Painting in oil

VISITORS TO THE opening last month of the British Museum’s exhibition Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia were greeted by representatives of the sponsors, BP, together with banners explaining why the company was supporting the museum: ‘As modern-day adventurers in the resource-rich landscape of Siberia, we feel a deep affinity with the Scythians. They knew what they wanted, and they went out and got it.’

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Damien Hirst. Venice

VENICE IS A city that floats in time as well as place. In contrast to Rome, steeped in ancient remains, Venice lacks a classical origin – its Greco-Roman antiquities were imported rather than unearthed. Renaissance artists such as Titian created a fictional past for the city, imagining mythological scenes in the landscapes of the Veneto. It is apt, then, that Damien Hirst has made Venice the setting of Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable (to 3rd December), his own grandiose act of mythmaking and artistic renaissance. Ten years in the making, it is a wildly ambitious feat – a wholesale canon of fake history.

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