Grist for Milligan’s mill

June 16, 2006

The late, great British comedian Spike Milligan used to scour the daily newspapers for funny stories on which to base episodes of The Goon Show.

What would he have made of this, from yesterday’s ABC News On Line?

British art gallery displays slate as art

One of Britain’s most prestigious art galleries put a block of slate on display, topped by a small piece of wood, in the mistaken belief it was a work of art.

The Royal Academy included the chunk of stone and the small bone-shaped wooden stick in its summer exhibition in London.

But the slate was actually a plinth and the stick was designed to prop up a sculpture.

The sculpture itself – of a human head – was nowhere to be seen.

“I think the things got separated in the selection process and the selectors presented the plinth as a complete sculpture,” the work’s artist David Hensel told BBC radio.

The academy explained the error by saying the plinth and the head were sent to the exhibitors separately.

“Given their separate submission, the two parts were judged independently,” it said in a statement.

“The head was rejected, the base was thought to have merit and accepted.

“The head has been safely stored ready to be collected by the artist.

“It is accepted that works may not be displayed in the way that the artist might have intended.”

Just take a moment to think about this again:

The head was rejected, the base was thought to have merit and accepted.

On the other hand, maybe not.

Quite made my early morning.

(Via Tim Blair.)

Update: For the latest and best in art-iculate (haha!) idiocy check out this commentary on the event from a person by the name of Mark Lawson (possibly a work of art himself. Well, why not?).



  1. Hilarious. But still… let’s have a good look at the block of slate, shall we? Maybe it’s got qualities. I certainly know a few Japanese aesthetes who would say so.

    Reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me once; he was at a gallery opening in Dublin. It being rainy and cold out, one of the guys he was with took off his coat and draped it over a radiator to dry. Next day in the paper, of course, the reviewer singled out the coat-on-the-radiator piece as the best in the show…

  2. Been meaning to do a Spike thing at LP. A chance to recount my meeting Spike and the language lesson he gave me in regards to my name (in which he autographed my copy of ‘Frankenstein according to Spike Milligan’ not once but twice).

  3. Don’t reprise Phillip Adams’ take on Spike, for heaven’s sake, Shaun.

  4. This kind of thing is truly classic. Not only does it expose the pretensions of the so-called ‘art world’, it tickles our collective funnybone and lets us face the day with at least a wry grin plastered across our chops.

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