The Diary: Martin Parr; Venice Biennale; Gavin Turk; Edinburgh Fringe; The Tree of Life

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The Independent Culture

Above Parr snaps

If you find yourself in Paris this weekend, you could do worse than call into Magnum Photos to get your holiday snaps taken by Martin Parr. The acclaimed chronicler of English suburbia and seaside will set up a studio on Rue Hégésippe Moreau between 2pm and 6pm on Saturday, taking portraits of the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Two backdrops – clouds or tropical flowers – are available and props, pets or costumes are encouraged. Part of Magnum Days, a weekend of events in Montmartre for photography lovers, the afternoon session may also invigorate Parr's working practice. He recently blogged: "The Fine Art and Documentary photographers take great pride in thinking themselves superior to the family snap shooter or the amateur photographer. However, after 30/40 years of viewing our work, I've come to the conclusion that we are too fairly predictable in what we photograph. I include myself in this and have been very careful to try and think of new territories to explore". An A4 signed print costs €250 while A3 goes up to €400. Not bad if you consider that Parr's 1998 portrait of a dog in sunglasses and a Fergie bow sold at auction two months ago for around $10,000 (€7,000).

Shrouded in secrecy

The plot thickens in Venice over the disputed Azerbaijani art at the Biennale. Aidan Salakhova's sculptures – Black Stone, depicting the sacred stone that Muslims kiss in Mecca in a vagina-like white frame and Waiting Bride, a two-ton woman veiled in black – were first covered in dust sheets then removed from the Palazzo Benzon for good after the Azerbaijani culture minister declared them "controversial to the prestige of the country." Now Black Stone has reappeared, this time in the Italian Pavilion. Recognising a kindred controversialist spirit in Salakhova, the curator Vittorio Sgarbi rescued the work from storage and placed it in his show Art is Not Cosa Nostra. The exhibition of 220 Italian artists chosen by 200 cultural figures has already attracted attention for its bold break with Biennale tradition and has been branded an "amateur art bazaar" by some critics. There's no room, though, for the two-ton bride whose whereabouts are unknown. "It's in storage in Venice or has gone back to Salakhova's studio. It's very heavy. It can't keep being moved around," I'm told.

Some people will shell out for anything

As sure as eggs is eggs, the YBA label still rakes in the cash. Gavin Turk proved as much at the weekend when he set up a stall on London's Brick Lane, selling eggs for up to £1000 each. Taking Duchamp's ready-mades to surreal levels, Turk, who has previously cast garbage in bronze, signed the eggs and flogged them at the Vauxhall Art Car Boot Fair – £25 for a common-or-garden chicken's egg and £1000 for a pristine white ostrich egg. Only one in 25 buyers were permitted an egg box; the rest had to cradle their pricey cargo in their hands until they got home. Smashing!

Dry run averted

Much panicking greeted the news that the Assembly Rooms would not be open for business at this year's Edinburgh Fringe. Where on earth to go in New Town for after-hours drinking and networking? With the elegant George Street venue closed for renovations, Assembly have moved their main operation to George Square in the Old Town, a stone's throw from the comedy/ late-night hub Bristo Square, where it will run seven venues, including three spiegeltents in the gardens and a theatre in a garage. The move has worried acts at The Stand, now the only leading comedy venue on the far side of Princes Street and a good 25-minute walk away from the rest of the action for lazy punters and critics. As for the drinking? I'm told there will be a new late bar by the George Square theatre. Phew.

Eyes on the prize

What's the secret of making a Palme d'Or-winning film? Since Terrence Malick, the director almost as famous for not giving interviews as for his films, is unlikely to tell us, we must instead comb the credits of his Cannes winner The Tree of Life. It seems, alongside a double whammy casting of Sean Penn and Brad Pitt, a crew containing an army of Oscar nominees and impressionistic sequences involving the Big Bang, dinosaurs and deserts, it's an eye for detail that really matters. On a Malick set, no job is too small. So step forward Dr Robert S. Christensen: the man in charge of "Contact lenses for Sean Penn".