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    "American Psycho" Divides London Critics

    What can you say about a musical based on “American Psycho,” Bret Easton Ellis’s glib, heartless, and pretentious novel about a homicidal and narcissistic investment banker? Well, that it is “glib, heartless and pretentious,” if you’re Charles Spencer reviewing the work in the London Telegraph. Following the world premiere of the Duncan Sheik musical at the adventurous Almeida Theatre, the critical consensus was that the creators had managed brilliantly to capture the chilly and superficial world of the brand-worshipping serial killer Patrick Bateman, played by Christian Bale in the 2000 film version and here played by Matt Smith (“Doctor Who”). But to what effect?

    “This is a show that confirms the mythic power of Easton Ellis’s story and leaves us dangerously entertained,” opined Paul Taylor in the Independent, while David Benedict in Variety wrote that the musical was “all style and no substance.”

    The run at the 325-seat Almeida was a quick sellout, no doubt spurred by the stellar names of Sheik, Smith, and 41-year-old director Rupert Goold. A transfer to a West End commercial run is all but assured. Whether it eventually crosses the Atlantic may be another matter, but I’d bet on it. And so would Easton Ellis. When Matt Smith’s casting as Bateman was announced, the author tweeted his approval, adding that for Broadway he’d like to see the role go to Andrew Rannells (“The Book of Mormon”).

    Sheik, who won a Tony Award for “Spring Awakening,” received almost universal praise for his ’80s pastiche score, which is joined by a few of the cheesy pop classics from that period, including Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Tears for Fears’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Also in its favor are the sleek, cool, high-tech designs of Es Devlin.

    But, according to Benedict, the musical has a high hurdle yet to clear. It is bloodless — both metaphorically and literally. For the most part, the murders of this psychotic killer go unrepresented. Moreover, whereas both the novel and the movie toyed with the notion as to whether the bloodlust was real or just fantasy, the musical posits it as weird workings of an over-active imagination. “That may come from the well-intentioned position of not wishing to revel in Bateman’s murderous violence as he slaughters prostitutes and rivals of both genders,” writes Benedict. “Whatever the reason, it robs the show of darkness and, for the most part, any galvanizing sense of horror.”

    That would appear to be a problem given the expectations for a musical based on the 1991 bestseller that shocked with its graphic violence, sadistic torture, and sexual depravity. Besieged by death threats and hate mail, Easton Ellis told everybody to relax. It was satire. The film likewise divided critics, some heaping scorn on its gratuitous violence while others praised its dark vision of the materialist ’80s. The gore, which was gleefully dished out in the movie, is a problem for the stage. Theater has rarely been hospitable to graphic violence for one reason: stage blood looks like, well, stage blood. Fake. The recent off-Broadway revival of the musical “Carrie” tried to get around those limitations through lighting and scenic effects, but largely failed. It’ll be interesting to see how the creative team of “American Psycho” — which includes librettist Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”) — will create the slashing sense of menace audiences will be expecting from the nasty yet sartorial Mr. Bateman. 

    Matt Smith in American Psycho

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    "12 Years" Tops London Critics' Nominations

    It may be more a symbolic fillip than a material one, but “12 Years a Slave”’s dominance of the London Critics Circle Film Awards nominations (listed below) can only boost its chances of achieving major success at the Academy Awards. As reported in Screen DailySteve McQueen’s grueling drama of plantation servitude received nine nods.

    “Blue Jasmine,” “Filth,” “Gravity,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” were each nominated in four categories. “American Hustle,” “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” “Captain Phillips,” “Frances Ha,” “The Great Beauty,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Nebraska,” and “The Selfish Giant” were each nominated three times.

    There are anomalies — on paper, at least. “American Hustle,” which along with “Gravity” could pose the stiffest competition for “12 Years” at the Oscars, was omitted from the 10 pictures nominated by the Londoners as Film of the Year. Similarly, its director, David O. Russell, was omitted from the five Director of the Year nominations.

    Could it be the London critics don’t “get” Russell’s neo-Runyonesque screwball comedy, or is its comparative snubbing indicative of a more general backlash typified by Peter Debruge’s put-down in Variety this week?

    The London scribes appear to have no difficulty with the off-kilter young New York sensibility of Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” which has pleased them more than it has most American critics’ groups. It was nominated for Film of the Year, Best Actress (Greta Gerwig), and the Technical Achievement Award (Sam Levy, cinematography). Never underestimate the Gerwig effect on the Brits.

    Despite its quartet of nominations, Jon S. Baird’s scabrous Irvine Welsh adaptation “Filth” (not yet released in the US) does not figure among the 10 Film of the Year choices. At the other end of the scale, Spike Jonze’s “Her” was nominated for Film of the Year and Screenwriter of the Year (Jonze), but nothing else.

    Since “Behind the Candelabra” was released theatrically in the UK, Michael Douglas’s portrayal of Liberace will allow him to compete for Actor of the Year with Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”), and Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips”).

    The Actress of the Year category is, to use soccer parlance, “the group of death.” Oscar cert Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) will not have an easy run against local favorite Judi Dench, whose moving performance in “Philomena” garnered enormous good will in the UK. Gerwig or Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”) are unlikely to be crowned here, but the outstanding 20-year-old French actress Adèle Exarchopoulos could spring a surprise. Either her Palme d'Or-winning succès de scandale, “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” or “The Great Beauty” will win Foreign-Language Film of the Year.

    Because the London critics honor British Actor and Actress of the Year as well as Actor and Actress of the Year, four actors have been nominated twice: Ejiofor has also been nominated as British Actor, Dench also as British Actor, Michael Fassbender (“12 Years”) as Supporting Actor and British Actor, and Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”) as Supporting Actor and British Actor.

    The nominees for British Film of the Year include “Rush,” directed in an aggressive Hollywood style by an American, Ron Howard. The others are “Filth,” Stephen Frears’s “Philomena,” Ben Wheatley’s “A Field in England,” and Clio Barnard’s “The Selfish Giant.” “A Field in England” is the most innovative of these films; “The Selfish Giant,” as heartbreaking as “Philomena” but less sentimental, is one of the most trenchant movies about the plight of socially deprived British children since Ken Loach’s “Kes” (1969). One of them deserves to win this category.

    Named for the distinguished critic Dilys Powell (1901-95), the Award for Excellence in Film will be presented to the actor Gary Oldman, a laurel that needs no explanation.

    The 34th London Critics Circle Film Awards will be held on February 2. Here are the nominations in full: 

    Blue Is the Warmest Color
    Blue Jasmine
    Frances Ha
    The Great Beauty
    Inside Llewyn Davis
    12 Years a Slave
    The Wolf of Wall Street

    Blue Is the Warmest Color
    Caesar Must Die
    The Great Beauty
    A Hijacking

    A Field in England
    The Selfish Giant

    The Act of Killing
    Beware of Mr Baker
    Stories We Tell
    We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

    Bruce Dern - Nebraska
    Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
    Michael Douglas - Behind the Candelabra
    Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
    Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips

    Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
    Sandra Bullock - Gravity
    Judi Dench - Philomena
    Adèle Exarchopoulos - Blue Is the Warmest Color
    Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha

    Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
    Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave
    James Gandolfini - Enough Said
    Tom Hanks - Saving Mr Banks
    Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club

    Naomie Harris - Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
    Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
    Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle
    Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years a Slave
    June Squibb - Nebraska

    Christian Bale - American Hustle / Out of the Furnace
    Steve Coogan - Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa / The Look of Love / Philomena / What Maisie Knew
    Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
    Michael Fassbender - The Counsellor / 12 Years a Slave
    James McAvoy - Filth / Trance / Welcome to the Punch

    Judi Dench - Philomena
    Lindsay Duncan - About Time / Last Passenger / Le Week-end
    Naomie Harris - Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
    Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
    Emma Thompson - Beautiful Creatures / Saving Mr Banks

    Conner Chapman - The Selfish Giant
    Saoirse Ronan - Byzantium / The Host / How I Live Now
    Eloise Laurence - Broken
    George MacKay - Breakfast With Jonny Wilkinson / For Those in Peril / How I Live Now / Sunshine on Leith
    Shaun Thomas - The Selfish Giant

    Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity
    Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips
    Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave
    Paolo Sorrentino - The Great Beauty
    Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street

    Ethan Coen & Joel Coen - Inside Llewyn Davis
    Spike Jonze - Her
    Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope - Philomena
    John Ridley - 12 Years a Slave
    Terence Winter - The Wolf of Wall Street

    Jon S Baird - Filth
    Scott Graham - Shell
    Marcus Markou - Papadopoulos & Sons
    Rufus Norris - Broken
    Paul Wright - For Those in Peril

    American Hustle - Judy Becker, production design
    Behind the Candelabra - Howard Cummings, production design
    Filth - Mark Eckersley, editing
    Frances Ha - Sam Levy, cinematography
    Gravity - Tim Webber, visual effects
    The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Trish Summerville, costumes
    Inside Llewyn Davis - T Bone Burnett, music
    Stoker - Kurt Swanson & Bart Mueller, costumes
    12 Years a Slave - Sean Bobbitt, cinematography
    Upstream Colour - Johnny Marshall, sound design

    Gary Oldman

    Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor

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  • 12/19/13--10:10: Craft & Folk Art Museum
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    Adults: $5.00; Children under 12: Free; Students & Seniors: $3.00; 1st Wednesdays: Free
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    VIDEO: Bolivian Artist Restores Baby Jesus Figurines for Christmas

    A Bolivian art restorer is spreading Christmas joy by repairing damaged baby Jesus figurines in the La Paz shop he calls the “Baby Jesus Clinic”.

    People from all over the country send their damaged figurines to Rafael Gonzales. Many of the tiny statues have been passed down through families and some of the pieces are more than 300 years old, explains Gonzales, “we use very durable material and we are bettering it in this way. We never use plaster for anything and the material we use allows us to complete the work and it also guarantees that our clients can pass the piece on from generation to generation.”

    The figurines he fixes are made of different materials including wood, mother-of-pearl, painted glass and ceramics.

    Word of his work is spreading. One figurine was sent to him from Peru, “to repair this Cusqueno baby (the Peruvian-made baby Jesus) we had to give him new hands and eyes. We gave him crystal eyes and we made him open his mouth, we gave him a tongue and then teeth. We cut the two little bunnies from mother of pearl. Then we attached the eyelashes. So, this baby who was normal, is now a gem. A huge change has been done to this baby.”

    The repaired baby figurine will be heading home and to a nativity scene just in time for Christmas Day.

    Rafael Gonzales, figurines, Baby Jesus Clinic, Bolivian artist,

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    As another year of museum retrospectives, historical surveys, thematic group shows, art fairs, biennials, triennials, public and performance art commissions, and good, old-fashioned gallery exhibitions comes to a close, the staff of BLOUIN ARTINFO is looking back, taking stock, and giving thanks for the art that made us laugh, cry, run away screaming, or think really hard — and the few stand-outs that caused us to have all those reactions. Here are our favorite exhibitions, events, and individual artworks of 2013.

