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Rakewell

The Rake’s progress: last week in gossip

8 August 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.

Answering online security questions can be a bore at the best of times. So it is that Rakewell salutes United Airlines for adding the question ‘Who is your favourite artist?’ to its list of options, with a list of 65 candidates to choose from. Ranked in alphabetical order, from Ai Weiwei to Zhang Huan, the list is nothing if not a postmodern inventory: Banksy sits above Botticelli, and successive namechecks for Mark Rothko, Michelangelo and Norman Rockwell, while not entirely logical, could at least inspire an intriguing selection of fantasy dinner party guests.

However, this game of art history in 65 names can’t cover all bases. While the likes of Takashi Murakami and Shepard Fairey get the nod, there is no Dürer, no Uccello and no Veronese. The 19th century gets similarly short thrift: no Whistler, no Pissarro, no Delacroix.

Worse still, if your favourite artist is of the fairer sex, the chances are that United will have left you feeling just a little disenfranchised. Only seven women are deemed eligible for inclusion, with Georgia O’Keeffe, Yayoi Kusama and Frida Kahlo present and correct but Louise Bourgeois, Bridget Riley and Barbara Hepworth all left out in the cold. And on the YBA front, Damien Hirst gets the seal of approval over contemporaries like Tracey Emin and Cornelia Parker.

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Readers of this website’s Art News Daily round-up will have been shocked by news that two Italian Renaissance paintings in the collection of London’s National Gallery have been damaged, apparently by careless visitors. According to the Guardian, which broke the story, curatorial staff fear that recent initiatives to outsource gallery warden jobs to private firm Securitas may have put the collection at further risk from such ‘clearly visible’ damage.

While NG director Gabriele Finaldi has said that the transition to privatisation has gone ‘rather well’ so far, his staff have other thoughts. ‘It is not uncommon for privatised Securitas staff at the National Gallery to tell visitors that they can find the Mona Lisa in the Sainsbury wing of the gallery!’ one employee told the Guardian. ‘It’s no surprise that paintings are now getting damaged.’

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‘For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, three official artists in residence have been invited to work in a host city during the Games,’ trumpets the official website for Rio 2016. ‘At Rio 2016, French artist JG has constructed three huge installations across the city,’ continues the blurb. Whoever ‘JG’ may be, the Rake knows not. But he does remember reading that celebrated French artist JR was also commissioned to produce a series of ‘three huge installations across the city.’ Coincidence?

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

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