Pope John Paul II - or Mussolini?
A statue of Pope John Paul II that was unveiled last year outside Rome's Termini train station made waves—but for all the wrong reasons. Some visitors said that the imposing piece by sculptor Oliviero Rainaldi resembled the dictator Benito Mussolini. Even the Vatican was dubious about the sculpture, which is meant to show the late pontiff opening his cloak to the faithful. The statue has now been reconfigured by Rainaldi who appears to have enlarged the Pope's head and neck. But a city councilor, Fabio Sabbatani Schiuma, told the UK newspaper the Independent: "They've made it worse. It looks even more like Mussolini." Other critics chipped in, saying that the imposing sculpture looks like a Star Trek creature.
MoMA powers-up video game collection
Dig into the couch cushions to find those spare quarters and get ready to have some video gaming fun at New York’s newest arcade called… MoMA? For the first time, the museum has acquired a set of 14 video games to add to its collection and plans to put them on show in its Philip Johnson Galleries from March 2013, according to ArtReview. This first group will “form the basis for further acquisitions”, the magazine says, and includes gaming favourites such as Pac-Man (1980)?, Tetris (1984)?, Myst (1993), The Sims (2000)? and Katamari Damacy (2004)? and Portal (2007). And MoMA has it’s eye on other classic games it plans to collect “over the next few years”, including Spacewar! (1962), Pong (1972), Space Invaders (1978), Asteroids (1979), Zork (1979), Tempest (1981), Donkey Kong (1981), Super Mario Bros. (1985), The Legend of Zelda (1986), Street Fighter II (1991) and Minecraft (2011).
Take it to the bank
A vacant Bank of Manhattan building in Queens, New York, will be the site for the exhibition “How Much Do I Owe You?” by No Longer Empty, the non-profit art organisation that puts on shows in abandoned spaces. The exhibition investigates the meaning of exchange in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. “Filling these spaces after we leave is another part of our mission,” says a spokeswoman for No Longer Empty. “Around 40% of the properties that we have worked with in the past have received a lease as a direct result of our exhibition.” The show opens on 12 December. P.P.
The art of management
Last week marked the sad end of Roman Abramovich’s latest brief romance, as Roberto di Matteo became the eighth Chelsea manager to be sacked since the Russian billionaire bought the football club in 2003. But Abramovich’s partner, the collector Dasha Zhukova, will be delighted to learn that artists on the Deviant Art website—the visual equivalent of self-publishing—have created their own inimitable images of the departed Italian and his replacement, the former Liverpool gaffer Rafa Benítez. The website includes a watercolour of a faintly boss-eyed Di Matteo, while Benítez can be seen a) looking slightly startled on a Shepard Fairey-style poster, b) with a malformed hand in a woeful “likeness” that resembles a child’s attempt at a courtroom sketch, and c) against a bright Pop background emphasising the fact that the artist has, for some reason, given the Spaniard black skin. Riches aplenty, then—but buyers should proceed with caution, given that Roman changes his managers more often than most of us change our sheets.
Shaping collectors' tastes (and bodies)
The last time we checked in on the New York-based art dealer and personal trainer Peter Hionas, he was busy moulding collectors' tastes as well as their torsos. Well, business seems to be booming as we hear the owner of the Hionas Gallery in Tribeca is planning to expand in January, with a second space on 124 Forsyth Street on the Lower East Side. The storefront had been vacant for decades until the gallery Callicoon Fine Arts moved into one half of the building. The new Hionas Gallery will open next door, and be the dealer's flagship space, while the original gallery, which doubles as a fitness studio, will remain open for "more experimental programming", the dealer told the neighbourhood blog Bowery Boogie.
Dinos makes sweet (electronic) music
Is there no end to the talents of the artistic duo that is the Chapman brothers? News reaches us that sibling Dinos Chapman is due to release a new album in February next year. “Consisting of 13 tracks of electronic ‘Schlampige Musik’, Luftbobler is the result of a decade of experimenting with sound,” says a colourful press statement. A rather bored Dinos, adds the press blurb, has been tinkering away in the basement of his east London home: the result is a record inspired by the “willful experimentation of Stockhausen and impish playfulness of Squarepusher, but sounds like none of them”. Tracks include “Pizza man”, “Cool operator” and “Sun lounge”. But it’s not all about the music; Dinos has designed the album cover, depicting a zombie-esque figure looming over a grave. An accompanying, site-specific, audio-visual installation of Luftbobler will take place at The Vinyl Factory in Soho, London, from 27 February 2013.
Child's play at MoMA
How many times have you walked through a Modern art gallery and heard, “My kid could do that”? A new audio tour of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, recorded entirely by children, actually shows how much kids know about art. In MoMA Unadulterated, "each piece of art is analysed by experts aged 3-10, as they share their unique, unfiltered perspective on such things as composition, the art's deeper meaning, and why some stuff's so weird looking,” explains the website for the downloadable programme, produced by the alternative group Audio Tour Hack. “This is Modern Art without the pretentiousness, the pomposity, or any other big 'p' words.”
