The Diary: Scotsman Steps; Brighton Festival Fringe; Venice Biennale; Theatre Royal Bath; Jarvis Cocker
Friday 15 April 2011
At last, a step in the right direction. The first slabs have been laid in Martin Creed's long-awaited makeover of the Scotsman Steps in Edinburgh. Work No. 1059 will revitalise the public stairway, once described by The Scotsman as "one of the city's worst 'no-go' areas and a urine-soaked disgrace to the capital", cladding its steps in the world's finest marble. Announced in 2009, the work was due to be unveiled at last year's Edinburgh Festival to coincide with the Turner Prize-winner's exhibition at The Fruitmarket Gallery, but hit conservation and structural problems along the way. Last week, a lorry-load of coloured marble arrived from Italy and other corners of the globe – Creed's vision is that walking down the steps will be like walking through the world – and this week the installation proper began. Of course, health and safety has reared its unaesthetic head: the marble has been sandblasted and given a slip-proof coating while new gates will lock the steps away at night. "We want to keep them nice and fresh as a treasure to Edinburgh," says a spokesperson from the Fruitmarket. "It's well on the way to being ready". I'm told that work will be completed in June. Better late than never.
Cast of hundreds
Meanwhile, another, more controversial, public artwork will be unveiled at next month's Brighton Festival Fringe. The Great Wall of Vagina by Jamie McCartney is made up of plaster casts of 400 vaginas, belonging to women aged 18 to 76. Described as "the Vagina Monologues of sculpture" (and who hasn't been waiting for that?), the nine-metre wall includes casts from mothers , daughters, identical twins, transgendered people and surgically enhanced women and goes on show at Brighton Body Casting on 6 May. "I realised that many women suffer anxiety about their nethers," says McCartney. "If this sculpture helps just one woman decide not to proceed with unnecessary plastic surgery on their bits then it will have succeeded." In case you were wondering, the artist uses the same material as dentists use to make his moulds, and it is a "quick and painless process". Viewing it, though, may be another matter.
Graffiti artists play tag in Venice
Another Venice Biennale, another fashion-meets-art hot-spot. In 2009, all eyes were on the Punta della Dogana, a new space housing the vast collection of the luxury goods magnate François Pinault. This June, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi joins the map. The 16th-century building near the Rialto was recently acquired by the Benetton family and is being transformed into a shopping/ culture centre by Rem Koolhaas. For the Biennale, Luciano Benetton has handed the space over to the American Folk Art Museum, which will show a selection of self-taught African-American artists in the central courtyard, including a graffiti mural by four street-artists, Blade, Daze, Quik and Sharp.
Theatre Royal Bath is out to raise the profile of its Ustinov Studio with the appointment of Laurence Boswell, former RSC Associate Director, as its new head. "I want all the texts we perform to be British premieres," says Boswell, who will oversee six new shows a year and is keen to build the 120-seat studio into a "powerhouse of adventurous programming" with a reputation for international theatre. His inaugural season will kick off with Calderon's Don't Fool with Love in September, followed by Goethe's Iphigenia, and The Second Surprise of Love by Marivaux, all performed by the same company. "It will be a place where you come to experience a story you've never heard before", adds Boswell. Given that he has previously directed Madonna, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck and Billie Piper on the London stage, perhaps he'll sprinkle a little stardust on the studio, too.
Jarvis Cocker took to Twitter this week to share his thoughts on art –some were more profound than others. Asked about differences between the UK and French contemporary art scenes, he said, "you get lager at private views in London and wine at Paris ones." Elsewhere on the Eurostar-sponsored Q&A, he named John Currin and Peter Blake as favourites, revealed that he liked to "chilling with the mummies" in the Louvre, and said that if he could have one work of art in his house, it would be a Jeff Koons Hoover. So now you know.
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