BY In the Name of Art in News | 26 JUN 18

Amateur Art Restorer Transforms 16th-Century Saint George Effigy into Cartoon Knight

Serpentine swimmers complain about Christo’s floating pyramid; and Hermitage’s psychic cat is a World Cup oracle: the latest in art world silliness

BY In the Name of Art in News | 26 JUN 18

Compare and contrast – St George before and after the restoration, 2018. Courtesy: Facebook

Here we go again. Following on from 2012’s viral sensation – in which an elderly Spanish hobby painter, tasked with restoring Elías García Martínez’s Ecce Homo fresco in Borja, inadvertently transformed it into the infamous ‘Monkey Jesus’ – another art restoration disaster has hit Spain. This time, a 16th-century wooden sculpture of St George, situated in a church in the town of Estella, was left in the hands of a local handicrafts teacher. The botched restoration left the dragon-slayer looking more like a rosy-cheeked cartoon character – and the town’s mayor is furious. ‘This is an expert job, it should have been done by experts,’ he said. The Association of Conservators and Restorers of Spain said that it showed ‘a frightening lack of training of the kind required for this sort of job.’

His day job is serving as official mouse-catcher at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg – but now Achilles, a white-furred, deaf cat, has been hailed as the leading oracle of this year’s FIFA World Cup, held in Russia. The cat’s method consists of deciding between two food bowls, each marked with the flags of competing countries. Achilles put his psychic skills to the test in the World Cup’s opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia, choosing his national team (who proceeded to triumph 5-0). Though he appears to have consistently chosen Russia as the victor in all of its matches – Achilles’s veterinarian at the Hermitage said that the cat ‘loves his motherland and couldn’t vote otherwise.’ The furry feline is regarded as one of the best football-predicting psychic animals in the business, according to the TurStat analytical agency, who named him along with ‘Yakov Potapych the bear from Moscow, Cleopatra the tapir from Nizhny Novgorod’s Limpopo zoo and Spartak the lemur from Yekaterinburg’ as ‘among the most successful and popular oracles.’ The Hermitage Museum has employed cats as mouse-catchers since the 18th century.

Speaking of World Cup winners, Yoko Ono thinks the victor will be ‘a child who believes in a peaceful world.’

Who will win the World Cup?
A child who believes in a peaceful world.

— Yoko Ono (@yokoono) February 14, 2017

Oh dear. Christo’s 20-metre high pyramid of 7,506 brightly coloured oil drums, his London Mastaba, has arrived at the Serpentine Lake – and it’s already angered the local swimming club. Serpentine swimmers are now being forced down a thin channel of water to avoid the artist’s monumental floating structure. ‘It casts a shadow on the water. We’re swimming in gloom,’ one member told the Telegraph. ‘It’s an affront to nature,’ another regular moaned. For each person dazzled by Christo’s red, white, blue and mauve creation – turning the lake into ‘an abstract painting’, the artist says – there seems to be a more disgruntled reaction, including adventurer and broadcaster Ben Fogle. It’s ‘a massive blot on the Landscape,’ the wildlife presenter tweeted, ‘a metaphor for our relationship with the wilderness. Domineering and arrogant.’

None other than Jeff Koons gave this year’s David Rockefeller lecture on arts and business. Tracing his journey from Wall Street commodities trader back in the 1980s to his current position as one of the world’s wealthiest artists, Koons found time to pepper his speech with more reflective aphorisms along the way. ‘If you trust in yourself, you’re also in the position to experience the transcendence and becoming of success,’ he said. Handy advice perhaps for when the going gets tough – the artist recently filed a counter-motion against a collector’s lawsuit for the ‘non-delivery’ of USD$13 million worth of sculptures, dismissing ‘the imperious demands of a multimillionaire who no longer wants to wait.’

And another of the great artists of our time, Kanye West, also has some advice that you might have missed out on at art school. ‘We need to be able to be in situations where you can be irresponsible,’ he told the New York Times. ‘That's one of the great privileges of an artist. An artist should be irresponsible in a way – a 3-year-old.’

In the Name of Art is our semi-regular compendium of (almost) unbelievable art world stories. Send your worst to