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

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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee