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The Rake’s progress: last week in gossip

22 November 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.

With Tate Modern’s Robert Rauschenberg retrospective looming, the Guardian’s Alex Needham spoke to Matt Hall, an employee at the late artist’s retreat on the island of Captiva, Florida. Recalling his job interview, Hall remembers Rauschenberg asking to be addressed not formally, but simply as ‘Bob’. ‘I don’t know why’, Hall mused, ‘but I said, ‘Bob: backwards or forwards, it’s spelt the same. It reminds me of the joke about the dyslexic who tried to commit suicide: he jumped behind the train.’ Rauschenberg broke into hysterical laughter, before regaining his composure: ‘I’m dyslexic. See you Monday, sweets.’


With Helen Marten having won the inaugural Hepworth Sculpture Prize and the Turner awards bash just around the corner, Rakewell begs a moment to look back on one of the stranger arts competitions of 2016. Back in July, we reported on novelist Douglas Coupland’s appeal for Van Gogh lookalikes to step forward and be judged, with the promise that the individual bearing the most uncanny resemblance to the troubled artist would be awarded a prize of €5,000. ‘I’m learning that most people have someone in their life who looks like Vincent van Gogh,’ the artist remarked by way of explanation.

Having been consumed by the suspense of it all, Rakewell is delighted to report that Coupland has found a winner in the shape of Dorset resident Dan Baker. ‘Meeting Dan was a very strange experience’, said Coupland. ‘I’d spent months looking at Vincent lookalikes on a computer screen and then suddenly there was this man — my Vincent van Gogh — hopping out of a taxi looking like he’d just stepped out of the year 1889.’ At the time of writing, Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum has yet to comment on Coupland’s ‘discovery’.


Rakewell has been browsing the pre-Christmas glut of celeb autobiographies, and discovered revelations aplenty in former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr’s memoir Set the Boy Free. Though Marr is best known for his melodic guitar fills, it turns out that his first brush with notoriety came as a teenager, when he was arrested in Manchester for handling a stolen painting by L.S. Lowry. Expecting to be sent to juvenile detention for a year, Marr was let off with a slap on the wrists and a £300 fine. Not that the penalty troubled him overly: ‘By my count, getting busted while I was playing guitar meant at least one million rock’n’roll points.’


In further rock’n’roll news, Sean Lennon (son of John and Yoko Ono) recently recounted a strange episode in which Andy Warhol presented him with a taxidermied cat for his eighth birthday. Speaking at the opening of an exhibition of Warhol’s correspondences, Lennon admitted that he still can’t figure out why Warhol chose the peculiar present for him. ‘Each day on my way to school I would walk by the office and wonder why it was that Andy gave me that cat,’ he said. Either way, it didn’t go down well with the felines already inhabiting the Ono-Lennon household, who were, apparently, ‘immediately enraged’.

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