Jocelyn Burton, goldsmith to grandees, shares jewellers with Hirst
Bentley & Skinner, the jewellers in Piccadilly who made Damien Hirst's technically demanding diamond-studded skull (he is a regular client there, apparently), are showing a goldsmith until 7 December, who, far from Hirst's carefully cultivated and very public image of rebelliousness, is an almost secret asset of the Establishment. Her clients range from the Duke of Edinburgh to ancient City of London guilds to the smartest cricket club in India, the Pataudi, where the Nawab of Pataudi played so well that he ended up captain of India's national team. Jocelyn Burton is decidedly not modern, but if you want something imposing and full of heraldic and cultural allusions, she's your woman. Here, for example, is the Pataudi team with their trophy by Burton, a gadrooned rose bowl standing on a silver gazebo—it's not often you hear that word nowadays—with Indian-style columns and a jasper and silver cricket ball in the centre.
Have Hirst will travel
We don't usually come across press statements like: "TAG Farnborough Airport has become the first business aviation airport in the world to showcase the works of Damien Hirst and designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby." This show, held in the small airport outside London (until 1 December), consists of spin and spot paintings by the ubiquitous British artist. The show's organiser Tatiana Ojjeh, the director of Artliner: Art and Aviation, says: "It is not an exhibition in the traditional sense but a placement that Artliner organised, tendered to the lifestyle of the clientele of TAG Farnborough Airport." All works are for sale, with prices ranging from £55,000 to £500,000.
Old Flo, don't go
The artist Bob and Roberta Smith protested today (12 November) against the planned sale of Henry Moore's Draped Seated Woman by Tower Hamlets council in east London by descending on the council buildings with "concerned friends and artists" dressed in the elegant style of the threatened statue, known affectionately as Old Flo. The "flashmob" certainly made its mark, reclining on the council steps in fetching verdant garments, pulling poses inspired by Moore's imposing, striking sculpture. Tower Hamlets council says it needs to make savings of £100m by 2015, stressing that any sale proceeds will be used to help fund key services.
Brown University bags Bibby's big brown bear
Striking sculptures of grizzly bears don't come along very often so news that a major US university has commissioned a statue of the majestic creature caught our eye. A 15-foot depiction of the awesome beast by UK sculptor Nick Bibby will be installed next year outside a new sports facility at Brown University in Rhode Island (the college is keen on bears and has adopted the animal as its mascot). "Bibby, a master of bronze animal sculpture, is collected by Damien Hirst, JK Rowling, industrialists, landowners, and connoisseurs in America and the Middle East," says the press release. Smaller versions of Bibby's bear are currently on show at Sladmore Gallery in London.
An illuminating art heist
In one of the most bizarre art thefts in recent years, a panel of light switches made by Rachel Whiteread has been stolen. Valued at £24,000, it was seized from a central London dealer on 26 September during opening hours. So who was the villain? An ordinary art thief would probably not even recognise it as art. With the number 13 stamped on the back (from an edition of 24), it would be quickly identified by any knowledgeable dealer. Made of aluminium, it has very little scrap value. It would certainly be of no use to an electrician. The only possible explanation seems to be that it was stolen by a villain who loves Whiteread. If anyone is offered Untitled (24 Switches), 1998, the insurer Axa Art wants to hear from you.
Damien defies the critics (in Kiev)
In a very bold move, Damien Hirst is showing 11 paintings from his "Two Weeks One Summer Series" at the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev (until 6 January 2013). The Brit artist received a critical drubbing when he showed the works earlier this year at White Cube Bermondsey in London ("The last time I saw paintings as deluded as Damien Hirst's latest works, the artist's name was Saif al-Islam Gaddafi," wrote Jonathan Jones in the Guardian). The Ukrainian collector Victor Pinchuk is a Damien devotee; the steel magnate has also bought several Bacon-inspired blue paintings made by Hirst which were shown in October 2009 at the Wallace Collection in London (the critics weren't keen on those either). The Hirst show runs in parallel with the second edition of the Future Generation Art Prize at the centre (until 6 January 2013). The 20 shortlisted artists represent 16 different countries with works on view by Andre Komatsu of Brazil and Amalia Pica of Argentina, among others. The winner, due to receive $100,000, will be announced on 7 December.
Art world big hitters back London hospital project
In a healthy move, leading organisations and figures in the art world have thrown their weight behind an ambitious new arts programme based at a west London hospital. The Serpentine Gallery, Christie’s, the artist Anish Kapoor and Mark Godfrey, the curator of international art at Tate Modern, are on the arts advisory board for the “Arts for Life” scheme, a three-year project launched at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital in Fulham. New works for the hospital’s HIV clinic are due to be commissioned as part of the project with input from the board. The outspoken London-based dealer Kenny Schachter will also help organise an exhibition of works by patients and medical students at Chelsea Children’s Hospital under the initiative. The Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity, which is responsible for the new scheme, oversees the only hospital art collection to have museum accreditation; artists represented in its holdings include Patrick Heron, Julian Opie and Victor Pasmore.
Part of the scenery at a rollicking London restaurant
Over 200 works from the collection of the London restaurants Langan's Brasserie and Odin's are up for auction at Christie's London in December. Both restaurants were owned by the late bon viveur Peter Langan who, as one newspaper put it, was seldom sober. The works on offer, by artists such as David Hockney, R.B. Kitaj and Patrick Procktor, were the backdrop to raucous evenings in Langan's, a hotspot in the 1970s and 1980s for stars such as Mick Jagger and Sean Connery. Hockney's large-scale Portrait of Peter Langan in Los Angeles, dating from the early 1980s, is estimated at £100,000-£150,000. We recently revealed, meanwhile, that restored murals of Venice by Procktor will be on view from the end of November at Langan's Brasserie which is off Piccadilly.