ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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THE GEORGIA O'KEEFFE exhibition at the Hayward has not gone down well with the critics. It is not that they don't like O'Keeffe. It's that they don't feel the show offers anything like the best of her. They are not alone. Several American O'Keeffians of my acquaintance, including her biographer Benita Eisler, are thoroughly unimpressed.

The problem seems to be that some leading American museums have not contributed to the exhibition. I have an inkling as to why this should be. The show is in a public space, but it has a strangely commercial air. Several of the paintings that have turned up belong to a dealer, the Gerald Peters Gallery of Santa Fe. Several more are credited to Mr and Mrs Gerald Peters. I understand that at least six of them are for sale.

If you don't believe that the Hayward has failed to land O'Keeffe's best work, go along to the Lefevre Gallery in Bruton Street. They too have a Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at the moment, and it's better than the one at the Hayward. Needless to say, Lefevre is the London outlet of the Peters.

When I rang the Hayward to suggest that all this seemed a bit rum, it responded with a mixture of unreturned calls and exhortations not to be silly which did little to reassure me. A precedent has been set. In September another American woman will have a show at another British public gallery. She is Agnes Martin, it is the Serpentine, and I am reliably informed that not only do all the paintings date from after her 80th birthday but every one is being consigned by her agents, the Pace Gallery of New York. Who says Thatcherism is dead?

DUSTIN HOFFMAN has a reputation for being difficult. It is quite undeserved. We know this because he said so, repeatedly, in interviews to promote his new film, Accidental Hero. So what a shame that Columbia should be advertising the film with one of those funny treated photographs found only on film posters. It shows him with Geena Davis and Andy Garcia. Davis and Garcia are more or less themselves, whereas Hoffman looks like a particularly inept waxwork done 20 years ago. Not a single line crosses his pouting porcelain face. As he is 55, the job must have taken the retoucher weeks.

Hoffman is not alone, of course. Recently these pages carried an article on Maggie Smith. We asked if we could take a picture. No, said her minders, she will only sit for the one photographer, but we've just had some good ones done, want to see them? OK, we said. They were hilarious. There was so much vaseline on the lens, Dame Maggie was barely visible, let alone acting her age. Can't these professional observers of humanity see that they have more to lose by showing their vanity than they have to gain by hiding their lines?

THE SELECT committee on National Heritage continued its look at CD prices on Thursday, hearing the evidence of the shops. This column went to press on Wednesday, so my thoughts on the proceedings can be found, God willing, in today's main paper.

MY SPY in South Africa went to see Duran Duran in concert in Johannesburg last week. I know things are bad over there, but are they that bad? Anyway, this was just as the country was trying to come to terms with the assassination of Chris Hani. Half-way through the show, Simon Le Bon, the yachtsman who doubles as the band's vocalist, decided to do his bit. 'This one,' he said, 'is dedicated to Chris Honey.' Half of the crowd was bemused; the other half wondered if it was too late to reimpose the cultural boycott.