Pandora: Hirst goes back to his roots with Paris show

After his astonishing windfall at Sotheby's last month, Damien Hirst has decided to return to his roots.

Yesterday, the moneybags artist announced he was planning his first exhibition in Paris in over 19 years with gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin.

The announcement is significant, not least because Hirst bypassed the gallery system during his recent firesale (which netted him a reported £111m), meaning his relationship with dealers looked dead and buried. But, touchingly, Perrotin is also an old friend who claims to be the only dealer never to have made a profit out him.

The pair met back in 1990 when Perrotin put on one of Hirst's first ever solo shows, called "When Logics Die", which included autopsy tables and photographs of suicide victims.

According to The Art Newspaper, the idea for the exhibition, which will take place in April 2010, came about when the two hooked up at the Pinchuk Art Foundation in Kiev last year and Hirst suggested they reunite.

The move comes just weeks after the noted Australian art critic Robert Hughes accused Hirst of "persiflage" for cutting dealers out of the action.

"Everyone has written that Hirst wanted to bite the hand that fed him," says Perrotin. "But there's a difference between asserting independence and turning your back on dealers."

Lily picks a fight with the press

It has been a while since a celebrity decided to properly lock horns with a member of the Fourth Estate, so thank heavens Lily Allen has a new album to promote.

The mouthy star broke cover in cyberspace yesterday to take issue with a blog posted by The Guardian's whimsical columnist Marina Hyde, in which she mocked a press release declaring Allen, "the Wordsworth of the myspace generation" by virtue of the following lyrics: "Now I lie here in the wet patch in the middle of the bed, I'm feeling pretty damn hard done by, I've spent ages giving head."

"I think that what you wrote earlier was thoughtless and uncalled for," wrote Allen, before proceeding to make some disparaging references to Hyde's private life.

After an exchange of banter, Hyde mused: "I can't think quite how a jokey item about a press release has descended into such a hilarious farce." Hopefully, this one should run and run...

Ostrich gag falls flat as Beeb viewer calls in the Met

More hot water at the BBC, this time over last week's episode of Have I Got News For You.

A member of the public has reported the programme to the police over a joke which appeared during the show which they say was homophobic. The offending gag came about during a discussion about a failed Iranian bid to create to the world's biggest ostrich sandwich.

The programme's guest host, the Woosterish comedian Alexander Armstrong, said: "On the plus side, they do still hold the record for hanging homosexuals."

In a pun on words, comedian Frank Skinner joked that homosexuals were often "ostracised". The BBC insists the joke was intended to lampoon the harshness of the Iranian regime, not Iran's homosexuals.

Tellingly, gay rights activisits, and founder of Outrage! Peter Tatchell, are refusing to get into a lather about the matter.

"I interpreted it as an anti-Iran joke, exposing and mocking Iran's murderous homophobic regime," he says. "It was parody and satire, I think, not an endorsement of executions."

Cipriani and Kelly Shack up

Danny Cipriani's assault on London's nightlife continues apace.

No sooner were we being told a couple of weeks back that English rugby's next big thing would be cutting back on public appearances to "concentrate on his rugby", than up he pops at the opening night of his new squeeze Kelly Brook's new play Fat Pig.

Now, thanks to the wonders of public relations, I'm informed of another not-so-private outing this weekend in swanky Knightsbridge. "London's hottest couple, Danny Cipriani and Kelly Brook, will be at the Chicago Rib Shack on Saturday night to celebrate Danny's 21st Birthday," reads an excited press release. "They are due to arrive at 9pm." I notice Cipriani's side, Wasps, are due to play the Newport Gwent Dragons the following day.

He's excused due to England duty, but I do hope any team mates attending are tucked up nice and early.

Was Brand the victim of a Stalinist purge?

Should we be reading anything into Russell Brand's decision to broadcast his resignation from the BBC in front of a picture of Stalin? I put the matter to no less an authority to the self-style Man of Steel's esteemed biographer, Simon Sebag Montefiore.

"The picture shows Stalin in his uniform as Marshal of the Soviet Union, the rank he awarded himself after the victory of Stalingrad," Sebag tells me.

"As for its meaning, either Brand is putting his own antics in perspective next to the colossal real crimes of Stalin or, more likely, he is hoping that posing in front of a Stalin portrait has its own very naughty radical chic."

* Note to Jonathan Ross: Once all this hoo-ha with the BBC is all over, get your company accounts filed. They're five months overdue.

Ashdown grateful for an Afghan excuse

Paddy Ashdown saw his appointment as the UN "super-envoy" in Afghanistan blocked by President Hamid Karzai in January, but Pantsdown hasn't let the snub keep him down.

"My wife has posted a small picture of the Afghan president on the fridge and bows down and says thank you to it every morning," he told a gathering at Chatham House on Wednesday evening. Then, with a comedian's sense of timing, he added: "And I am only just behind her."

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