen is marking the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution by recreating Eidsvold 1814, a painting by Oscar Arnold Wergeland of the men who signed the historic document. Haugen’s version will be a photograph showing what Norway looks likes today. “The goal was to get a representation as good as possible of the current population, scaling five million people down to 112 representatives,” the same number of men who were at the signing of the constitution, says Haugen. “This is, of course, impossible but the idea is good. We have chosen people based on their sex, age, education, profession, income, belief and ethnicity, based from data by Statistics Norway.” In the original, the representatives are mainly white, middle-aged men. The photoshoot for the recreation took place at the beginning of February in the Eidsvoll Building, where the constitution was written and signed. The photo, Et riksportrett will be part of the exhibition “1814 Revisited: the Past is Still Present” (10 May-14 September), organised by the Akershus Kunstsenter in Lillestrøm. A version of the photograph will also be displayed on the façade of Oslo’s Central Station during the run of the exhibition.
Lego my Rietveld
What are Legos if not the toys of democracy, breaking down the barriers between fine art and design and allowing anyone, anywhere, to build something easily and efficiently? These must have been the thoughts running through the artist Mario Minale’s head when he re-envisioned Gerrit Rietveld’s 1917 Red and Blue Chair as a Lego set piece for the masses. Minale assembled eight of the chairs with the help of the Droog Design firm in the Netherlands before the copyright lawyers came knocking and put an end to the dream of making the pieces widely available. But at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, one of these lovely loungers is being offered in the firm’s “20th & 21st Century Design” sale on 23 April, with a $10,000 low estimate. The public can preview the piece ahead of the auction and imagine a different world—one where democracy means good design for all.
History repeats itself
Hearkening to earlier politically volatile times, Peter Greenaway and Saskia Boddeke’s immersive multi-media exhibition “Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde”, had its world premiere on Monday at Moscow’s Manege exhibition hall near the Kremlin. Greenaway told reporters that a new language is needed, using modern technology, so that the public can announce, “the cinema is dead, long live the cinema”. The installation at Manege, a centerpiece of the UK-Russia Year of Culture, is a move in that direction, the British director added. He credited his wife, the Dutch stage director Boddeke, with being the main force behind the project, which was organise with two Russian curators, Olga Shishko and Elena Rumyantseva. Given the chilling political climate in Russia, the scene is bracing. Key works of the avant-garde, including Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, flash on nearly 20 massive screens in the vast hall and Russian actors portray a cast of leading characters, from Malevich to Vladimir Tatlin, Lilya Brik and Vladimir Mayakovsky, reciting hypnotic words about the power of art and the crushing counterforce of repression—an eerily prescient sentiment in Russia today.
The guy that paid for the golden egg
It was eighth time lucky for the Midwest American seller of a previously lost Fabergé egg. The unnamed, part-time dealer bought it recently for its estimated scrap metal price of $14,000, unaware that it was the third (of only 50) Imperial Russian Eggs. It was only after he had failed to re-sell it seven times, at a small premium, that he contacted the London dealer Wartski, who identified it and brokered a deal for a reported £20m. Wartski director Kieren McCarthy would not confirm this price, nor the identity of its new owners, other than to say that they are “not Russian”. The egg is on view at Wartski until Thursday 17 April.
McQueen the Musical?
The Turner Prize winner—and Oscars darling—Steve McQueen hopes to direct a musical according to the UK newspaper The Sunday Times. McQueen has been garlanded with honours for his harrowing account of slavery, "12 Years A Slave". John Harlow reported: "[McQueen] is still looking for a musical. Hurry up, Steve, or the best tunes will be gone: Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx are in 'Annie', Meryl Streep in 'Into the Woods'." But which musical could McQueen take on?
Henri Matisse’s paper cut-outs, which go on view to the public this Thursday in Tate Modern’s hotly anticipated summer show (17 April-7 September), are teeming with marine creatures—algae, a mermaid and the sea goddess Amphitrite (Poseidon’s wife)—but there is one surprise detail that only attentive visitors will spot. The curators offer a clue in the wall text for Room 12, where the Tate’s own famous cut-out, The Snail, 1953, has pride of place. Of this massive work, nearly three metres square, we are told that the usually careful Matisse roughly cut and tore some of the shapes but “there is one playful exception” in the top-left corner. Look hard at the lilac edge of the snail’s shell and what should swim into view but a half-submerged baby fish.