    5Pointz, Queens, 1993-November 19, 2013

    Despite months of public debate and valiant efforts by supporters to have the 5Pointz building declared a landmark, the wildly decorated graffiti arts center in Long Island City was whitewashed overnight in mid-November by building owner Jerry Wolkoff, who plans to demolish the building and put up high-rise towers in its place. Wolkoff had insistened that he “loved” the art and that demolition while the art was still visible would be “agonizing,” and angry artists and admirers were stunned by the move. — Eileen Kinsella


    5Pointz Graffiti Center Whitewashed by Building Owners to Speed Demolition Process

    Court in 5Pointz Case Publishes Decision

    The Cat Show” at White Columns, New York, June 14-July 27, 2013

    Beyond its great cat-themed works (134 of them) by artists including Elizabeth Peyton, David Shrigley, Frances Stark, and Cory Arcangel, this show, curated by writer Rhonda Lieberman, also had actual living “cats-in-residence” frolicking in an artist-designed cat playground replete with jungle gym, scratching posts, and a “Zen Litter Tray” by Rob Pruitt. The cats were up for adoption — courtesy of Social Tees Animal Rescue — so guests could go home with their very own work of purring art. — Rozalia Jovanovic


    VIDEO: "The Cat Show," A Purr-formance for 9 Lifetimes

    The Five Feistiest Feline Artworks From “The Cat Show” at White Columns

    Rhonda Lieberman, Curator of “The Cat Show” at White Columns, Interviewed by Cats

    Come Together: Surviving Sandy” at Industry City, Brooklyn, October 20-December 15, 2013

    Destined to go down in local lore as one of those bellwether exhibitions on a par with “The Times Square Show,” Brooklyn Rail publisher Phong Bui’s astounding, warehouse-filling homage to New York’s community of artists brought together blue chip figures like Alex Katz, Deborah Kass, Chuck Close, and Kiki Smith, market-tested youngsters like the Bruce High Quality Foundation, Dustin Yellin, and Wendy White, and rising stars like Carrie Moyer, Diana Cooper, and Cordy Ryman. Staggering rent increases at Industry City earlier this year forced artists out of the very building that hosted this exhibition celebrating the New York art world support networks. That development cast a shadow over the goodwill and gooey feelings fostered by the “Surviving Sandy” theme — but also reinforced the reality that if artists are going to survive  the high cost of living and the vagaries of weather afflicting New York, they can count on each other but not on the kindness of benevolent landlords. — Benjamin Sutton


    “Surviving Sandy” VIP Opening Brings New York’s Art World to Sunset Park Warehouse

    A Different Kind of Order: The ICP Triennial” at the International Center of Photography, New York, May 17-September 22, 2013

    Slammed in 2010 for mounting an overly analogue triennial, ICP bounced back this year with curators Joanna Lehan, Kristen Lubben, Christopher Phillips, and Carol Squiers’ incredibly rich, varied, poignant, devastating, and yet optimistic survey of not just contemporary photography, but the whole field of video and new media art, plus plenty of hand-crafted sculpture and collage for good measure. Some works immediately burned themselves into your retina — like Thomas Hirschhorn’s bloody iPad-scrolling video "Touching Reality" (2012) — while others drew you in with strange formal experiments — like Aleksandra Domanovic’s stacks of paper with protest imagery printed on their edges. Still others lingered in your mind’s eye for days with their incredible complexity and encyclopedic aspirations, like Sohei Nishino’s psycho-architectural cityscape collages or Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse’s census-like photo-survey of every room in a 54-story building in Johannesburg. — BS

    Edo Pop: The Graphic Impact of Japanese Prints” at Japan Society, New York, March 9-June 9, 2013

    What stood out about the Japan Society’s “Edo Pop” exhibition was the striking juxtaposition of classic works and contemporary re-imaginings thereof. Lady Aiko’s site-specific mural welcomed visitors at the entrance, and the show bounced back and forth perfectly between masterworks of ukiyo-e woodblock printmaking and contemporary artists still working in the medium and taking cues from Japan’s golden era of print production. — Alanna Martinez

    Julie Evans, “Mylar Constructions” at Winkleman Gallery, New York, October 24-December 7, 2013

    Evans’s “Mylar Constructions” show was impeccably curated, with artworks mounted directly to one wall, mingling its textures with those of the pieces, and beautifully mounted works on paper hung on the other side of the room. Each piece, while seemingly simple at first glance, was a miniature world where it was easy to get lost among the inkblots and dried paint flakes. I really wanted to take one of these home. — AM

    Isa Genzken: A Retrospective” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 23, 2013-March 10, 2014

    Walking through the Isa Genzken’s retrospective is a bit like walking down Canal Street after a cyclone has struck, transforming the objects, trinkets, cheap clothes, mannequins, and industrial plastic and metal materials from the various shops into lurid, mesmerizing, often off-putting arrangements that form a lexicon that is dark, comic, and at times unsettlingly unfamiliar. — RJ


    Rosler, Trecartin, Tillmans, and Others Celebrate Isa Genzken at MoMA

    Jack Goldstein x 10,000” at the Jewish Museum, New York, May 10-September 29, 2013

    The first American retrospective devoted to this pioneering member of the Pictures generation — whose mythical status seems to only increase with time — was a tightly curated and powerful look at his impressive output, ranging from his short, fascinating film loops to his striking lightning paintings. The well-received show was complemented by the artist’s signature film “The Jump” — a repeating silhouette of a diver in motion — playing nightly through the month of August on jumbo screens in New York’s Times Square, where it drew rapt crowds. — EK


    REVIEW: Jack Goldstein at The Jewish Museum

    Jewish Museum Lifts the Veil on Jack Goldstein

    Jack Goldstein’s “The Jump” Will Dive Onto Times Square’s Screens in August

    Sharon Hayes, “Ricerche: three” (2013) from “The Encyclopedic Palace” at the Venice Biennale, Venice, June 1-November 24, 2013

    In her video piece “Ricerche: three,” Sharon Hayes interviewed a group of 36 students at an all-women’s college in New England about a broad range of topics pertaining to sexuality and gender. While some questions provoked laughter (“Do you feel like you have the same kind of sex or a different kind of sex than your mother?”), others sparked intense debate about “activism on campus” or nationalism and the female body. Hayes’s piece interrogates the complicated space of an all-female college while drawing poignant portraits of women in the process of forming their own identities. — Ashton Cooper


