Apollo Magazine

The Rake’s Progress: A Week in Gossip

Damien Hirst's Xmas tree controversy; hungering after Olafur Eliasson's vegetables; and is Shia LaBeouf screening Rakewell's calls?

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.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but not everyone seems to be on message. According to various reports, some Mayfair residents are up in arms about the 30-foot Christmas tree Damien Hirst has set up outside the Connaught Hotel. Decorated with syringes, medicine bottles and giant pills, it certainly makes for a novel approach to festive decor. Despite the great man’s protestations that it is a ‘symbol of hope and love’, sceptical neighbours have condemned it as ‘innappropriate’ and ‘unacceptable’.

This, aside from anything else, is rather an improvement for Hirst’s critical reputation of late. With insults ranging from ‘hackneyed and tatty’ to ‘national disgrace’ still ringing in his ears, Mayfair’s moaning will be small beer. Moreover, Rakewell asks himself, how long has it been since the self-styled provocateur’s work actually stirred controversy? The complaints can have prompted only one response chez Damo: Result!


We’ve sorted the arty tree, then, but what of lunch? Specifically, how to cater for the pesky art world vegetarians that Rakewell finds himself failing year in, year out?

Should you be in a similar pickle, fear not, for high-concept help is at hand. Taking a moment out from plonking giant ice cubes in the middle of major European cities, Studio Olafur Eliasson is to publish a vegetarian cookbook. Priced at a competitive £29.95 and entitled The Kitchen, the tome will feature more than 100 meat-free recipes, which, according to its Amazon blurb, have ‘served as nourishment and [as a] source of creative inspiration and communal discussion’ for Olafur and his sous chefs. Sadly, the Rake has yet to receive his advance copy of the tome, and will have to make do with Turkey Twizzlers again this Christmas.


Much fuss over the Mona Lisa last week, but the mystery behind Leonardo’s portrait has been trumped by a text that dropped through Rakewell’s letterbox this week.

‘Here’s the current situation’, reads the introduction to artist Crina Chicchessia’s catalogue for her ‘Poop Art’ paintings, ‘for decades, the free and democratic western world has idolised a mass murderer as a guarantor of human rights and peace. It sends a shiver down one’s spine. Though in vain’.

The villain in question here is photogenic revolutionary Che Guevara, though for reasons beyond the Rake’s understanding, the text is addressed to Andy Warhol. Chicchessia accuses the pop artist of having elevated Guevara to ‘sainthood’ by coopting his likeness in an image. Regardless of the fact that Warhol died in 1987 (and indeed, never actually depicted Che, though he did authenticate a fake rendering of Alberto Korda’s iconic portrait that his chum Gerard Malanga sold to a gallery in Rome), Chicchessia’s tirade makes for interesting reading.

Not quite as interesting as the pictures that accompany the text, however. These appear to depict a statuesque lady baring her bottom to the onlooker while propping a leg up on a sofa. There is meaning here somewhere – but it will take more than an Andrew Graham Dixon documentary to uncover it.


Rakewell favourite Shia LaBeouf wants a word with you. Yes, just when you thought the erstwhile Disney star had outdone himself with his ‘art’ projects (for more of which, see here), the great man sets up a call centre in Liverpool and posts the number online, inviting us to dial up and ‘touch his soul’.

Rakewell knows how he feels. Alas, his repeated attempts to reach out to the self-styled ‘metamodernist’ have all been met with the same response: ‘This is a BT announcement. The network you have called is busy. Please try again later’.

Such is the existential cri de coeur of our times. The Rake can’t be alone in feeling that with this articulation of 21st century purgatory, LaBeouf has inadvertently topped Waiting for Godot. (Note to his publicist: you can have that one for free.)

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

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