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Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst: A Martian adventure

Jewellery at D’Offay, censorship at South London Gallery and Jane Simpson at Gagosian

Britart goes to Mars

The already meteoric career of Damien Hirst will scale new heights when he lands a mini-spot painting on Mars next year as part of the Beagle 2 space project. But Hirst’s palm-size work on aluminium, entitled “DHS 667 MARS” is not just an artistic extra going along for the ride, but an essential calibration tool to test the effectiveness of Beagle’s instruments after their bumpy ride through the Martian atmosphere. “I saw one of Hirst’s paintings on television and thought that it could replace the standard calibration target,” Professor Colin Pilliger, Britain’s leading authority on Martian Meteorology told The Art Newspaper. “It has much more artistic appeal while doing the same job.” Each spot has therefore been carefully selected in terms of colour and pigment to act as a sophisticated test card with which to check instruments and also to match up with what scientists think will be on the surface of Mars—even the spot surfaces have been left suitably bumpy for the benefit of focusing Beagle’s microscope. Hirst, however, was responsible for the arrangement of the colours and the placement of the dots in concentric circles which he describes as being “like the holes in a car speaker”.

Hirst’s friend, Alex James of Blur, is also joining in by launching Britpop into space. James and Blur drummer Dave Rountree have composed the special five-note signal that will notify earth of Beagle 2’s touchdown on Mars, scheduled for Christmas Eve 2003. The only trouble is, Professor Pilliger is currently using the same piece of music for his mobile phone ring tone—let’s hope he remembers to cancel all incoming calls for next Christmas.

Saatchi goes potty over Perry

The news that flaxen-haired ceramicist Grayson Perry has parted from his Gallic gallerist Laurent Delaye seems like another example of an artist outgrowing his outlet, and if the size of the two giant vases that Perry was recently showing at the Royal Academy’s “Galleries” show is anything to go by, more space is definitely required for showing his oeuvre. Indeed, it was this self-same pair of pots that apparently precipitated the rift: everyone is keeping tight-lipped but the story on the jetsam grapevine is that when major Perry collector Charles Saatchi decided the matching pair were not quite right for his and the fragrant Nigella’s Eaton Square residence, Mr Delaye was less than enthusiastic about accepting a sale or return. However, all parties are now amicable and several more Perry Pots are said to be wending their way to Eaton Square. As to the new home for Perry and his transvestite alter ego Claire? The Art Newspaper is putting money on a recently refurbished East London venue with waterside views and handy proximity to Old Street McDonalds.

Jane Simpson achieves meltdown

Jane Simpson was not letting her recent departure from Asprey Jacques cramp her style as the London art world gathered at Gagosian Gallery to toast her magical art of ice, rubber and Morandi-esque ceramics. The happy occasion was a special exhibition of her work to mark the publication of Fresh fresher, a deliciously creamy-covered tome on La Simpson which is also the inaugural project of Damien Hirst and Hugh Allan’s “Other criteria”, a new enterprise devoted to whatever the duo feel is worth promoting. As the revelry continued, Simpson’s special remake of a classic Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture in carved ice neatly dissolved into its plinth while the rest of those present relied on the copious magnums of Perrier Jouet to achieve their own less tidy form of meltdown.

Censorship at Southwark

Southwark may be trumpeted as the capital’s new arts quarter, but it seems that its local council still has some catching up to do. Recently, the South London Gallery was forced to cancel the world premiere of “Still life”, a live work by established performance artist Franko B when Southwark Council refused, at the last minute, to grant them a license. “Because Franko was performing naked, we had to apply for an occasional entertainment licence and a waiver of the council’s rules,” said Richard Thompson, South London Gallery’s head of press and marketing. “We had submitted an application two months in advance; public consultation had taken place and there was no opposition. But just four days before the performance we were told that a Southwark Licensing Committee had refused the license due to what they described as “the offensive nature of the performance. We don’t know the grounds for this decision as it was made behind closed doors”. This is the first time that internationally-acclaimed Franko B, whose gruelling work often involves extensive blood-letting, has had his work cancelled. “Franko is very upset. To have his performance described as offensive is in itself pretty offensive” said Mr Thompson. With Franko B due to perform in Tate Modern’s mighty Turbine Hall as part of their “Live culture” season starting on 27 March, all eyes are now on Southwark to see how they will react. Although Tate Modern has an annual license, it will be the same people on Southwark Council who will be making the decision.

Pizza Express prize draws out a prize

Recent controversy concerning the over-expansion of their outlets and the diminishing size of their product has not stopped Pizza Express, the UK’s favourite Pizza chain, from continuing its commitment to contemporary art. Last year painter Ian Davenport was the winner of the £10,000 Pizza Express Prospects prize, which, although it defines itself as being for contemporary drawing nonetheless was awarded to the maestro of paint-pourers as part of its remit to “promote drawing under its widest definition.” This year’s judges include artists Richard Wentworth and Anya Gallaccio, both of whom are seasoned artistic boundary-blurrers, and submissions can include pencil on paper, wall drawings, film, art installation, photography and new media. The deadline is 28 February, and the finalists go on show in two Brick Lane venues in May.

Entry details: www.pizzaexpress.com/prospects or tel 020 7379 0304

D’Offay & Son & Dhosa

Dangling naked light bulbs, lumps of raw timber, twisted wire coathangers trapped beneath glass bell jars—for passers-by at No 9 Dering Street last month, it seemed that nothing much had changed; the former D’Offay gallery is now home to a new creative partnership between the ever versatile Anthony D’Offay and Christina Kim, the woman behind the Dhosa fashion label. But this was not an obscure Beuys installation or a rare piece by Christian Boltanski; for draped on the hangers and trapped beneath the domes was a highly covetable collection of gold and rough diamond rings, necklaces and amulets designed by Kim with jeweller Pippa Small. And the chic clientele squatting at the low driftwood tables were not there to ponder the nature of existence but to try on the merchandise. But by the time you read this, all will be different as the content of the store, like the old D’Offay gallery, is set to change on a monthly basis. Also on board is D’Offay’s son Tim who, in between running his specialist tea stall at Borough Market, is involving himself in what promises to be one of the capital’s most seductive new ventures. Maybe this month they will be offering a a classy cuppa to entice the better class of shopper at 9 Dering St.

Fawcett pulls his punches

Beck’s Sponsorship supremo Anthony Fawcett has nothing but scorn to pour on the scurrilous rumours concerning an altercation with Sir Nicholas Serota at Tracey Emin’s MOMA Oxford opening. Indeed he confides to The Art Newspaper that such was the levity in which he and Sir Nick held such tall tales that they even indulged in a spot of playful shadow boxing at the end of this year’s Turner Awards ceremony. What a shame that wasn’t broadcast on live TV...