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The Rake’s Progress: A Week in Gossip

16 November 2015

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

For millennia, we have used the myth of Sisyphus as a metaphor for a laborious, self-perpetuating endeavour that can never be completed. But now, the cursed king of Ephyra can step aside from his boulder and rest easy: Rakewell is ecstatic to break the news that someone else is poised to step into the role.

Said individual is, of course, Transformers star Shia LaBeouf, who for reasons unknown to the Rake has condemned himself to an eternity of trying to make us take him seriously. Time was when the young Shia was Hollywood’s answer to Danny Dyer. These days, though, he is styling himself as the Wyndham Lewis of the post-internet generation.

Those with long memories for social media may recall the moment a few years back, when LaBeouf described his Twitter account as ‘meta-modernist performance art’, having already expended much energy musing on ‘the problem with American artwork’. He followed this Vasarian treatise with a six-day performance piece called #IAMSORRY, for which he sat in an LA gallery with a bag over his head, and a stunt in London where he skipped in front of an audience for an hour.

Anyone who feared Shia’s new passion for ‘meta modernist’ art was but a passing caprice was in for a pleasant surprise. This week, he unveiled his new stunt – sorry – work: a 72-hour performance in which he sat through his own filmography in reverse. Call it pseudo-intellectual narcissism if you like, but the Rake must applaud LaBeouf for his courage, regardless of his artistic credentials: anyone who can sit through both Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Nymphomaniac is a brave man indeed.

‘There is nothing Catholic at all in the emblematic works of our time’, wrote Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith in a Catholic Herald blog decrying the diminished state of his denomination’s contribution to the arts.

Rakewell may have evidence to the contrary. When he reported on the strange pan-showbiz penchant for street art last week, one imaginative reader responded on Twitter with a photograph apparently depicting Pope Francis blessing a Banksy.

While it would be would lovely to credit the image as genuine, (and thus have call to muse on whether or not the walls of Jericho might have been spared – or better, ended up in Brangelina’s art portfolio – had the city had its own Banksy) it seems rather unlikely. Whatever the veracity of the image, though, it did get a lot of retweets. And what could be more ’emblematic’ of our times than a social media meme with a lifespan of 15 minutes?

Finally, this headscratcher, courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York:

‘Sugababe is a living bioengineered replica of Vincent van Gogh’s ear, grown from tissue-engineered cartilage cells’.

Boston-based artist Diemut Strebe’s Sugababe really is an ear, grown from DNA taken from a direct descendant of the troubled post-Impressionist and preserved in liquid as a scientific art installation. A wonder of science, then, but whether it actually looks anything like Van Gogh’s ear is open to debate. What isn’t, however, is its sure status as this month’s most baffling artistic proposition.

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

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