    Massimiliano Gioni's Urbane Biennale Is the Most Dazzling in Memory

    "I Felt the Need to Do Something Unusual": Massimiliano Gioni on Curating Venice

    VENICE REPORT [VIDEO]: Massimiliano Gioni on His "Encyclopedic Palace"

    Mike Kelley” at MoMA PS1, Queens, October 13, 2013-February 2, 2014

    This exhibition, the largest of the artist’s work to date and the first solo show to take over the entire PS1 building in Long Island City, pays tribute to the L.A. artist, who took his own life last year at the age of 57. The exhibition explores themes Kelley returned to time and time again — religion, repressed memories, and sexuality — in a broad range of media including film, sculpture, and sprawling installation, and with unorthodox materials like dirty stuffed animals. — EK


    Working Through Mike Kelley’s Lacerating Lifework at PS1

    VIDEO: Massive "Mike Kelley" Show Takes Over MoMA PS1

    Ragnar Kjartansson, “The Visitors” at Luhring Augustine, New York, February 1-March 23, 2013

    We hate to give good readers bad news, but if you weren’t moved to tears by this admittedly sentimental yet sublime nine-channel music video — in which Icelandic art star Kjartansson and eight other musicians performed as a divided ensemble in separate rooms of a grand old upstate New York house for nearly an hour before joining forces in a jubilant finale — you are probably a robot. Between this show, his “S.S. Hangover” performance at the Venice Biennale, and a residency at MoMA PS1’s “Expo 1” colony, 2013 was the year of Kjartansson. — BS


    Cutting Through the Noise Surrounding Ragnar Kjartansson's Neo-Romantic Jam Band

    Annie Leibovitz, “Pilgrimage” at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, February 15-May 5, 2013

    After her partner, Susan Sontag, died in 2004, Annie Leibovitz took to the road to complete a bucket list of sorts that the couple had compiled, featuring places and things they cared about or wanted to visit. The images resulting from this “pilgrimage” — pictures of Virginia Woolf’s writing desk, Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress, and the white gloves Abraham Lincoln had in his pocket when he died, among many other things — are both surreal and deeply inflected with a sense of sorrow and loss. — AC

    Matisse: In Search of True Painting” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, December 4, 2012-March 17, 2013

    There was so much to be learned from this show, one of the tightest and most refined exhibitions of the year, from personal details that spoke to the nuances of Matisse’s career trajectory to the fundamentals of oil painting. Historical photos of some of his most famous paintings at various stages of completion brought the artist’s meticulous studio process to life for the first time since the works were originally shown in Paris in 1945. — AM


    6 Things I Learned About Painting From the Met's Blockbuster Matisse Show

    Ryan McNamara, “MEƎM: A Story Ballet about the Internet” at Performa 13, New York, November 8-12

    Ryan McNamara’s work for Performa 13, “ME3M: A Story Ballet About the Internet,” started off as a traditional dance performance, but within moments — as audience members began getting carted off in individual, chauffeured dollies to see snippets of 10 or so dances happening around the space — the ballet was transformed into an unforgettable event infused with McNamara’s irreverent aesthetic and feeling unlike any theater we had ever experienced. It left us delighted for hours afterwards. — RJ


    Performa 13: So Much to “Like” in Ryan McNamara’s Ballet About the Internet

    24 Questions for Meme Enthusiast and "Nashville" Fan Ryan McNamara

    Ryan McNamara Reveals Behind-the-Scenes Details from His Performa Hit “ME3M Ballet”

    Photography and the American Civil War” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, April 2-September 2, 2013

    The Civil War came to radiant life in this standout exhibition of photographs that included a portrait of Abraham Lincoln three months before his nomination as the Republican candidate (when he stopped in at Matthew Brady’s gallery); a mourning corsage from his funeral; a room lined with medical photographs taken by the surgeon Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou; and “The Scourged Back” — a tiny yet powerful image on a carte-de-visite of a runaway slave with whipping scars that became one the most widely disseminated abolitionist photographs. The show, with its attention to the evolution of the role of the camera, offered something for both Civil-War junkies and photography fanatics. — RJ


    SHOWS THAT MATTER: The Civil War's Photographic Legacy at the Met

    Ad Reinhardt” at David Zwirner, New York, November 7-December 18, 2013

    This museum-quality mini-retrospective, curated by Yale University School of Art dean Robert Storr, started with an expansive display of Reinhardt’s sharp-witted satirical cartoons — a revelation in itself — and continued with a slideshow of his personal photographs taken during his extensive travels around the world. The exhibition ended with a room full of his mesmerizing black paintings — 13 in all, the largest number seen together since his show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1991. — EK

    Kathy Ruttenberg, “Nature of the Beast” at Stux Gallery, New York, April 11-May 18, 2013

    A welcome respite from the overwhelming amount of abstract painting that has filled Chelsea gallery walls this year, Ruttenberg's fantastical ceramic forest not only featured some of the finest ceramic works I've ever seen on this scale, but also some outstanding sculptural concepts. She managed to infuse dark elements with fairy-tale imagery, engaging viewers with sculptures installed everywhere from the gallery floor to the ceiling. — AM

    Hank Willis Thomas, “Question Bridge: Black Males,” a collaboration with Hank Willis Thomas, Chris Johnson, Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, July 11-August 23, 2013

    Hank Willis Thomas’s multimedia project “Question Bridge: Black Males” is the product of four years of work and trips to 11 cities to gather video footage of self-identified black men answering and asking questions posed to one another. The resulting five-channel video installation was at times comic and moving, but above all it got at the important point that there is neither one truth nor one singular definition of black male identity. — AC


    Hank Willis Thomas on Subverting Stereotypes in a New Web Megaproject

    Mickalene Thomas, “Origin of the Universe” at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, September 28, 2012-January 20, 2013

