ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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LIMOUSINES purred along the mean streets of Hackney last week as Flowers East opened its exhibition of pictures by rock stars. With Brian Eno as the curator, and David Bowie designing the poster, it wouldn't have been a surprise to find Paul McCartney taking names on the door. In the event, nobody was taking names on the door - the fans waiting patiently outside could have walked right in if they'd felt like it. And McCartney was upstairs, having a drink and a chat, like the ordinary bloke he almost convinces us he is.

The show, 'little pieces from big stars', is in aid of War Child, the Bosnian charity. It's all the worthier given that, 10 years after Band Aid, discs made for faraway causes no longer sell. Every piece on Flowers' wall is for sale: the auction is this Tuesday, 9pm, at the Royal College of Art, next to the Albert Hall, entry by catalogue ( pounds 12.50) on the door or from Flowers East, 282 Richmond Rd, E8.

There is no point remarking that some of the pieces are not very good. If Eno had got Damien Hirst, R B Kitaj, Anthony Caro and Helen Chadwick to cut a record each, they wouldn't be very good either. But they would tell us something about the artists. Bowie comes up with 35 items, computer-generated mixed-media prints, like storyboards for a futuristic cartoon; which tells us that he is generous, and still trying new things.

His signature still has a circle instead of a dot on the 'i', which tells us that there remains a touch of unsophistication to the suavely suited figure we see in Hello] with Iman on his arm. His poster is hideous, like Roger Dean but worse, which tells us that at 47 Bowie still is not a good judge of his own work. And the fact that he has been so involved all round suggests that he is close to Eno again, which tells us that his next album should be well judged.

The work of art above is not Bowie's. A friend at the exhibition led me up to it and said, 'Bet you can't guess who this is by'. In case our picture hasn't printed sharply, the canvases are jet black, about six inches across, each with a little red flashing light. The subtitles, half-way between a solicitor's plaque and a silent-movie caption, say, 'Someone lost at sea hoping someone in a plane will find them' and 'Someone lost at sea hoping someone in a plane hoping to find someone lost at sea'.

Jokey, ingenious in a childish way, more mechanical than artistic - it had to be a man. Phil Collins? Rick Parfitt? Howard from Take That? 'No,' said my friend, triumphantly, 'Kate Bush.' Wow. A piece of juvenilia, then, retrieved from her father's attic in Surrey? No - she did it specially for the show. Sweet. And yours for only pounds 200-300 (est).

The arts clerihew returns next week. Entries should be sent by fax if possible (071-956 1469).

(Photograph omitted)

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