Page last updated at 01:59 GMT, Monday, 29 December 2008
Entertainment and arts review of 2008



From great paintings to giant spiders and gold statues, 2008 was a busy year in the arts world. Here are some of the year's highlights.

JANUARY

A giant sculpture of a spider by French artist Louise Bourgeois, entitled Maman, was donated to the Tate Modern. The gallery's director Vicente Todoli said it was an "historic moment".

Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey led a campaign over arts funding

Actors including Sir Ian McKellen, Kevin Spacey and Joanna Lumley passed a motion of no confidence in Arts Council England at a meeting of 500 Equity members. They were angry at proposals to cut the funding of nearly 200 organisations.

An exhibition of art from Russia opened at the Royal Academy, following a diplomatic row. The show was threatened after the Russians were concerned some of the works could be seized, but a law giving immunity from seizure to cultural artefacts lent from abroad was pushed through by the government, saving the show.

Scottish author and stand-up comic AL Kennedy won the 25,000 Costa Book of the Year award for her novel Day. Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, poet Jean Sprackland, former postwoman Catherine O'Flynn and children's author Ann Kelley were also up for the prize.

And former Beatle Ringo Starr performed on the roof of Liverpool's St George's Hall to launch the city's year as European Capital of Culture.

FEBRUARY

Darius Danesh and Jill Paice in Gone With The Wind
Some critics said Darius Danesh and Jill Paice lacked sexual chemistry

Russia announced the Bolshoi Theatre would not reopen until November 2009 - a year behind schedule - after emergency work was carried out to save it from collapsing. Engineers found more than 75% of the structure was unstable.

Andrew Lloyd Webber revealed how he planted his next stage star on Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks. For three months, viewers saw Summer Shaw, played by Summer Strallen, pursue her dream of West End stardom - in reality Lord Lloyd-Webber had already decided to cast Strallen as Maria in The Sound of Music.

An armed gang stole four paintings worth $160m by Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh and Monet from a museum in Zurich, Switzerland. It happened days after two Picasso paintings were stolen from another gallery near the city.

Pop Idol loser Darius Danesh was revealed as Rhett Butler in a new stage production of Gone with the Wind. Despite getting a standing ovation on opening night in April, the show received mixed reviews and closed early.

MARCH

French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster was commissioned by London's Tate Modern gallery to fill its Turbine Hall. Gonzalez-Foerster, known for her visitor participation atmospheric works, was the ninth artist asked to exhibit in the hall.

Michael Ball (left) and Leanne Jones in Hairspray
Michael Ball (left ) and Leanne Jones both won acting Oliviers

British science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke died in his adopted home of Sri Lanka at the age of 90. He achieved his greatest fame in 1968 when his short story The Sentinel was turned into the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A painting of 18th Century scholar Elizabeth Carter was rediscovered by London's National Portrait Gallery. The portrait, painted between 1735 and 1741 by John Fayram, was found by curators in a private collection.

Hairspray triumphed at the Olivier Awards in London, with a total of four awards. The West End hit was named best new musical, with main acting plaudits for Michael Ball, Leanne Jones and best supporting actress Tracie Bennett.

APRIL

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping

Letters between James Bond author Ian Fleming and his "Miss Moneypenny" fetched 14,340 at auction - almost five times more than expected. The collection showed a close relationship with Jean Frampton, a secretary hired to type his 007 manuscripts.

Lucian Freud's one-time muse Sue Tilley revealed she was paid 20 a day to sit for a painting worth millions of pounds. But she insisted she did not do it for the money and shared "lovely lunches" with the artist. Freud's 1995 work, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, was sold in New York in May for $33.6m.

Author and comedian Charlie Higson announced plans to write a new series of novels about the young James Bond. Fast Show star Higson was given the licence to write the Young Bond children's books by the family of Bond creator Ian Fleming.

Artist David Hockney donated the biggest painting of his career to Tate Britain in London. Bigger Trees Near Warter, is 4.6m by 12m (40ft by 15ft) and is made up of a grid of 50 small canvases. It will be displayed at Tate Britain in 2009.

MAY

Beryl Cook

Artist Beryl Cook, known for her colourful and comic paintings of larger-than-life ladies, died at the age of 81. Cook had no formal training and did not take up painting until her 40s, but her work went on to become hugely popular.

Actress Cate Blanchett stepped into a censorship row in Australia to defended an artist whose portraits of nude children were seized by police. Bill Henson's exhibition, featuring naked 13-year-olds, was condemned by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as "revolting". The police inquiry was later dropped.

A Francis Bacon masterpiece - Triptych (1976) - broke the artist's record at auction after selling for $86.3m in New York. Bacon used Ancient Greek legends as inspiration for the painting, which depicts disfigured human faces.

Edvard Munch's The Scream, damaged by armed robbers who took the masterpiece in 2004, went back on display in a Norwegian museum. The expressionist painting had been recovered in August 2006 and had been damaged when it was pulled out of its frame.

JUNE

Monet auctioned for record price

Police in Brazil recovered an engraving by Pablo Picasso that was stolen from a museum in Sao Paulo. The Painter and the Model was taken in a daylight robbery from the state-owned Estacao Pinacoteca museum. A second engraving was found two months later.

Author Rose Tremain won the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction for her tenth novel The Road Home. She topped a shortlist of six to take the prize, together with a 30,000 cheque, at London's Royal Festival Hall.

A Claude Monet painting fetched a record 40.9m for the artist's work at an auction in London. Painted in 1919 in France, Le Bassin Aux Nympheas has been seen in public just once in the past 80 years.