    The full range of Mickalene Thomas’s artistic output — her well-known portraits of women, new interiors, photographs, and her first film — was on view in this comprehensive exhibition that gave insight into both her multi-step working process and the Lacanian underpinnings of her work. Thomas’s two glittering reinterpretations of Courbet’s classic painting “Origin of the World,” one featuring the body of her partner, artist Carmen McLeod, and the other her own, are brilliant interrogations of art historical representations of the female body.— AC


    VIDEO: A Studio Visit With Painter Mickalene Thomas

    Letha Wilson, “Landmarks and Monuments” at Art in General, New York, April 20-June 30, 2013

    Wilson’s works, which are either sculpture-mounted photographs or photo-curious sculptures, depending on which medium you favor — and seem to follow in Robert Smithson’s spiraling footsteps in either case — achieved new levels of richness and formal complexity in her solo show at the Tribeca non-profit. She continued to stage collisions between coarse construction materials, landscape photographs, and the archetypal American wilderness they depict, while also incorporating the unique architectural features of Art in General’s loft space, from its bricked-up windows to its upcycled ship mast columns. — BS

    To see images of our favorite art from 2013, click here for the slideshow.

    The ARTINFO Staff’s Favorite Art of 2013
    Best Art of 2013

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    VIDEO: Adele Receives Top Royal Honor

    LONDON – Adele has won numerous Grammy and Oscar awards, but she is now graced with one of the highest honors she has received to date. The 25-year-old singer was given the MBE medal, reserved for meritorious British subjects, presented by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace for her services to music.

    Adele arrived in her multi-color Stella McCartney dress to accept the award as she curtseyed and thanked the royal family.

    The singer was inducted as a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire because of her success through the years with music. According to Amazon, her album “21” has made her the best-selling artist of all time.

    To be a member of the Order of the British Empire, is to be recognized for prestigious services in the Arts and Sciences. Others to be honored during the ceremony include Christian Horner, the team principal of the Red Bull Formula One racing team, along with Paralympians Josie Pearson and Aled Davies, both of whom won gold medals during the 2012 London games.

    Adele, Buckingham Palace, Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, MBE medal,

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  • 12/19/13--13:12: The Legacy of Lee Hazlewood
  • The Legacy of Lee Hazlewood

    Lee Hazlewood never achieved the success he deserved. A less raucous Phil Spector with a handlebar mustache, he specialized in a truly original brand of cosmic cowboy music — pop harmonies combined with country twang set under a cigarette-smoke voice caked in dirt. His records, as an artist and producer, were always slightly off-kilter and never commercially popular. The one exception is “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” a song he wrote for Nancy Sinatra which topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts in February 1966. His greatest body of work, however, only recently discovered, is that which he recorded, or oversaw, under the banner of Lee Hazlewood Industries. Most of these recordings, which have been collected in a gorgeous box set titled “There’s a Dream I’ve Been Saving: Lee Hazlewood Industries 1966-1971” (Light in the Attic Records), are reaching a wider audience for the first time.

    Hazlewood, like many early pioneers of the independent music industry, was something of a raconteur. Before launching a career in music, he studied medicine, did a tour of duty in the Korean War, and was a radio deejay in Phoenix. It was at that final job, where he found he had a knack for discovering hit songs, that he began writing his own. Making Greyhound trips from Phoenix to Los Angeles, he began shopping his songs to publishers and labels with little luck at first. When the songs did get picked up and recorded, he found the artists and producers didn’t really understand the music he was writing. It didn’t sound like the record that was spinning in his head.

    Lee Hazlewood Industries, a clubhouse-of-misfits-slash-record label, located on the Sunset Strip, was still a few years away. On the long strange trip there, Hazlewood would work with the guitarist Duane Eddy (whose vibrating guitar sound would become a staple of Hazlewood recordings), start and finish Eden Records, a subsidiary of Decca, and grow that famous mustache of his. He also began dating Suzi Jane Hokom, who would become the label’s art designer, in-house producer, recording artist, and all-around muse.

    The music in the box set, which ranges from Hazlewood’s solo records — including the bizarre and surprisingly good soundtrack to “Cowboy in Sweden,” a television project Hazelwood produced and starred in — to collaborations and a smorgasbord of bands and artists, highlights what made the label unique. It never settled on one sound. Why focus on one when you have so many different types of music, sometimes all squeezed into a single song? Unfortunately, it was this chaotic foundation that reportedly extended into the day-to-day operations of the label.

    Hokom’s contribution to Hazlewood’s music, rarely discussed in previous considerations of his career, is finally catching some rays of the spotlight. While Hazlewood, in his own recordings, tended to lean toward country or folk, typically with lush orchestration, it seems Hokom, almost a decade younger than Hazlewood, introduced the new sounds of rock-n-roll. The songs she worked on had a laid-back, stoned vibe reminiscent of the Los Angeles scene built in Laurel Canyon that was growing around them.

    Hazlewood favored the Svengali image, which is evident in his relationship — personal and professional — with Hokom, as well as his collaborations with Nancy Sinatra and Ann-Margret. There was a bit of 1960s liberation in his vision, with his encouragement of Hokom’s creativity, specifically, that was tempered by his patriarchal control. He was fiercely loyal and wanted his collaborators to succeed, but only so far. His name, his image, was still at the front. When they came too close to challenging his control, even without realizing, he pulled away.

    It was this hardheadedness, a tricky balance between fostering chaos and flaunting power, which many believe did him in. (A notoriously litigiousness man, Hazlewood was responsible for Gram Parsons being removed from the final version of “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” by The Byrds.) When things got too crazy, and the money wasn’t rolling in, Hazlewood ran away. He settled in Sweden, where he continued to make music and venture into other projects.

    This period is arguably one of his most creative. “Cowboy in Sweden,” released on DVD for the first time as part of the box set, is ambitious in the way that so many projects of this nature were during the period. There is a sense that the ideas were unfiltered. Money wasn’t an issue. You just created, and kept creating. People watched and listened, or they didn’t. It didn’t seem to matter.

    But as the music business turned into a monolithic enterprise in the 1970s, and the major labels swallowed up the smaller ones, Hazlewood would be pushed out. There was no room for him in the new structure. He wouldn’t record again until the ’90s and sadly, after a few superb comeback albums, passed away from renal cancer in 2007, just as he was finally accepting the cult fame that had grown around him during his time away from music. His willingness to create music on his own terms, outside the traditional music industry, will inspire artists for decades to come. In an interview late in his career, included in the box set, he lays his theory of working in the music industry, simple and plain: “It’s all suits and you do your best to avoid them.”

    Lee Hazlewood

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    On Thursday, a final appraisal by Christie’s of a key part of the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts was released to the public by the office of Kevyn Orr, the city’s emergency manager. In its report, the auction house considers less than 5 percent of the museum’s 66,000-strong collection — specifically, the 2,781 works that were purchased in whole or in part with city funds, and which are therefore likelier than donated items to be considered for sale if Orr deems the collection fair game in his efforts to dig Detroit out of its financial hole.

    “It’s easiest to establish provenance for the city-purchased art,” Bill Nowland, a spokesperson for Kevyn Orr, wrote in an email. “Other city-owned art could be subject to donation covenants or reversion rights. In those cases, each work’s provenance would need to be researched to establish clear title.” He said that for over 60,000 pieces, that kind of process could take years to complete. Orr’s plan of adjusment, in which he’ll propose financial plan for the city, is expected in early January.

    A mere 11 items are thought to account for 75 percent of the value of the works the report considers. Those 11, along with their fair market value according to Christie’s, are listed in the report on the emergency manager’s website, but we’ve culled them and put them into a slideshow.

    Click here to see the works in question, along with their respective valuations.

    The 11 Most Valuable Works in Christie's DIA Appraisal
     Edgar Degas' "Dancers in the Green Room" c. 1879.

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    Performing Arts Picks: Keith Jarrett, "Museum Hours," and More

    — Last month, ECM released an unusual album from jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. “No End,” recorded in the artist’s home studio in 1986, is unlike anything he’s recorded before or since. The album shows Jarrett playing drums, electric guitar, electric bass, and more, resulting is something close to free-jazz. “Somehow something happened during these days in the 80s that won’t ever be repeated,” Jarrett writes in the liner notes, which is putting it mildly. [ECM, $23]

    Jem Cohen’s “Museum Hours,” a meta-fictional film about the Kunsthistorisches Art Museum in Vienna and one of ARTINFO critic Graham Fuller’s top films of the year, is out in a splendid Blu-Ray release. [Cinema Guild, $20.99]

    — Fan of photography and music? Then you can’t go wrong with “Houston Rap,” a deep-dive portrait of the local Texas hip-hop community. The images, by photographer Peter Beste, are complemented by the text of writer Lance Scott Walker. [Sinecure Books, $50]

    — Do you have too many books piling on a shelf unread? Feel like you spend too much time in front of a screen? May we suggest the Dam Drum 3, a pocket-sized drum machine featuring original sounds selected by the artist Dam-Funk. This one of a kind item was hand crafted Bleep Labs in Austin TX. [Stones Throw, $110]

    A scene from Jem Cohen's "Museum Hours"

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    If you went gaga over the shot of George Clooney spotted by Yayoi Kusama on the cover of W Magazine’s December Art Issue, have we got a pick for you this week.

    The print is now for sale, thanks to a partnership between W and Artsy to exclusively retail limited-edition prints of images in the issue, which include works by not just Kusama, but also Tracey Emin, Catherine Opie, Marilyn Minter, Karen Kilimnik, Lorna Simpson, and Michael Thompson.

    “We chose George Clooney as the focus of this issue, because he is Hollywood’s favorite leading man; and who better to interpret him than five of the preeminent female artists working today,” said Caroline Wolff, photography director at W.

    The graphic black-and-white portraits of Clooney and of Adepero Oduye, the rising star in artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen’s recently released feature film, 12 Years a Slave, as well as Thompson’s vibrant fashion photographs, focusing on the masks of Jean Paul Gaultier, are sure to make great gifts this holiday too, for either yourself or a loved one.

    Perhaps the best gift of all: All proceeds from this sale will benefit Save the Children’s Typhoon Haiyan Relief. Each print will also be signed and numbered.

    Click through the slideshow for some of the stunning images up for sale.

    BLOUIN Lifestyle Pick: W's Art Issue Prints
    George Clooney

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    After a couple of very high-profile art memes dominated 2012Cecilia Gimenez’s “Beast Jesus” and artists’ and art institutions’ appropriations of “Gangnam Style”— you might think that 2013 was a quieter year for artworks going viral. But between a pair of poorly received royal portraits, an unexpectedly politicized duck sculpture, the art historical canon’s conversion into Emojis, and our own attempt at launching an art meme, it’s been a busy year for art on the Internet. Here are our picks for the best viral art memes of 2013.


    Though it may have remained largely confined to the online art community, this meme, in which famous artists’ trademark aesthetics and most famous works are translated into a series of Emojis — a type of Japanese emoticon recently made compatible with Western smartphones — became a sensation in February. The meme allowed seemingly intricate works to be reduced to a few cartoonish icons, like Damien Hirst’s “For the Love of God” (a skull and a lot of diamonds), the “Rain Room” (a downpour of raindrops with a part in the middle), or Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece” (a woman and a pair of scissors). In December #EmojiArtHistory even received that ultimate marker of meme domination, transfiguration into a real-life object, when artist Man Bartlett exhibited a series of #EmojiArtHistory prints at Eyebeam as part of the art and technology center’s #Emoji exhibition.

    Florentijn Hofman’s “Rubber Duck”

    This enormous inflatable sculpture of a toy rubber duck could be considered a meme just by virtue of its utter ubiquity this year, as it seemed to make landfall in nearly every major East Asian city and in Pittsburgh, for its U.S. debut. But its moment of truly viral fame came in June, when a mashup of the playful public sculpture and the iconic “Tank Man” photo from the Tiananmen Square protests started circulating online on the 24th anniversary of the demonstrations. The Chinese government promptly banned searches of the phrase “big yellow duck” from Weibo, the country’s favored micro-blogging platform.

    “The Harlem Shake”

    While not obviously related to visual art, this fast-forgotten meme — in which the Baauer song “The Harlem Shake” plays in a crowded room where only one person dances while everyone else goes about their business and then, when the beat crescendos, everyone busts a move — this one makes the list because the voice that speaks the iconic command “Do the Harlem Shake” is that of Jayson Musson, also known as Hennessy Youngman, an artist who was in the Philadelphia-based rap group Plastic Little from whose song “Miller Time” the lyric was sampled.

    Marriage Equality Art History

    In March, amid the Human Rights Campaign’s push to raise support for marriage equality in the United States, hundreds of thousands of people changed their social media profile pictures to red and pink renditions of the campaign’s iconic “equals” sign logo, with many of them incorporating art historical allusions, from modernist classics like Mark Rothko and Dan Flavin, to more contemporary imagery drawn from Keith Haring or Tilda Swinton’s sleeping performance at MoMA.

    Kate Middleton Portraitgate

    In January, London’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled artist Paul Emsley’s portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, immediately inciting a media furor over what many took to be a very unflattering image of the young royal. The internet had a field day with the poorly received portrait, creating mashups that fused Middleton with everything from “Beast Jesus” to Vigo, the villain from “Ghostbusters 2.”

    Danish Royal Family Portraitgate

    Not ones to lose out to the Brits without a fight — even if that fight is over highly questionable portraits — the Danish royal family commissioned artist Thomas Kluge to create a sprawling, intergenerational portrait, the family’s first in 125 years. The resulting image, in which toddlers either float in a kind of post-apocalyptic limbo, or stare out at the viewer with heart-stopping, “Children of the Corn”-like gazes, while an apparent rip in the time-space continuum offers a glimpse of an ancient ruin as a backdrop. Kluge’s Photoshop-evoking aesthetic seemed ripe for online parody, but this meme never took off the way we expected it would.

    Grumpy Cat Exhibition

    If 2013 was the year of cat art — stay tuned for ARTINFO’s list of the best cat art of 2013 — the dominant feline in that field was Grumpy Cat, who not only won the Walker Art Center’s second annual Internet Cat Video Festival, but was also the focus of a benefit exhibition at Alabama’s Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment studio complex in May. Each artist with a studio in the building contributed a portrait of the temperamental kitty, with sales helping to raise funds for a local playground.

    Struggling Sehgal

    We were so struck by a hilarious picture of performance artist Tino Sehgal holding up the Golden Lion he won at this year’s Venice Biennale, and seemingly struggling mightily to lift the tiny statuette, that we proposed the “Struggling Sehgal,” in which the artist tries with all his might to lift random objects, from Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” boulder to a Jeff Koons gazing ball. Though the meme failed to catch on, we stand by it.

    To see images of 2013’s best art memes, click the slideshow.

    The Best Viral Art Memes of 2013, From #EmojiArtHistory to Portraitgate
    A variation on Grumpy Cat by Ann Moeller Steverson.

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    Ryan O'Neal Wins Warhol Portrait, Knoedler Forger Speaks, and More

    Ryan O'Neal Wins Warhol's Fawcett Portrait: A California jury has sided with actor Ryan O'Neal in his dispute with the University of Texas at Austin over a portrait painting of his longtime partner Farrah Fawcett by Andy Warhol, which the late actress had left to her alma mater. The painting in question is one of two Warhols portraying Fawcett — the other is hanging in UT's Blanton Museum of Art— but the school sued O'Neal after spotting his version, which hangs over his bed, on a reality TV show. [BBC]

    "I Have Suffered for What I Love": An interview with Pei-Shen Qian, the artist behind the Knoedler Gallery forgeries, reveals that Qian started out as a street artist and janitor who had no idea that Knoedler was selling his works. Allegedly, Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz, partner of Glafira Rosales, commissioned the works from Qian for years without telling him where they were going. "I made a knife to cut fruit," Qian said. "But if others use it to kill, blaming me is unfair." [Bloomberg]

    Pelosi Campaigns for George Lucas Museum: In a letter to San Francisco's Presidio Trust, which is currently weighing proposals for three competing institutions to be built in the park — including "Star Wars" director George Lucas's Lucas Cultural Arts Museum— Representative Nancy Pelosi demanded a decision next month, seemingly throwing her support behind Lucas's project. "I hope you will emphasize the need to draw a vibrant cross section of visitors to the Presidio, with particular attention to inner-city youth," she wrote. "A strong proposal that would realize this goal is important to the future of the Presidio, particularly by increasing visitation and also by creating a star attraction to provide a distinct destination site for visitors." [SF Chronicle]

    India Sale Soars: Christie’s first auction in India did very well, with many doubled estimates, and the record for an Indian artist at auction with a $3.8 million work by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde. [Bloomberg]

    Selfie Mania in Chelsea: With up to eight-hour lines stretching outside of David Zwirner to see (and photograph) Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms, New York gallerists note that they’ve seen an increased number of new gallery visitors who are mostly just there to take selfies. [WSJ]

    Firsts and Lasts Find Homes: The Paul Mellon estate has donated Vincent van Gogh’s "Green Wheat Fields, Auvers," one of the artist’s last works, to the National Gallery of Art in D.C. Meanwhile, what may very well be the first work by Andy Warhol that he ever sold, from when he was a student at Carnegie Mellon, has been gifted to the Crystal Bridges Museum. [WP, NYT]