Student activists get creative in Caracas
Art students around Caracas have dressed up as green-faced soldiers, armed themselves with toy weapons and taken to the streets to condemn the country's military crackdown on protests that started in February. Photos of the “creative protests” by students from Venezuela’s Experimental Art University started appearing on Twitter as early as Wednesday. They have visited spots around Caracas and taken over the city's Metro. At each post they take different pseudo-military positions around a single “civilian” who holds up a banner that reads: “When I was a child they were my heroes, now they repress me.” But will turning the mirror back on the soldiers help their cause? You can follow the protesters on Twitter @unearteresiste or using the hashtag #protestacreativa.
He said, she said
Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith, New York’s best-known art critic couple, have always insisted that they don’t share notes. “When we know we're writing about the same thing, we tend not to discuss it,” Roberta told Interview magazine last October, to which Jerry replied: “For example, we're overlapping on Christopher Wool for his retrospective. I have no idea what Roberta thinks of the show.” But can a marital mind-meld really be avoided? This week, both writers reviewed George Bush’s painting exhibition at his Presidential Center in Texas. “If Mr Bush’s portrait of Mr Putin were an anonymous find in a thrift shop, most of us would happily snap it up,” Roberta writes in the New York Times. Jerry echoes dutifully in New York magazine: “If I stumbled on three or four of Bush’s paintings in a flea market by an anonymous artist, I’d snap them right up.” Roberta says Bush’s self-portrait “seems still to need work” and Jerry says it is “the least finished” picture in the show. They both compare Bush to the Belgian painter Luc Tuymans, and both raise the possibility that the show is meant to distract us from the presidential ambitions of George’s little brother, Jeb. They have their differences—Jerry is keener to bring politics into the mix—but they clearly share similar views on Dubya's daubs.
Uli Sigg's uplifting career
Charles Saumarez Smith, the secretary and chief executive of the London’s Royal Academy of Arts, recently revealed that he visited the studio of artist and activist Ai Weiwei outside Beijing. "As we left, Uli Sigg arrived, who started selling lifts in China in the 1970s, was the Swiss ambassador in Beijing in the 1990s, and has presented his collection to M+, the new Museum in Hong Kong, including 25 works by Ai Weiwei," quipped Saumarez Smith, throwing new light on the illustrious collector's expertise in elevators.
Damien: This is My Life
UK artist Damien Hirst is to publish his autobiography autumn next year. Penguin Books said in a statement that the long-awaited tome will cover Hirst’s early life in Leeds, his time at Goldsmiths College in London and epochal moments such as the student show "Freeze", which was curated by Hirst in London's Docklands in 1988, as well as the headline-hitting exhibition "Sensation" held at London's Royal Academy of Arts in 1997. The book will be co-written with James Fox. The art world will no doubt be keen to see if Damien spills the beans on other aspects of his practice such as the number of assistants he employs, the nature of his relationships with the collector Charles Saatchi and mega-dealer Larry Gagosian, and why he likes spots and formaldehyde so much.
Art billboards, coast to coast
How would Grant Wood’s beloved American Gothic, 1930, look like in Times Square? Or a portrait of the abolitionist Frederick Douglas in a Birmingham bus billboard? With Art Everywhere US, the “largest outdoor art show ever conceived” the possibilities are (somewhat) endless. Over 50 “masterworks of American art” from five major American museums will be reproduced on 50,000 billboards from California to the New York Island. Starting today, the organiser wants you to chose the works for this unprecedented patriotic occasion. In January, The Art Newspaper reported that Richard Reed, the founder of Innocent Drinks, was in talks with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America to see if his project with the Tate and other UK institutions (where 57 works reproduced on 22,000 advertising signs) could make it in the new world. And now that the project has gotten a green light for August, the UK counterpart just can't wait to get on the road again. Today it announced the UK-wide event will take place annually. So, could we see an Art Around the World project soon?
Big Bambu in Jerusalem
American twin artists Doug and Mike Starns are erecting their Big Bambu in the Middle East for the first time at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, starting 27 April. Seventeen American rock climbers and nine local crew members will work with the artists to build the scalable installation in the museum’s sculpture garden, using tens of thousands of bamboo shoots. Previously, Big Bambu was only realised in urban environments, “like a weed growing in the cracks of a sidewalk, thereby showing untamed life where previously there wasn’t any obvious life; or actually growing within and on top of a bamboo forest at the Naoshima Museum in Japan,” Mike Starns told The Art Newspaper. “In Jerusalem we will see what happens in an open space as it grows.” The plan for the Jerusalem version, which will open to the public from 10 June, includes a double helix stairway that leads visitors further up the 12m to 15m tall structure. After the exhibition closes on 1 October, the main body will be disassembled, leaving the double helix tower on permanent display in the museum garden.
