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The Rake’s progress: last week in gossip

16 November 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.

Just weeks after she revealed her painting talents to the world, pop diva turned Renaissance woman Britney Spears has made her first recorded sale. And what a sale! At a charity auction in Las Vegas earlier this month, British showbiz writer Robin Leach shelled out $10,000 for a Spears original – a floral number that first featured in a widely shared Instagram video last month, itself (suggests Vanity Fair) something of a ‘masterpiece’.


The National Gallery is not known as a den of vice, but should you be in central London and in need of a stiff drink on Friday 8 December, the venerable institution has you covered. To coincide with its current Degas exhibition, a talk by distiller Ted Breaux and the museum’s Jo Rhymer will explore on the ‘enduring mystique’ of absinthe – and why 19th-century French artists were quite so keen on it. There will also be a tasting for anyone who wish to try the ‘green fairy’ for themselves. Best of luck to them…


From this week, BBC2 viewers will be treated to a new series of Celebrity Antiques Road Trip, a series in which more or less famous individuals tour the country in classic cars, hunting for bargains in Britain’s antique shops. This year’s improbable cast includes former Olympic runner Linford Christie, one-hit wonder Chesney Hawkes, and erstwhile Perfect Housewife presenter Anthea Turner.


A conservator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, has made an astonishing discovery while studying Vincent Van Gogh’s Olive Trees (1889). Through magnification, Mary Schafer discovered a strange mass in the work’s lower foreground, which she quickly identified as the corpse of a grasshopper. Apparently, the wretched insect must already have been dead by the time it hit the canvas, as there is no movement in the surrounding paint. Certainly one of the artist’s chirpier paintings…

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