David Lister: The Week in Arts

You couldn't make it up - but they do

Share

The highlight of the Beck's Futures exhibition at the ICA was not the winner, who was announced on Wednesday. Matt Stokes's video of a soul night in a church in Dundee was no doubt worthy of the top prize. As Miss Jean Brodie said: "For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like." But for me the highlight was an exhibition of pop memorabilia from the 1970s glam rock band Lustfaust.

You remember Lustfaust, a sort of hybrid of Bowie and Roxy Music with a touch of typically German electronica. Well, actually you don't remember them, because they never existed. The exhibit by one of the Beck's runners-up, British conceptual artist Jamie Shovlin, is a fake. There never was a Lustfaust, as he admitted to The Independent earlier this week.

That's bad news for Waldemar Januszczak, the esteemed, award-winning cultural commentator of The Sunday Times. He told his readers last month how Lustfaust "cocked a notorious snook at the music industry in the late 1970s by giving away their music on blank cassettes and getting their fans to design their own covers. There's also an interview with the band's surviving guitarist... It all makes for creepy and fascinating viewing".

He concluded that when it came to who would win the Beck's prize he would "go for Shovlin's tribute to the noisy Lustfaust".

Actually, I don't blame him one bit. I missed seeing the Lustfaust tribute, but I suspect that if I had seen it I would have quickly convinced myself that I dimly remembered them and even had one of their tracks on a Seventies compilation at home. The arts are too large a field for any of us to be aware of everybody. And as it is a field not exactly without its share of pretension, it is a faker's paradise.

I once exposed one of the more famous examples of cultural faking. The novelist William Boyd in the Nineties wrote a book about the New York artist Nat Tate who committed suicide by jumping off the Staten Island ferry. The book was launched at a lavish do in Jeff Koons' studio in Manhattan at a party hosted by David Bowie.

Nat Tate, as I revealed in this paper just after that glitzy book launch, neither lived nor died. He was an ingenious fantasy by Boyd. A few weeks ago, a TV company filmed a programme looking back on this episode, and I took part in it. There was great difficulty, though, in finding anyone who would confess to having been taken in. Though David Bowie's party was packed with art critics and bigwigs from the New York art world, and none of them raised a whisper at the time, all now claim to have been suspicious. That is the thing with cultural cons. No one likes to admit being caught out.

But we should all be more relaxed about it. In 50 years' time, Shovlin's exhibit on Lustfaust might still be around, and no one will clearly know then whether they existed or not. They might even be more famous by then than some genuine glam rockers. Lustfaust's memorabilia are now documented and chronicled. Whereas, the Sweet? I think they existed, but they may have been a figment of the imagination during a bout of fever.

Did that artist really destroy all his possessions in a former C&A store on Oxford Street recently as a piece of conceptualism, or was it an April fool? I can't quite remember.

That's the trouble with the arts. Most weeks, you just couldn't make it up. So, when someone does, there's no shame in being fooled. And if the fake turns out to be more interesting than the real thing, so much the better.

Angry old man

A new biography of the late John Osborne published this week recounts that one of his wives was asthmatic, so he used to pin her to the floor and breathe cigarette smoke down her throat; another wife tried to drown herself in the swimming pool, so he refused to intervene, and a guest had to dive in to rescue her; and he described another wife's suicide as "the coarse posturing of an overheated housemaid". He kicked his 16-year-old daughter out of the house for good because he judged her "criminally commonplace" with "no inner life whatever". And when his 87-year-old mother passed away, he said: "A year in which my mother died cannot be all bad."

Osborne is remembered as a major figure in 20th-century culture, the original angry young man, and the writer who changed theatre for ever with Look Back in Anger. He's fortunate that the private lives of playwrights are not considered remotely as newsworthy as the private lives of politicians, or he might well be remembered rather differently.

* There have been musicals about pretty much everything, but never one about the National Health Service. Until now. Next week in Plymouth we have NHS the Musical, which traces the health service from its birth to the present day. The songs have ever so catchy titles such as "The Morning Song of the Poor Hard-Pressed GP", though recent stories about GP earnings make that one sound out of date even before the first night. Perhaps the audience will sing "Money, Money, Money" over it.

But let's not knock the songs. Cole Porter never came up with lyrics like: "The nature of existence is that you're born to die/Though you may swallow vitamins and then detoxify/One day you'll need the National Health this much we prophesy/They'll find a pill when you're feeling ill and try to rectify."

Yes, that is one of the songs in the show, but maybe not one that the audience will come out singing.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions