West End Extra
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 24 April 2009
Barry Fantoni with is Beatles portrait Barry Fantoni with is Beatles portrait
Fab flaw: Barry’s Beatles portrait re-touched for show

I ALMOST felt like trying to stop Barry Fantoni as he began to retouch a portrait of the Beatles he had painted nearly 50 years ago. But I didn’t.
Perhaps it was because Fantoni told me he didn’t think McCartney would mind.
After all, he had given it to the Beatle in the 60s and McCartney had loaned it back to him for an exhibition of his work at Thomas Williams gallery in Bond Street.
“I don’t think Paul would mind,” said Fantoni (pictured) on Tuesday at the opening of his show as his thumb smudged the painting. “It needs at least an inch more between the frame and painting,” he said.
“You would have thought he could pay for a good framer!”
Private Eye cartoonist and painter Fantoni, aged 70, is a bit of an all-rounder – he is also a playwright, novelist and musician.
The exhibition reveals a side away from the political barbs at the Eye which he became attached to at its foundation, creating the popular EJ Thribb.
“My mum would have been 100 today, so really this is a tribute to her,” said Fantoni.
“If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have gone to Camberwell Art College and wouldn’t be doing what I do today.
“I might have been better known if I had stuck to art, writing or music – but who wants to be well known? I like to skit around in the shadows.”

Whose ‘way of seeing’ ejection?

WHO’S right – the National Gallery or the eminent intellectual, John Berger?
Last week, Berger’s account of his ejection from the gallery after copying a painting – reported in this column – was dismissed by a press official as a “harmless piece of fiction”.
Then Berger rang Diary from his Paris home on Wednesday not too pleased about the gallery’s denial.
As the author of the seminal Ways of Seeing – a work of art criticism stocked in the gallery’s bookshop – Berger may appreciate the disparity between their version of events and his own.
“Of course it happened,” he told me. “There is no work of fiction in it. The fact that there are no traces of it doesn’t mean it is ­fiction, it just means that the keeping of traces is not very efficient.”
Mr Berger, a world-renowned art critic and novelist, said his account of events, originally published in the New Statesman, illustrated “the authority petty agents of power exercise all over the world” and “the ­stupid things done in the name of security”.
The artist wrote he was escorted out of the gallery “under verbal coercion”, after a security guard was offended by his bag being draped over a museum chair.
“In their mind I was suspicious” he said. “I was just an old man coming on Good Friday to draw a crucifixion. There have been no ­terrorist attacks in mus­eums. Why get scared? There is a whole atmosphere of paranoia that is completely unfounded and, in terms of the ­public interest, counter-productive, if not a little destructive.
“Hopefully, the authorities of the National Gallery might look a little bit closer at their privately employed so-called security agents, but I don’t suppose they will. Their excuse for not bothering is that it is a fiction, but it wasn’t. The proof that it wasn’t a ­fiction is actually in the story, because if I really wanted to make a fiction propaganda story I wouldn’t have admitted to swearing.”
The gallery remained unmoved by Berger’s protestations.
“This story is a ­complete mystery to us,” Nigel Semmens, the gallery’s director of communications, told me.
“We have no ‘security guards’ working in the Gallery [and] have ­consulted all staff on duty that day and not a single one has any ­recollection of this ­incident. Our Gallery Assistants are well trained and highly professional in their dealings with our visitors.
“Some of them have been understandably upset by this article.
“I may add that it is extremely rare for ­anyone to be asked to leave the gallery.”
Perhaps gallery ­executives should visit the bookshop and browse the first paragraph of Berger’s book. It reads: “The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe... To look is an act of choice.”

Looking away from Tamil protest

MONDAY'S’ Tamil protest – a mass sit-down – was unlike any demonstration in recent memory.
Mothers, children and in some cases prams, were at the forefront of the action, lining the four corners of Parliament Square, and brandishing images of alleged torture carried out by the Sri Lankan government on its people.
More than 4,000 British Tamils are calling on the British government to intervene in the conflict in the former colony. They chanted: “Gordon Brown open your eyes”, watched by ranks of nervous-looking police officers.
Numbers swelled throughout the night, when news broke of a fresh wave of attacks that has left 25,000 Tamils displaced in the north of the country.
Dozens of Tamil shopkeepers kept the crowd from going hungry, handing out fizzy drinks, crisps and sandwiches.
Diary wonders if David Miliband has got the message yet.

League star’s sound of the streets

BIG Ben’s chimes, top deck of the bus “brrups” and the intermittent cry of “pound of strawberries” from the market, are sounds that will be familiar to most Londoners.
Electronic music pioneer of Human League fame, Martyn Ware (pictured), is set to distill what he thinks is the definitive soundtrack to life in the big smoke. His composition will be broadcast from speakers fitted to the tall trees of Leicester Square as part of the SoundLife London project.
His researchers include schoolchildren, youth centres and pensioner groups – all of whom were equipped with hand-held recorders, with the task of capturing the sounds they believes best represent the city
Mr Ware said: “As someone who has worked in popular music for a long time, it’s in my soul that I want to appeal to the broadest range of people.
“This is a world first piece of public sound art where hundreds of people can also become the artists and share their own individual and unique view of London.”
Westminster Council has provided £8,000 of funding to support the project, which will be broadcast in the square from June 4 to June 14.

Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)







Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions