Pandora: Chapman buy causes controversy at the Tate

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The Independent Online

Trouble at Tate Britain, where the gallery's modish director Sir Nicholas Serota is under renewed fire over the use of its budget.

Several years ago, Serota called on Britain's leading artists to donate some their work, after being hit by a combination of spiralling art prices and squeezed budgets.

Their request was met with a record-breaking response, as £63m-worth of works flooded in including pieces from David Hockney and Damien Hirst.

Now, however, a row has broken out over the gallery's decision to purchase a piece from the controversial sculptors the Chapman Brothers, with critics accusing curators of wasting money they don't have.

The Chapman Family Collection has been listed in the Tate's summer report as being bought for a hefty £1.5m.

Understandably, many in the art world are wondering whether the investment was a worthwhile one – notably Charles Thomson, founder of the Stuckist movement, who has called for an official investigation of the museum's management.

It doesn't help that the piece was originally bought for much less by Jay Jopling's rival White Cube gallery, who snapped it up six years ago for a reported £1m.

Although the gallery insist the work was purchased with the aid of private donors and The Art Fund, Thomson remains indignant. "The Tate are always moaning about a shortage of funds but they pour money down the drain like this," he says. "How do they have the nerve to ask notable senior artists to donate work, when they spend this much on the Chapmans? Why didn't they ask the Chapmans to donate a work?"

By Gord, but Nancy loved it!

Of all the cheerleaders trumpeting Gordon Brown's uncharacteristically touchy-feely conference speech on Tuesday, few were quite so giddy as Sven Goran Eriksson's vampish ex squeeze, Nancy Dell'Olio.

"It was the best speech he's done, it really touched me and I told him so afterwards," she told me.

"I thought it was very positive, clear and straightforward."

Dell'Olio, a regular on the Labour fundraising circuit, was in Manchester to plug her football-for-peace charity, Truce International. Addressing the party's dwindling chances at the next general election, she added: "I think there is a good chance they can still win.

"There is a new injection now. This week has been just the sort of wake-up call that's needed."

Westwood avoids family treadmill business

Agent Provocateur founder Joe Corre has a new family venture, nearly a year after he sold the majority stake in the racy lingerie company he launched with his ex-wife Serena Rees.

Corre, whose parents are Sex Pistols' manager Malcolm McLaren and designer Vivienne Westwood, has opened a shop with his half-brother, Ben Westwood.

"Joe wants to do the shop very differently from Agent Provocateur, so we have not done any press for it," Ben Westwood tells me. "I've designed a couple of pieces, but that'll probably be it as I'm not really interested in getting on the whole fashion treadmill to be honest."

Westwood, as noted in this column, is currently fighting a Government Bill which will outlaw extreme pornography and recently fired off a letter to Jacqui Smith in protest.

Cheerfully, he's now invited the Home Secretary down to see the store, though is yet to hear back.

Opik TV grabs 43 viewers

Lembit Öpik has turned to YouTube in an attempt to shore up support for the Liberal Democrats' forthcoming presidential elections.

Opik has filmed a trendy "one take" video, outlining his visions for the party's future. The clip had received a derisory 43 viewings last night, but from such acorns do mighty oaks creep skywards.

Dame on Deng peril denial

Much chitter chatter about Michael Wolff's forthcoming tome on Rupert Murdoch.

One spurious rumour doing the rounds is that Murdoch's ma, who was interviewed for the book, is less than flattering about Wendi Deng, referring to her as the "yellow peril".

Not true, says the big bad Wolff. "Though there is some good stuff from Dame Elisabeth," he tells me.

Lamb lets his Hair down

6 Music DJ George Lamb was a strange choice to host Tuesday's Hair Magazine awards. "To be honest, I've never heard of Hair Magazine," he said. Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen was unavailable. Washing his locks, perhaps.