ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
I MAKE it a rule not to write about things said in other papers, but every rule has to be broken some time, and this is something pretty striking. It was in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, and it was what we in the trade call a standfirst - a sub-heading introducing an article. 'Nothing has happened in art,' it said, 'since Marcel Duchamp's urinal in 1917.' Boom] No qualification, no argument, not a shadow of doubt. Three- quarters of a century of art dismissed with a few stabs at the keyboard. My first thought was: Bah] Only the Telegraph - but then I had to ask myself, what has happened in art since 1917? And my mind went as blank as a Robert Ryman.

But not for long. Even on the harshest view, there have been great works of art in the past 75 years. Guernica, and a hundred other Picassos. The chapel at Vence, and many other Matisses (though it can be argued, and is, implicitly, by the forthcoming show in Paris, that 1917 marked the end of his heyday). Magritte's Empire of Lights. These are easy. What else? A bottle of champagne for the best nomination, with a brief reason, on a postcard please, or a fax (071-956 1469).

THE ROCK band INXS have a single out at the moment called 'Beautiful Girl'. It's a catchy number, about a teenage runaway in their native Australia, which the band have chosen to publicise with an unusually hard-hitting video. The clip, full of U2-style flashing slogans and graphic footage of actresses binging and purging, finds the band 'unflinchingly railing against the 'thin and perfect' image of woman', apparently. Now rock stars are notorious for wanting to have their cake and eat it, but this is a bit much, even from a breed known for publishing lavish books of lyrics about saving the rainforests on non-recycled paper? INXS were after all the band that brought you 'Suicide Blonde'. Their previous videos have been awash with supermodels, and one featured lingering footage of female fans fainting in the front row of a live show. Singer Michael Hutchence is renowned for gossip-friendly liaisons with famous, thin women, such as Kylie Minogue. If he really wants to make a point about the pressures on women to conform to unhealthily emaciated stereotypes, he should be seen about town, fast, with at least two of Alison Moyet,

Dr Ruth, Andrea Dworkin and the Weather Girls.

TO THE Royal Academy on one of those depressingly mild afternoons one has come to expect of an English winter in the age of global warming. Why, on such days, does the RA persist in keeping its central heating on at full blast? Art galleries should be kept cool, especially when they are as crowded as the RA is for its show of British watercolours. All around me last week people were suffering, sweating, and using their guides more to fan than inform. Save some money and turn the heating down, please. The show, by the way, is hot stuff.

PASSING through Cannes last week, as one does, I came across a car that belonged to Georges Braque. It's a 1949 Simca Sport 8 (no, I'd never heard of it either) and it has pride of place at the entrance to the Musee de l'Automobiliste on the dusty northern outskirts of the city. It is a black, two-seater convertible of such innocent charm that it brought a pang to the heart. For a glimpse of the life of an artist, not to mention a beautiful car, it is worth seeking out. For a glimpse of Braque's equally enchanting painting, you don't have to travel so far: an exhibition of his works on paper opens at the Tate on 3 March.