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The Rake’s progress: last week in gossip

24 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.

It’s been a bad week for whoever’s in charge of publicising Marina Abramović’s upcoming memoir, Walk Through Walls. Last week, a photo emerged of a page from an uncorrected proof of the book, in which she discusses her first encounters with indigenous Australians. (She stayed with the Pijantjatjara and Pintupi tribes for seven months in 1979). ‘They are the oldest race on earth. They look like dinosaurs,’ she muses. Not sure what that means? ‘To Western eyes they look terrible. Their faces are like no faces on earth; they have big torsos […] and sticklike legs.’ Abramović has since issued an apology to the Aboriginal people; the time she spent with them, she says, ‘deeply and indelibly informed my entire life and art’.


Meanwhile, in Toronto, Dale Chihuly of chandelier fame has also been doing his bit for cultural relations. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) opened an exhibition of the glass specialist’s work in June, including his colourful Persian Ceiling (1999), which was exhibited with the following explanation of his cultural influences. ‘I just liked the name Persians. It conjured up sort of Near-East, Byzantine, Far East, Venice, all the, trades, smells and senses. It was just an exotic name to me, so I just called them Persians.’

The ROM – eventually realising that the‘Persian’ is a slightly more specific term – took the label down this month. ‘Once […] the text was seen in context,’ officials explained, ‘it became clear that it did not reflect the voice of the museum.’ Chihuly’s studio issued a statement claiming that the term has been used by the artist for years, and the quote (which remains on his website) ‘reveals [his] inspiration’.


Clever marketing from the Saatchi Gallery, which has sent out a press release for its upcoming Henri Barande exhibition that includes snippets of praise for the artist in the world’s media. Among them, the New York Times’s assertion that Barande’s work is ‘a hard act to follow’, which – if you follow the link – turns out to be written by none other than the curator of the current show.


Is Ai Weiwei already falling out of love with Berlin? The Chinese dissident artist moved there last year but, in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung’s weekend magazine, he sounded more than a little fed up with the place. After standing up for Chris Dercon, who’s been accused by Berliners of wanting to ‘sell out’ the Volksbühne theatre when he starts as director next year, Ai Weiwei moved on to what was really bothering him about the city: its lack of jaywalkers. ‘It’s not funny: when you see a group of pedestrians standing at a red light although there are no cars in sight, I find this kind of obedience grotesque.’

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