A desk and chair belonging to Charles Dickens sold for 433,250 at a charity auction in London. It is thought they were used by the author when he wrote Great Expectations at his Kent home Gad's Hill.

JULY

Banky's artwork in east London
Was Banksy finally unmasked in 2008?

Doctor Who and Star Trek fans were told they would be banned from having sci-fi merchandise signed by David Tennant and Patrick Stewart while they starred in Hamlet at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

A 6,000 sculpture at the Royal Academy in London was accidentally smashed by a visitor. The 9ft ceramic sculpture, called Christina, was one of five by Costa Rican artist Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez on show at an exhibition curated by artist Tracey Emin.

A newspaper claimed it had identified mysterious graffiti artist Banksy, naming him as 34-year-old Robin Gunningham. A spokeswoman for Banksy refused to comment. "We get these calls all the time," she told the BBC.

Actress Juliette Binoche announced she was learning how to dance for her latest artistic endeavour - a collaboration with critically-acclaimed British choreographer Akram Khan and Turner Prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor. The show, In-I, opened at the National Theatre in September.

AUGUST

The National Gallery of Scotland and the National Gallery launched a joint bid to raise 50m to stop Titian's masterpiece Diana and Actaeon from being sold abroad. The Duke of Sutherland offered the work to the galleries for the knock-down price on condition they raised the money by 31 December.

Titian's Diana and Actaeon
The National Galleries were told they had to raise 50m by 31 December

Several publishing houses announced plans to "age band" their children's books, citing research that suggested people buying books for children would welcome the guidance. But the plans enraged a number of writers, among them former children's laureate Michael Morpurgo.

Wolfgang Wagner bid farewell to the Bayreuth opera festival in Germany after 57 years at the helm. The 88-year-old blinked back tears as the annual music festival, founded by his grandfather - composer Richard Wagner - came to a close.

Controversial artist Tracey Emin admitted she was "scared" that an exhibition - at Edinburgh's Gallery of Modern Art - looking back at 20 years of her work would be criticised.

SEPTEMBER

A two-day auction of art by Damien Hirst raised 111m - setting a new record for a sale dedicated to one artist. It was the first time an artist sold a substantial body of work this way.

Hirst's The Kingdom goes under the hammer

Kenneth Branagh received rave reviews for his performance in a new staging of Chekhov's early play Ivanov in London's West End.

A model of a Western city made from dog chews and 15 life-sized figures suspended upside-down were among the exhibits at the new Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, London. Its inaugural exhibition was The Revolution Continues: New Art From China.

Some of artist Mark Rothko's most famous paintings were reunited for an exhibition at London's Tate Modern. The display brought 15 of his so-called Seagram murals under one roof.

OCTOBER

Kate Moss at Statuephilia
Marc Quinn's statue of Kate Moss was one of the exhibition highlights

Two hundred yellow and blue bunk bed frames were unveiled as part of the latest art installation to fill the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. TH.2058 - created by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster - symbolised an apocalyptic vision of London in the future.

A 50kg gold statue of model Kate Moss was unveiled at the British Museum. The 1.5m sculpture, entitled Siren, by artist Marc Quinn, was one of several contemporary sculptures in the exhibition Statuephilia.

Aravind Adiga won this year's Man Booker Prize with his debut novel The White Tiger. The 33-year-old Indian-born writer was also the youngest author on the shortlist for the 50,000 prize.

The Royal Opera House revealed plans to establish a northern base at Manchester's Palace Theatre. The proposal to open a new opera, ballet and lyric theatre venue is being examined by Arts Council England.

NOVEMBER

The skull held aloft by actor David Tennant in Hamlet was a real one, it was revealed. Pianist Andre Tchaikowsky left his skull to the RSC when he died in 1982 in the hope it would be used on stage, but Tennant was the first Hamlet to use it during a performance.

Pop Idol Gareth Gates become the West End's new Joseph

The Archbishop of Westminster urged the National Gallery to give up a Renaissance masterpiece, calling it "a work of faith" rather than art. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said The Baptism of Christ, painted by Piero della Francesca in the 1450s, should be in Westminster Cathedral.

Batman's alter ego Bruce Wayne was apparently killed off. But Scottish writer Grant Morrison told BBC News there would be "a lot more twists and turns to come" before the story was finally resolved.

Singer Gareth Gates was revealed as the new Joseph in the West End musical Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Gates, who will take over from Lee Mead from 9 February, said it was a "dream" role.

DECEMBER

The month was overshadowed by the death from cancer of playwright and Nobel prize winner Harold Pinter. He was 78. Michael Billington, Pinter's friend and biographer, told the BBC: "Harold had been ill for a very long time, but he had a titanic will and one imagined he would go on fighting."

Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter was mourned by both artists and political campaigners
Artist Mark Leckey won this year's Turner Prize for his work combining sculpture, film, sound and performance. His 25,000 winning piece included a film featuring Felix the Cat and Homer Simpson.

An understudy stepped in to perform the lead role at La Scala's season-opening premiere in Milan after its conductor decided an Italian tenor was not up to scratch. Giuseppe Filianoti was removed from the performance of Verdi's Don Carlo after making mistakes during a dress rehearsal, and replaced by US tenor Stuart Neill.

A collection of EH Shepard's original drawings for the Winnie the Pooh children's books fetched 1.26m at auction, in London. The top lot, "He went on tracking, and Piglet... ran after him", one of Shepherd's best-known drawings, went for 115,250 - a record for the artist.



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