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Last Updated: Friday, 26 December, 2003, 03:02 GMT
Arts review of the year 2003

By Darren Waters
BBC News Online entertainment staff

BBC News Online looks back at the highs and lows of the arts world in 2003.


In the literary world's battle of the married couple, Claire Tomalin beat her husband to the Whitbread Prize for book of the year.

The Royal Shakespeare Company gave the world première of Midnight's Children, an adaptation of the Booker-winning Salman Rushdie while the Royal National Theatre, in London, announced it would be cutting many ticket prices to £10.

In the auction rooms, Andrea Mategna's Descent into Limbo became one of the most expensive Old Master picture in history, selling for £17.6m at Sotheby's in London.


Michael Moore's searing satire on American politics, Stupid White Men, was named book of the year at the British Book Awards.

March: Gereon Krebber's Tin won the Jerwood prize
March: Gereon Krebber's Tin won the Jerwood prize
Sam Mendes followed up his Oscar success with stage success, becoming the first person to win three Laurence Olivier awards.

A hoard of 19 long-lost William Blake watercolours sold for £5m to an anonymous bidder.


New York's Broadway was hit by the first strike since 1975 as musicians went on strike over the size of orchestras. The blackout of productions lasted just three days before an agreement was reached.

The Royal Opera House was given a £3.1m cash injection as part of a three-year Arts Council England spending plan while the troubled English National Opera was told by the arts body that it was worth saving but not "at any cost".

Sculptor Gereon Krebber 's giant aluminium Tin won this year's £25,000 Jerwood Sculpture Prize.

Nude participants at Selfridges
April: Spencer Tunick photographed nudes at Selfridges as part of a worldwide project

The Handmaid's Tale, an adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel, opened at English National Opera, directed by Phyllida Lloyd. The reviews were mixed.

An opera based on the Jerry Springer TV show proved more popular.

The British Museum began its 250th birthday celebrations with an exhibition looking at 100 objects which investigated the notion of memory and cultures.

Charles Saatchi opened his eponymous gallery at the County Hall in London, filled with art by British artists, such as Damien Hirst.


Friends star Matt Perry made his West End debut, appearing in Sexual Perversity in Chicago, alongside Minnie Driver. Actor and singer Kwami Kwei-Armah proved the breadth of his talent when his play Elmina's Kitchen opened at the National.

Beethoven proved his worth when a manuscript for his Ninth Symphony sold for £2.1m.

Tate Modern celebrated its third birthday, while Andrew Lloyd Webber's collection of art by Picasso, Canaletto and Rossetti was put on show at the Royal Academy in London.

Antony Gormley unveiled his Domain Fields exhibition in Gateshead, featuring metal sculptures based on plaster cast moulds from 240 naked volunteers.

Matthew Perry, Kelly Reilly and Minnie Driver, picture by Manuel Harlan
May: Friends star Matthew Perry appeared on the West End stage

Liverpool was chosen as the UK's choice for European Capital of Culture in 2008.

In the US, stars such as Tim Robbins protest at cuts in public money given to the arts.

At the Royal Academy Summer exhibition an artwork featuring Kylie Minogue's bottom was pulled after the singer's lawyers complained.

While at the Venice Biennale, an art display which featured a chimpanzee trying to spell "utopia" using giant lettered blocks became a huge hit.

Charlotte Harris, a 21-year-old student won the £25,000 BP Portrait award, for a portrait of her grandmother.

Sir Cameron Mackintosh unveiled plans for the first new West End theatre for 30 years.


The Heritage Lottery Fund decided to award £11.5m to the National Gallery to help it bid to keep a Raphael painting, Madonna of the Pinks, in the UK.

A row over how to clean Michelangelo's famous David statue in Florence in time for its 500th birthday next year caused a stir.


Thieves managed to steal paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso and Gauguin, worth an estimated £1m, from the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.

Kenneth Branagh made his London stage return after 11 years in Edmond.

The Edinburgh Fringe Fesitval enjoyed its most successful ever year.


Scotland announced the creation of a new National Theatre.

Art collector Charles Saatchi turned on contemporary galleries, calling them "cliched".

Artist Sir Terry Frost, one of the most celebrated contemporary artists in the UK, died aged 87.

The Royal Shakespeare Company's new artistic director Michael Boyd said he wanted his first season to bring "experimentation" back to the company.

Madonna's children's book The English Roses sold just over 8,000 copies in its first week in the UK.


DBC Pierre
October: DBC Pierre wins the Booker prize
The roguish writer DBC Pierre won the Booker prize for his novel Vernon God Little while South African writer JM Coetzee was the next winner of the Nobel prize for literature.

A row over the authenticity of Andy Warhol artworks engulfed the art world when the Warhol estate said only works that Warhol had a direct hand in himself could be attributed to the artist.


Author Hari Kunzru turned down the John Llewellyn Rhys award for his book The Impressionist because of the prize's sponsorship by the Mail on Sunday, which he accused of being "anti-immigration".

Another artist to reject an honour: poet Benjamin Zephaniah snubbed an OBE because he said the awards were a legacy of colonialism.

Jerry Springer: The Opera won the best musical award at the Evening Standard theatre awards.

The director of London's Tate gallery questioned whether millions should be spent "saving" art for the nation while art collector Charles Saatchi sold a dozen works by British artist Damien Hirst back to Hirst's gallery after a reported rift between the men.

More than 250 stolen paintings were recovered from a parked van in Paris, including one Picasso, two works by French painter Raoul Dufy and one by Dutch artist Kees van Dongen.


Transvestite potter Grayson Perry won the Turner prize for his work in ceramics.

Art historian Sir Christopher Frayling was made the new chair of Arts Council England to take over from Gerry Robinson.

Actor Ralph Fiennes was made a judge for the prestigious Whitbread Book Prize.

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