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

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Still all to play for at our live iDebate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

The leak of Jennifer Lawrence's nude photos isn't her fault. But try telling that to the internet's idiots

Grace Dent
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor