This time last year, a mischievous New York art dealer blogged that James Franco had been chosen to represent America at the 2011 Venice Biennale. That was an April Fool, but Franco has now confirmed that he will launch an unofficial project at the artworld beano in June, with a little help from some high-profile friends. "Paul McCarthy, his son, Damon, and I are working on a piece, which will be shown at the Venice Biennale. It is to be a large-scale collaboration, hopefully with Ed Ruscha, Douglas Gordon, Aaron Young, Terry Richardson and Harmony Korine. Basically all my favourite artists," he told The Art Newspaper. The Hollywood actor is reported to be working with Korine on a piece of video art about LA gang culture, which may or may not culminate in a real street fight. "The twist is they want the two gangs to fight, using real knives. The production team is panicked that they'll end up with blood, injuries and potentially dead bodies on set," a source told The New York Post last month, to widespread shock and awe. This week, Franco Tweeted a menacing trailer, with the words "Coming soon to Venice, Italy", which showed what appeared to be young gangsters, red scarves covering their faces, circling a parking lot on their bikes. It's since been taken down from the internet. Meanwhile, the plot thickens – and the hype grows.
Hard sell from LaBute
Now that his Broadway directing debut has been postponed, does Neil LaBute have too much time on his hands? The playwright was set to open Fat Pig at the Belasco Theatre on 12 April, but the play has been put back a season due to a "last-minute fallout of a key investment". In the meantime, LaBute has been busying himself on internet message boards. This week, "nlabute" responded to comments on a blog/extended advert by the producer of his current West End play, In a Forest Dark and Deep, on The Guardian website. "Why not try buying a ticket before throwing your stone?... I've seen her production. In fact, I wrote and directed it. Is it perfect? No. Is it well worth seeing? I think so. If you have seen it already, then keep typing. If not, get up off your backside and enjoy an exciting night out. The music is loud, it's centrally located and they even have snacks at the bar." He'll be handing out flyers in the street next. Producers have already used an out-of-context quote from The Independent's Paul Taylor (cherry-picking the word "superb" – referring to Matthew Fox – from a lukewarm three-star review) and, as The Stage reports, Tweets from random audience members to sell the show. Might I suggest another quote for their posters? "Not perfect... but well worth seeing. I think." N LaBute.
A psychedelic success at the ICA
Sore heads all round at the ICA on Wednesday morning. Having partied the night away at their Psychedelica gala and auction, where guests including Tracey Emin, Mat Collishaw, Polly Morgan, Sarah Lucas and collectors Anita Zabludowicz and the M&S boss Stuart Rose enjoyed glitter balls, neon cocktails and ice cream, the Institute woke up to the sobering news of a 42.5% cut in funding from Arts Council England. Thank goodness, then, that an anonymous benefactor saw fit to bid £50,000 on Ai Weiwei's deconstructed, steamrollered Hollander bicycle. That's, to use ACE speak, a 525% increase on its £8,000 estimate. Overall the gala raised £250,000 – a new funding model, perhaps?
Harry Hill made a rare live appearance this week at The Horne Section, a comedy-jazz night at the Lyric Theatre. In keeping with the musical theme, Hill delivered an eclectic set, kicking off with a melodramatic rendition of The Smiths' "The Boy with a Thorn in His Side" and ending with a ukulele take on "Has Anybody Seen My Gal?" He's also doing a spot at tonight's Mencap gig, April Fools, at London's Hammersmith Apollo. His last proper tour, Hooves, was in 2005. Might these be warm-up acts for a return to the live circuit?
We've had Secret Cinema and Punchdrunk, now the art world is getting in on the vogue for mystery happenings. Private Spaces, in a private East London home-turned-gallery, will run for just four days from 14 April. Wannabe visitors first have to find the invitation on Facebook, then RSVP by email when they will finally be given the address of the "immersive" visual experience.