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22 February 2008

Dead bodies, sexy bodies and a dubious body of evidence

Milly Getachew reports on the $50m music collection on eBay, the Rolling Stones on the dangers of dr

By Milly Getachew


It has been a great week for different sorts of exposure. Some of the art stolen in last week’s £84m Zurich heist has been found in a car-park, in what looks to have been the getaway car, around 500m from scene of crime. Meanwhile, closer to home a cheeky poster of a nude Venus advertising the Royal Academy’s new show Cranach was banned by London Transport because it skirted too close to their guidelines on sexually suggestive adverts on the Tube. After protest, the medieval painting was eventually allowed to be shown to commuters. The BBC migration to HD TV is taking its toll: the set of EastEnders’ Albert Square is being movedfrom Elstree studios to 007’s Pinewood studios. With HD TV, a BBC source is reported to have said, “you can see every crack, chipboard flake and Blu-Tack solution.” Walford is meant to look a little scruffy but not, apparently, that scruffy.

Some of this week’s conflicts are carry-overs that, like cheese, are ripening (for better or for worse). The Chinese government has vetoed filming in China for the Hollywood movie ‘Shanghai’ over concerns of the depiction of opium-usage. Meanwhile “cadaver artist” Dr Gunther von Hagens, of Bodyworlds repute, has stopped using bodies from China through fear they may have been victims of execution. Some conflicts this week, also like some cheese, just have a bad taste: BBC chief Lesley Douglas has claimed that men’s musical tastes are more intellectual than women’s; and 104-year-old Dutch singer Johannes Heesters made a rare and controversial appearance to perform some old German hits. Mr Heesters is notorious in the Netherlands for having performed for Hitler and coterie at Dachau in 1941. He subsequently tried to appear in ‘The Sound Of Music’ as heroic Nazi-defying Captain Von Trapp, but was an unpopular choice with audiences for this role.

Trading Places

This week has seen some new arrivals and some welcome returns. Charles Saatchi is to open a new free gallery to rival Tate Modern, and 21-year-old playwright Polly Stenham is to see her award-winning debut work ‘That Face’ transferred to the West End. Also trading up is Greg Dyke who now replaces Anthony Minghella as BFI chair. Greg Dyke left the BBC as Director-General in 2004 after the Hutton Inquiry found, against the BBC, that the government had not “sexed up” the notorious “Iraq dossier”. It would be interesting to see what Lord Hutton makes of the revelations these last few days of some of the background work that went into – and out of – the dossier. As Colin MacCabe writes in this week’s NS, the BFI and New Labour have had an uneasy relationship: it will be exciting to see what Greg does next.

This week in the arts there has also been lots to buy: for example, the world’s greatest music collection is being hawked on eBay (valued at $50m, starting price $3m), and as-yet-unseen work by Banksy is also up for grabs. And if you can’t go to the art, art can now come to you: a new mobile “caravan art gallery” will be touring Glasgow, the V&A has made some of its leading images available for downloading by mobile phone through Museum On The Go, and the BBC has reported great success with its trial of making popular TV shows available for mobile download.

Just ain’t rock n’ roll

It has been a week of mixed delights in the music industry. At the Brits awards, the Arctic Monkeys took the prizes for Best British Album and Best British Group. This achievement may seem impressive but is not a patch on Westlife’s scoop, also this week, of Best Irish Pop Act at the Meteor Irish Music Awards – for the 8th time running (and 6 years after the release of their “Greatest Hits” album). Sadly for drum&bass fans, groundbreaking DJ Grooverider has been arrested and jailed in Dubai for cannabis possession. In these circumstances a warning from music industry leaders about the use of drugs is both welcome and timely. But it is perhaps difficult to know what to think when this warning comes, as it did this week, from the Rolling Stones. And in just what one would hope for from a rock and roll band, Dave Twohill, the former drummer of popular Australian group Mental As Anything, has won a legal action against his former bandmates for unfair dismissal. Twohill was sacked from the band without warning at Sydney Airport. In court his colleagues complained about his drunk and aggressive behaviour, his refusal to carry his own luggage when travelling, and accused him of playing out of time and “like a chimpanzee on speed”. The judge berated the band for not giving Twohill the required 6 months’ notice. You can read more about the case and listen to Twohill’s work here.

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Fond Farewells

Finally, we close with news of some sad departures. Alain Robbe-Grillet, novelist, film-maker, and master of the nouveau roman, has passed away in France aged 85; Natalia Bessmertnova, leading Bolshoi ballerina, has died in Moscow aged 66; and a memorial service has been held in London for the late Ned Sherrin, producer, comedian and the world’s first memorial service reviewer. Sherrin’s memorial service, much of which he designed himself, was hailed by critics as ”a glittering all-star production”. Did we say it had been a good week for exposure? For some exposures, it has also been the beginning of the end. Polaroid have announced that they are to discontinue their world-famous camera and film. Invented in the 1930s, the Polaroid has been an integral part of late 20th century culture, from the famous Moorman Polaroid of the JFK assassination, to OutKast’s popular admonition, in 2003 hit Hey Ya, to ”shake it like a Polaroid picture”. In recent years, however, the Polaroid camera has seen sales decline as digital photography has grown. A future without the iconic instant snap? Picture that.