    – A group of Detroit artists are holding a march, the "Walk for Artistic Freedom," in the city on Friday in support of the Heidelberg Project, the sprawling outsider art installation that has been targeted by arsonists in recent months. [AP]

    – Artist Jason Pallas was removed from an exhibition at West Chicago City Museum after his contribution was revealed to be that he had posed as an AP English teacher and sent out a press release announcing that a non-existent school glee club would perform a minstrel show as a charity benefit. [Suburban Life]

    – The National Portrait Gallery in London unveiled the first painted portrait of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, by Alastair Adams, and it is very intense and creepy. [Guardian]


    The ARTINFO Staff’s Favorite Art of 2013

    ARTINFO GIFT GUIDE: 35 Ideas for Every Art Lover on Your List

    The 11 Most Valuable Works in Christie's DIA Appraisal

    Queens’s Socrates Sculpture Park Planning Manhattan Pop-Up

    Italian Modern Art Foundation Launching in New York in February

    Rob Pruitt and Other Artists Design Christmas Trees for Holiday Party

    VIDEO: Christoph Schlingensief's Retrospective at KW Berlin

    Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.

    Andy Warhol's Farrah Fawcett, 1980

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    VIDEO: Architect Lays Out Plans for Capitol Restoration

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Water leaks have caused cracks and rust in the U.S. Capitol dome, prompting a major restoration project.

    The damages to the Capitol building are forcing architects to embark on a two-year, $60-million restoration project.

    The architect of the capitol, Stephen Ayers, describes the process, “it’s important to know that these cracks and missing pieces, many of those you see before you today, are water leaks into the dome, and water of course and cast iron don't work well together and that process of water incursion and cast iron just continues to rust and rust and rust and make conditions worse. So with nearly 1,300 cracks, and we see the pace of cracking and deterioration accelerating, we thought it was important now, after 50 years, to intervene and do some preservation work on the dome.”

    Scaffolding will go almost all the way to the top of the 289-foot structure.

    Officials say contractors will do the majority of the work at night and on weekends in reduce any impact on work at the Capitol.

    The restoration will begin in spring 2014.

    Capitol dome, Washington D.C., Capitol building, Restoration,

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    New York Pops Brings Holiday Cheer to Carnegie Hall

    The New York Pops celebrates the holiday season with “Under the Mistletoe With Ashley Brown,” a concert on December 20 at Carnegie Hall. The program, which includes Christmas carols, radio hits, and movie music, features such classics as “Deck the Halls,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “O Holy Night,” and “Christmastime is Here.” The concert will be performed under the baton of New York Pops music director Steven Reineke, and features the choral ensemble Essential Voices USA.

    Brown, a celebrated soprano known for originating the role of Mary Poppins on Broadway, has appeared in the Walt Disney Theatrical production of “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Oklahoma!” and “Show Boat” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  

    The holiday concert takes place at 8 p.m. in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage. Visit Carnegie Hall’s website to purchase tickets.  

    The New York Pops Orchestra.

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    VIDEO: New Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical Launched in London

    LONDON – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Stephen Ward” is a musical with a mission: to clear the name of the eponymous high-society osteopath at the centre of the 1963 Profumo sex and spies scandal that fatally rocked Britain's government.

    The show, which opened in London on Thursday, received mixed reviews, with The Guardian saying that “Lloyd Webber’s romanticism sits oddly with a social and political critique” and The Daily Telegraph praising it for “delightful tunes, winning performances - and an unexpected dash of mischief”.

    The main characters, in real life and the show, are party girl Christine Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies, a vodka-swilling Russian military attached who was one of Keeler’s lovers, and John Profumo, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, a married man and also one of Keeler's lovers.

    When his affair with her came tumbling out, courtesy of the ever vigilant British tabloid press, it was suspected that Profumo in “pillow talk” may have leaked nuclear secrets to Keeler and through her to the Russians. Profumo lied about it all to Parliament and was forced to resign, leading indirectly to Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan stepping down some months later and an election a year on that brought the Labour opposition to power.

    The affable, Jaguar-driving Ward’s role in all this? He was said to be the procurer and committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills after being forced to take the rap by the corrupt British political, judicial and police establishment of the time - or so the musical's book would have it.

    From the opening number, “Human Sacrifice”, in which Ward, played by veteran musical and stage performer Alexander Hanson, is shown in a wax museum display alongside historical villains such as Hitler, this latest offering makes it clear that the evening's entertainment comes with a moral lesson attached.

    “Get up the nose of the establishment ... step across the line,” Ward sings as he comes alive amid the display of wax dummies, and you, too, could become a “human sacrifice”.

    That may sound grim and “Sweeney Todd”-ish, but there need be no fear that Lloyd Webber - creator of “Evita”,“Cats” and "The Phantom of the Opera”, among others - has turned ghoulish and dark.

    The next number is set in a popular London nightclub of the period, with showgirls performing a dance routine with hula hoops. It’s there that Ward meets Keeler, played by Charlotte Spencer, and the seeds of a disastrous relationship are sewn.

    Shortly afterwards, they attend a high-society dinner party in which everyone strips down to their underwear - in the case of the women mostly black semi-fetish regalia - and has an orgy.

    The orgy, while tame even by the standards of what can be seen on today's stages, provides one of the show's best tunes, “You’ve Never Had It So Good”. It twists Macmillan's famous quote by adding: “You’ve never had it so often.”

    Another memorable number is sung by Profumo’s shocked wife, the actress Valerie Hobson, played by Joanna Riding, when he confesses to the affair. She says that despite his lies she won't leave him because “I’m hopeless when it comes to you”.

    Richard Eyre directed, Don Black and Christopher Hampton wrote the book and lyrics, and costume designer Rob Howell has found some eye-catching 1960s fashions for Keeler and Rice-Davies, portrayed by Charlotte Blackledge.

    Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Ward, Richard Eyre, London,

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