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The Rake’s progress: last week in gossip

18 July 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.

The news that David Bowie’s art collection is coming up for auction at Sotheby’s later in the year will no doubt delight fans of the much missed Starman. You may find yourself a little short of the ready to purchase any of the lots, but happily there are other ways in which to get your Bowie fix.

‘We’re inspired by all artistic influences and feel there’s no better way to show our gratitude to David Bowie then to dedicate this year’s makeup competition’s in his name’, say Julia Townend and Nicci Jackson, judges of this year’s ‘Brush Wars’ body painting and makeup competition, held at London’s Olympia in October. The event will apparently ‘embrace and encapsulate the ultimate uniqueness’ of the late Ziggy Stardust and be ‘judged […] on the interpretation of the iconic legend himself’. Whether the entrants will take inspiration from the singer’s stint as a contributor to Modern Painters remains to be seen.


All change at the UK’s department for culture, media and sport, from where short-lived boss John Whittingdale has been ousted in favour of former security minister Karen Bradley. Though colleagues including culture minister Ed Vaizey tweeted heartfelt farewells to Whittingdale, it seems he won’t be missed by everybody. According to Steerpike, the Rake’s colleague at The Spectator, a journalist at the BBC reported ‘whoops and cheers’ in his organisation’s newsroom. The Beeb is of course an impartial body – but schadenfreude knows nothing of politics.


Ed Vaizey, too, is heading to the back benches. The popular culture minister, who had been in the role since 2010, spent much of the weekend retweeting valedictory messages from figures in the culture sector (along with a few parting potshots). But it seems Vaizey foresaw the writing on the wall: at a debate on artistic remuneration for online content on 6 July, he gave a shout out to Luton MP Kelvin Hopkins, welcoming him as Labour’s spokesman for cultural matters. ‘I gave my maiden speech just after he had spoken, so there will be a wonderful symmetry if I give my final remarks as a Minister with him sitting opposite me,’ he said, ‘before I get fired by the new Prime Minister in the coming fortnight. That would be a lovely bookend to my comet-like parliamentary career.’


As regular readers may remember, certain works of installation art have an unfortunate tendency to be taken at face value. A Damien Hirst installation was famously cleared out by cleaning staff at the Eyestorm Gallery in 2001, as was a work by Goldschmied & Chiari at a museum in Bolzano last year. Still, in what might be the strangest incidence of the phenomenon yet, Nuremburg’s Neues Museum is in a spot of bother over Arthur Koepke’s 1965 work Reading-work-piece, which features a crossword puzzle adorned with the instruction to ‘Insert Words’

That is precisely what a 91-year-old woman who visited the institution has done, apparently going some way to solving the puzzle. The pensioner, identified only as Hannelore K., defended herself with the argument that the museum had provided no specific instruction not to do so. We can only hope the crossword itself wasn’t as cryptic as the museum’s signage.

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