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The Rake’s progress: last week in gossip

16 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.

Artist, broadcaster and occasional British Museum curator Grayson Perry appears to have added a new string to his bow since the Rake spoke to him about Brexit back in June. On the evidence of Observer restaurant reviewer Jay Rayner’s last column, the Perry seems to have unwittingly become a food critic.

‘I don’t generally mention my [dining] companions, because they are only there to laugh at my jokes and so that I can order more food,’ Rayner wrote. ‘But as I was joined by the potter Grayson Perry and his psychotherapist wife Philippa it’s worth recording their views on the plates. “Oooh vitrified,” says Philippa, her mouth puckering in a starfish of distaste. Grayson nods. He tells me that it’s been fired at a high temperature so doesn’t need a glaze. “Nasty rough surface,” Philippa says. She has a point.’

Fortunately, the crockery turned out to be the low point of this communal repast, pace the concluding paragraph of Rayner’s review. ‘Afterwards Grayson Perry, being well dragged up, sent me a thank-you note. “Good food too,” he said, “Not that you want my opinion.” He was right, on both counts.’


Gastronomy, alas, hasn’t worked out quite so well for Brooklyn-based artist Lesley Johnson, who was recently commissioned to produce a series of designs intended to grace the walls of a new restaurant in Williamsburg. According to the New York Post, the restaurant in question – which is owned by hospitality chain Major Food Group – has yet to serve up the promised cash for Johnson’s work.

The artist says that MFG has yet to pay her the $4,579 it owes, and is also creating difficulties over ownership, allegedly offering her just $10 for the copyright. ‘They were very late in sending out the check and not telling me why,” she told the Post. ‘Then they stopped payment on the check when I told them I wouldn’t discuss copyright or usage issues until my invoice was paid in full.’ Let’s hope the dispute is resolved before anyone makes a meal of it.


Michel Barnier, who has been appointed by the EU to lead its negotiations in Brexit talks, has previously raised eyebrows in certain quarters for his perceived Anglophobia and – somewhat incredibly – for his artistic tastes. ‘I worry very much about Mr Barnier,’ former Treasury minister Lord Myners told the House of Lords in 2011. ‘He came to see us at the Treasury. He came down the corridor and I was watching him. I am a great fan of art and I was impressed that he stopped to look at every painting. I thought this was a man with whom I share a common interest – until I realised he was actually looking at his reflection in the glass on every painting, and adjusting his hair or his toupée. This to me is a man whom we should treat with a very long spoon.’

Should M. Barnier wish to further his interest in representations of the self, we would encourage him to take a field trip to Edinburgh, where the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is currently exhibiting Facing the World: Self-Portraits Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei. Who knows? First Minister Nicola Sturgeon might even take time out to give him a private tour – as she has done in the museum for a recent TV spoof.

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