Tim Cornwell: Impossibility of deflation in the minds of some collectors

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FORMER Glasgow Museums chief Julian Spalding, a thorn in the side of the contemporary art scene, urged sensible people this week to sell off their Damien Hirsts quick before the market crashed for his “con art”.

A major Hirst retrospective opens at Tate Modern next week and Spalding seized his moment. “The emperor has nothing on. When the penny drops that these are not art, it’s all going to collapse,” he said.

Hours later, the Beeb somewhat gleefully reported an autograph book containing a shark doodle drawn by Hirst had sold for £4,500. While it also contained a job lot of signatures from Alan Bennett, Julie Walters, Alastair Campbell, and Ricky Gervais, it was originally valued at £250-£350.

It sold to an anonymous bidder at the International Autograph Auctions in London. Restoring sanity, a signed photograph of Marilyn Monroe sold in the same auction for just over £20,000.

Vive la différence

The writer of about 100 books, chiefly on education and culture and with just one part-translated into English, Renaud Camus is described as a true French intellectual and a Scotophile to boot.

Camus’ book Demeures de l’esprit: Grande Bretagne introduces the reader into the homes of great British writers and intellectuals, including many in Scotland – Sir JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, at Kirriemuir in Angus, David Livingstone in Blantyre, and Robert Burns in Ayrshire.

On Friday 13 April, at 5pm in Edinburgh’s Playfair Library – free tickets on application at contact.edimbourg-fslt@diplomatie.gouv.fr – he will swap views with British philosopher Roger Scruton on the respective cultural policies of France and the United Kingdom. The premise: France has focused on the “democratisation” of culture with a broad network of cultural institutes and Alliances Françaises worldwide. Britain has opted for arm’s length organisations like the British Council and the Arts Council of England, rather than policy driven by a culture ministry.

Judas is selling out

The Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre has already sold 1,300 seats out of 2,400 for the North-east’s first ever Passion play.

The Easter spectacle, with a cast of 40 telling the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, complete with orchestra and choir, is from a script penned by local chartered surveyor Andrew Sykes, who directs the show and takes the part of Judas.

“We actually found difficulty filling the part, we had a couple of people who said they would do it and backed out, so I said I would do it. The relationship between Jesus and Judas is quite interesting to explore, so I have actually enjoyed it in a rather bizarre way. I’m not wracked with guilt,” he says.

As an added attraction – or not – the production includes songs by Take That and Bruce Springsteen, and the lyrics of Snow Patrol’s Open Your Eyes have been rewritten for the scene where Jesus turns over the moneylenders’ tables.