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Prize copies and the surreal thing

THE GOOD news for Glenn Brown this week: a pounds 2,000 cheque in the Barclays Young Artist of the Year awards. The bad? The wrath of Dali (his estate) and the withdrawal from exhibition of his two prize-winning works. Brown is a 26-year- old graduate of Goldsmiths' College, and his game is the re- painting of well-known works of art - sometimes remaining faithful to the scale of the original, at others making radical alterations to emphasise, he says, the tenuous link between original and copy. That might sound iffy to you or us, but it impresses the likes of Charles Saatchi, who owns some of the pieces (which sell for up to pounds 3,500), and Sarah Kent, the critic and one of the Barclays judges. 'Brown's paintings,' she says, 'both assert and deny the importance of the original, and manage to be seductive and repellent in equal measure.' That's praise. But Dali's representative on earth, the Design and Artists' Copyright Society, says: '(Brown) has taken all the elements of Dali and recreated them without adding any of his own artistic merit', and is seeking legal advice. So Dali-Christ (based on the 1936 original Soft Construction of Boiled Beans) and Pornography of Death (based on The Great Masturbator of 1929) remain under wraps. 'The Dali estate is a powerful organisation and they know in the end that a young artist cannot afford a legal fight,' says Brown sadly.

THE NOVELIST Jilly Cooper expressed her sympathy for her friend Camilla Parker Bowles at a lunch in London yesterday. One particularly appalling aspect of the press's behaviour, she said, is 'the journalists who ring Camilla pretending to be me'. Some of them, she added, 'even have American accents'.

Piranha snaps 'PIRANHA teeth' was Jocelyn Stevens's nickname when he was in charge at Express Newspapers, and his staff at English Heritage are beginning to get a feeling for his incisive work methods. On Tuesday he ejected a tiresome pressure group from his office only 10 minutes after they'd turned up. The ad hoc 'Committee for the Future of London's Architectural Heritage', made up of notable conservationists, arrived to discuss Stevens's plans to give responsibility for Grade II listed buildings to local authorities. But before long, Stevens was bawling the group out with the words: 'This meeting is finished. Get out of this office.' Of John Anstey, who had questioned whether the proper bodies had been consulted on the proposal, Stevens said: 'Fancy coming with that little man]' - an unfortunate remark, since Mr Anstey's diminutive height is the result of childhood polio. The group has written in strong terms to complain to Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage. All English Heritage would say yesterday was: 'We extended the courtesy of a meeting to this self- elected group. They could not explain who they represented. They were not prepared to be courteous in return, and the meeting was disbanded.'

THE HOUSE of Commons catering department is searching for a name for the new MPs' cafeteria at 7 Millbank. Suggestions so far include Order Order, Boothroyd's and Serjeant's Arms. All pathetic. We've a bottle of Lanson champagne for anyone who can do better.

Bitter words

COMMERCE made an unwelcome intrusion into the Whitbread book awards party on Tuesday night, when the brewery company's new chairman, Sir Michael Angus, dared to hector his eminent guests on the subject of duty on beer. Many of the literati had of course never tasted beer, preferring gin fizzes or laudanum, and so they fidgeted, wincing at the brewer's brutish metaphors - 'Beer is not a cash cow that can be milked for ever.' Though more attention was paid when he said that, unless the Government acted to reduce duties to match those in the rest of Europe, Whitbread might stop handing out prizes ( pounds 30,500 this year) to impoverished authors. (Note: the British duty on a pint of beer is 30 times the French; but France's top literary award, the Prix Goncourt, is worth 50 francs.)


28 January 1917 W N P Barbellion writes in his journal: 'Still blowing and bitterly cold. Along the path in the Park I stopped to look at a thick clump of Firs standing aloof on some high ground and guarded by an outside ring of honest English Oaks, Ashes and Elms. They were a sombre mysterious little crowd intent, I fancied, on some secret ritual of the trees. The high ground on which they stood looked higher and more inaccessible than it really was, the clump was dark green, almost black, and in between their trunks where all was obscurity, some hardy adventurer might well have discovered a Grand Lama. But I had no taste for any such profanity, and even as I looked the sun came out from behind a cloud, chasing away shadows and bringing out all the colours. The landscape resumed its homely aspect: an English park with Firs in it.'