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Rakewell

The Rake’s progress: last week in gossip

30 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.

Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s show at London’s Barbican Centre (until 4 September) has quite rightly reaped acres of praise, with one Sunday newspaper critic describing it as ‘tangy, exciting, inventive, visually intoxicating and, yes, obsessive and unsafe’.

He didn’t know the half of it. One of the highlights of the exhibition is a body of work the artist created during the 2009 Venice Biennale, in which he and a friend holed up in a palazzo for six months, smoking countless fags and knocking back beer like there was no tomorrow. In the process, Ragnar created scores of portraits of his chum, who from the evidence appears to have spent most of the time drinking cans of beer in his pants.

Thanks to one of the participants in the current show, Rakewell has learned quite how ‘unsafe’ acting as Ragnar’s muse can be. Apparently, the artist’s companion in Venice drank so much beer that he developed an intolerance to wheat. Who said contemporary art had become sanitised?

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Twitchers stuck in central London had cause to rejoice last week, when David Lee wrote to The Times claiming that on a recent visit to the British Museum he looked up through ‘Norman Foster’s ugly glass swimming pool roof’ only to see a ‘dozen or more’ kittiwakes ‘roosting and strutting about’. As Mr Lee stated, kittiwakes are sea birds, and as such are highly unlikely to venture to Bloomsbury’s more famous cultural attractions.

Three days later, the paper’s nature diarist, Derwent May, wrote to take issue with Mr Lee’s sighting, adding that the birds in question were probably herring gulls – ‘a common sight on roofs in London’. Perhaps. Then again, who knows what weird science might be going on in the BM’s rooftop beehives…

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Further to last week’s piece on the latest art-world pratfalls of our favourite musicians, the Rake was happy to read that singer Frank Ocean has been collaborating with cooler-than-thou Turner Prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans.

According to Tillmans, who has a hitherto unrecognised sideline as a techno musician, Ocean asked him if he could sample the track ‘Device Control’ on his latest ‘visual album’. The ever obliging Tillmans agreed, but got rather a shock when he heard it: rather than merely sampling the song, Ocean had just stuck seven minutes of it onto the end of the album.

Though Tillmans says he was ‘thrilled’ (though, naturally, also ‘baffled’) with Ocean’s appropriation of his work, it is heartening to hear that the singer felt some remorse for pinching his tune. Apparently, Ocean has now apologised, saying that the rights will be ‘sorted out’ presently.

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

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