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The Rake’s progress: last week in gossip

9 January 2017

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

The death of the legendary art critic John Berger has inspired some unusual tributes. Art News’s Andrew Russeth recalled the critic’s fondness for motorcycles, in particular the Honda CBR 1100 on which he barrelled down the country roads of France and Switzerland well into his old age. One thing for sure is that you wouldn’t have wanted to be his passenger. Writing in the Guardian, actor and director Simon McBurney recalled having accepted a lift on Berger’s bike, and, much to his surprise, having lived to tell the tale.

‘The last time he fetched me from the airport, aged 84, he was holding two crash helmets, laughing’, McBurney wrote. ‘We’re on the bike. Minutes later John and I were weaving through the Geneva traffic and hitting the motorway towards the mountains. Over his shoulder I glanced at the speedometer as it climbed towards 160kph. If we die, I thought, at least it will be quick. Then I closed my eyes and pushed myself into his back.’


In a piece the Sunday Times, Waldemar Januszczak took issue with Berger’s 1972 TV series Ways of Seeing, comparing it unfavourably to Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation. However, as he acknowledged, the series did have many fans – not least Waldemar’s much-mourned colleague AA Gill. ‘Adrian would regularly cite Berger’s pint-sized four-parter as a piece of arts television that did things the right way, and seemed especially keen to mention it while trashing my own poor efforts in the field. Thanks, Adrian’.


Method acting and art have a strange history. Timothy Spall took it upon himself to learn to paint in the style of Turner when gearing up to play the artist in Mike Leigh’s biopic, and now actor and self-styled Renaissance man James Franco has gone one further by showing a modest selection of his own paintings in his new comedy, Why Him?. The actor plastered his own handiwork across the set, so he claimed, to keep the decor ‘in line with the character’. The most striking image the Rake has seen depicts two fornicating rodents, helpfully accompanied by the phrase ‘humping capybaras’.


If any proof were needed that Brutalism has become the metropolitan style fetish de nos jours, Rakewell directs you to the interior furnishings section of Selfridges, where discerning aesthetes can now invest in an ‘exclusive’ espresso machine crafted from béton brut. If you’ve ever wanted to mainline coffee from a replica of Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre, you know where to go.

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

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