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Meet your new chairman, the Prince of Darkness

8 December 2016

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Excellent news for style-conscious fans of guacamole. Lord Mandelson, the self-styled ‘Third Man’ of the New Labour troika, has been appointed chairman of the board of trustees at London’s Design Museum. ‘To take over as chair of the Design Museum as it starts this huge new chapter in its life is very exciting and a great outlet for the love of design I have nurtured all my life’, Mandelson has commented.

Naturally, Mandelson has some experience in the field. That said, he’d probably rather it was forgotten. In 1997, Stephen Bayley, one of the co-founders of the original Design Museum, was invited to become creative director of what was then known as the ‘Millennium Project’. Initially, as he wrote in his 1998 book Labour Camp, he saw an ‘opportunity to recreate something as important as [the Great Exhibition of] 1851’. Alas, he had not reckoned on the man Tony Blair had made responsible for the Dome: one Peter Mandelson.

According to Bayley, almost every bad decision that could have been made went on to be made – directly or indirectly by the ‘slippery’ Mandy. ‘Every sensible opportunity to make sense of the Dome’s extravagant uselessness [was] ignored,’ Bayley wrote, laying the blame firmly at the Dark Lord’s door. Exasperated, he finally quit the project little more than a year after his appointment. ‘Mandelson seems to have no genuine aesthetic sense’, he wrote.

But perhaps Mandelson has turned his back on white elephants. After all, his other engagements in the past few weeks have included adding his vocal support to a Chinese project to rebuild the Titanic as a tourist attraction. The Rake counsels the Design Museum’s management to keep an eye out icebergs…

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via@Rakewelltweets.

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