Baldessari’s dromedary drama
Plans to install a camel sculpture by John Baldessari at the new US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan have hit a bump—or, in this case, a hump—in the road. Unlike much of the art on display in US embassies, Camel Contemplating a Needle, 2013, was selected without an open competition or call for submissions because its reference to a common passage in the Bible and Qur’ran made it “uniquely qualified” to be shown in a primarily Muslim country, according to a State Department memo published by Buzzfeed. But the Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz isn’t a fan. He called the $400,000 work “a questionable use of taxpayer resources” in a letter to the Secretary of State John Kerry on 1 April. Chaffetz, who chairs the Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, has asked the State Department to hand over documents related to all embassy art purchases since 2010. (Most purchases are funded through the Art in Embassies programme, which devotes less than 1% of the State Department’s construction budget to art purchases.) Chaffetz says that the department failed to demonstrate why the pricey Baledssari “is uniquely capable of fulfilling the agency’s needs”. It is too soon to tell whether his argument, like a camel’s hump, will hold any water.
Congo conflict in the raw: Venice hit opens in London
A work which made waves at last year's Venice Biennale premieres in London this week. Richard Mosse's multichannel video installation, The Enclave, is seared on the minds of visitors to the Irish Pavilion in La Serenissima. The work, set in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, shows defiant and violent rebel groups rampaging across the striking landscapes. The film is rinsed in purples and pinks, adding a lurid veneer to the human rights violations documented on camera (Mosse used a type of infrared film once employed by the military to detect camouflaged installations from the air). "More than five million people have died or been killed of war-related causes [there] since 1998. We don't really hear anything about this ongoing humanitarian disaster," Mosse told Frieze magazine last year. For the London showing at the Vinyl Factory Space in the Brewer Street Car Park (4-26 April), The Enclave has expanded from six to eight double-sided screens. The London-based gallery Edel Assanti is a co-organiser of the exhibition.
Caravaggio, the master of chiaroscuro, is showing one of his darkest sides in Asia for the first time. Supper at Emmaus, which the Italian artist painted in around 1606 after he was exiled from Rome for committing murder, is on show at the Asia Society in Hong Kong. The picture has been loaned by the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, which has negotiated a tidy fee of HK$4.8m ($620,000) to send the work to Asia for the first time. An earlier version, painted in 1601, is in the National Gallery in London. The show, “Light and Shadows” (until 13 April), also features works by four local contemporary artists—Chow Chun-fai, So Hing-keung, Tsang Kin-wah and Wucius Wong—who have all adapted Caravaggio’s techniques and style.
Ai Weiwei loves cats. His Beijing studio is filled with around 30 of the little critters and the artist introduced them to the world in Alison Klayman’s 2012 documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”. One of his feline friends is even known to be able to open doors. So, it’s no surprise that London’s first magazine for “culture-, fashion-, music- and cat-lovers”, is launching its inaugural edition with a feature on the dissident artist and his furry pals. Puss Puss, a 100-page “book zine”, aims to “dispel the frumpy, crazy cat lady” stereotype through high-fashion photography and edgy styling. In addition to the interview with “cool cat” Ai, the first issue—due to come out in May if the production costs are met—will include cat illustrations by Jean Jullien and a history of the leopard print in fashion. Any stylish feline aficionados who want to help the magazine can donate to its Kickstarter campaign.
Rumble in the urban jungle
This summer will bring a battle for the ages to London’s Serpentine Gallery. The contemporary art space has announced that for a new performance piece in July, Marina Abramovic will go head to head with the Serpentine’s own co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist in an epic bout of endurance. The über-curator is due to hold one of his “Marathon” series of events, in which Hans himself will hold forth on the topic of the artist’s body in performance art history for a full 24 hours, while Marina stares intently as she sits on a chair of nails. The former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who serves as the chairman of the gallery, will referee the match, while local bookies are taking bets on who will drop first, the ever-present artist or the indefatigable speaker. But you’ll have to place your wagers early as the betting ends after April 1st.
Which came first, the tsarina or the egg?
The jewellery designer Fabergé is putting on an Easter egg hunt in New York this year that’s fit for a tsar. For three weeks beginning on 1 April, the company invites anyone interested to scour the city for more than 200 two-and-a-half foot hidden eggs designed by artists like Zaha Hadid, Jeff Koons and Patti Smith. All you’ll need is a Fabergé smart phone app, which will alert you if you’re within 20 feet of one of these treasures. After the egg hunt, the pieces will be auctioned off, with some proceeds going to Studio in a School, an art education nonprofit, and the Elephant family, a charity supporting the Asian elephant population.