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4 February 2008

Forgeries, freeconomics and Freddie Krueger

Britain's government wants fans involved in the arts, while Israel's says "sorry" to dead pop stars.

By Milly Getachew

Happy Hippy Times

The book is dead, long live the e-book: Amazon’s Kindle has been launched – and immediately sold out. It seems likely that the literature industry will be transformed by this, and publishers and writers might want to keep an eye on the music industry, where technology has also worked some startling changes. Excitement about Qtrax, the free (and legal) online music station, proved anti-climatic as the website was suspended just before its launch (putting HMRC’s woefully unsteady tax returns website in good company); leading record labels denied having licence agreements with Qtrax. The music moguls seem united in their disapproval of ”freeconomics”: in a speech entitled Who Is Making All The Money And Why Aren’t They Sharing It?, U2 manager Paul McGuinness laments the role of technology in the entertainment industry, blaming Silicon Valley’s ”hippy values”.

Happy hippies or not, in these troubled times of global credit instability it may be a little comforting to know that sometimes the people making all the money are not spending it either. Family forgers George and Olive Greenhalgh (84 and 83 respectively), and son Shaun (47), were found guilty of creative impressive forgeries of sculptures, paintings, and historic artefacts from their back garden, and selling them to collectors and museums. The family is reported to have made around £1m from their forgeries (over 17 years) and had more works that could have sold for a further £10m – but continued to live in their council flat. In defence of Mr Greenhalgh Junior, his barrister said that Mr Greenhalgh “had only one outlook, and that was his garden shed”.

Forces of Darkness

From the back garden to the world stage: 43 years after being banned from Israel as morally hazardous, the Beatles have been apologized to, and invited to perform. Which is nice. But perhaps too late for some.

Closer to home, the new Bond film has been announced, the directors once again engaging with issues of contemporary international problems. Quantum of Solace, aka “Bond 22”, features a villain played by Oscar-feted Mathieu Amalric: when asked who had inspired his character, Amalric replied ”Tony Blair and Nicholas Sarkozy” . Coming at a time when Sarkozy has proposed Blair for “President of Europe”, perhaps we should be taking note.

Following the tremendous and heartening show of solidarity in the arts world reported here, the Arts Council cuts are now off. Meanwhile new Culture Secretary Andy Burnham’s proposals that fans get involved in the boards of arts organisations are set to revolutionise the relationship between audiences, critics, funders, and fans. Watch this space.

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Great men of history

After the widespread relief about the Royal Academy’s From Russia exhibition going ahead, it is sad news, then, that the man credited with bringing it to Britain, the Royal Academy’s Norman Rosenthal, is stepping down as Secretary. Among his other successes were Aztecs, Turks, and Unknown Monet, and he is also the man who famously shed blood for an artwork at the ICA, spat at a critic, and took part in Alternative Miss World dressed as a newt. He will be a hard act to follow.

Another surprise departure this week is Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo . Apparently the Rocky and Rambo franchises, at a total of 10 films between them, have lost their lustre for Stallone who would prefer instead to get involved in “heart-warming dramas and off-beat comedies”. Apprehensions that Hollywood studios will now have to look for something original can be swiftly suppressed: Freddie Krueger is set to return , subject to the availability of screenwriters. With casualties like these, long may the strike moulder.