Apollo Magazine

The Rake’s progress: last week in gossip

The sorry tale of a Roman Christmas tree; the pinkest pink and Anish Kapoor; and George Osborne's coffee table books of choice

Rakewell – Apollo's roving eye on the art world

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Christmas is almost upon us, but it seems not everyone is feeling quite as festive as the season demands. When Rome’s recently elected mayor Virginia Raggi unveiled the city’s 2016 Christmas tree in Piazza Venezia earlier this month, she wanted it to reflect the M5S party’s ‘sober’ approach to the use of public funds. Alas, it seems she failed to appreciate the fine line between temperance and scroogeishness.

Dubbed the ‘austerity tree’, the miserly fir was short on decorations, without even a single star at its top. Minimalism-averse Romans took to social media to protest their underwhelming early Christmas present, going so far as to complain that the city was projecting an image of ‘infinite sadness’ by comparison to the opulent decorations on display in other Italian cities. To prove the point, they even created a video:

Such was the uproar that Raggi herself addressed the issue on Facebook. ‘The Romans want a more beautiful Christmas tree in Piazza Venezia. And they will have it,’ she said. Happily, it has now been spruced up with new illuminations and a nice star. But even with a makeover, the tree is still a subject of intense debate: one blogger has complained that while Rome initially had the honour of hosting the world’s ugliest tree, it was now merely ‘normal […] as if it were Civitavecchia’.


Back in March, Anish Kapoor was granted exclusive rights to a material known as ‘VantaBlack’, a 99.96 per cent light absorbent substance developed by scientists to be the ‘blackest black’ in existence. And not everyone was happy about it.

‘[Kapoor is like the] kids who wouldn’t share their felt pens,’ artist Stuart Semple recently told CBC. ‘They just sat there in the corner without any friends.’ In reaction, Semple has decided to create a special pigment that he claims is the ‘pinkest pink’ ever created. Unlike VantaBlack, it will be available for use for any artist who desires to use it – except, that is, for Anish Kapoor.

Retailing for £3.99 per pot on his website, the pigment is available to all comers… almost:

‘By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this paint will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.’


There was much to take in from The Times’s interview with former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne on Saturday, not least about his arty reading habits. According to journalists Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson: ‘There are no memorabilia of his time at the Treasury in his office overlooking the London Eye — apart from a tiny laminated screenshot of the credits to the last Star Wars film, which features his name after he helped to get it made in Britain. Instead, he has a coffee table book of Bob Dylan paintings.’

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

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