A recent sale of works by Andy Warhol fetched more than £10.7 million at a Christie’s auction in New York. Various pieces dramatically exceeded their estimates: a portrait of Jackie Kennedy sold for £394,000, double what was expected. Art from the latter half of the twentieth century remains, it would seem, unaffected by the recessional blight. The Tate Modern recently announced that Damien Hirsts’ retrospective was the most visited solo show, and second most visited of all their shows in it’s exhibition history. Business is still booming for these two artists. But then, says the sceptic, business is what yokes these two stylistically and chronologically disparate artists together.
Charles Dickens with his one-man-show.
At some point during the twentieth century, we stopped reading stories to one another. Once upon a time – back when illiteracy was normal, and the possession of books, extraordinary – grown-ups would gather to listen to the latest instalment of Charles Dickens, Conan Doyle, George Eliot: all the literati of their age. Pubs and living- rooms were given over to this regular ritual, audiences amassed, bound by their mutual interest in ‘what happens next.’ Happily, learning to read in this country is now a basic human right, and literature, available in abundance and at little cost. Unhappily, however, storytelling has been denigrated; it is the preserve of children, and tinged with childishness. It is hard to call to mind situations where story-telling for adults takes place today. Church? Halloween?
The various national jubilations and celebrations of this year have undoubtedly swelled British national pride. The gloom of the last few years (albeit, perhaps, temporarily) seemed to lift, and, in its place, abounded swags of union jacks, street parties, Olympians, and amassed cheering crowds. We’ve been reminded of the aspects of British culture and history that are worthy of our admiration. One individual who never ceases to captivate the popular imagination is our beloved Sir Winston Churchill.
Parade’s End, the 1920’s tetralogy by Ford Madox Ford, has enjoyed a recent resurgence thanks to Tom Stoppard’s stunning adaptation for the BBC. Internet book seller – abe books – record that since this series aired, Parade’s End has commandeered the second position on their bestseller list. Whenever a book is adapted to the screen, the perpetual debate as to whether it is ‘true to the book,’ whether it ‘ought to be true to the book,’ flares up once again. Depending upon their answer to these questions, the writer and director assume either the role of translator, interpreter, or creator. One thing is for certain though: in the daunting task of adaptation, one enters into conversation with the original text, with the phantasmal figure of the author. To adapt, one must collaborate.
The internet has rendered the cult of celebrity ubiquitous. Practically all those who have attained fame – and absolutely all of those seeking it – utilise the internet’s manifold networking sites in their campaign for global renown. More remarkably, celebrities not only communicate with their fans, they interact with one another via this unabashedly public means. Mostly, they send one another relatively innocuous messages: pop star Rihanna recently “tweeted” a picture of fellow diva Beyonce and gushed, ‘This pic could single handedly destroy the self esteem of an entire nation.’ These sycophantic exchanges between stars are, it seems, an effective means of communicating a sort of humility and – to take the cynical view – vicariously serve celebs well in their self-promotion.