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The Headlines

GUESS WHO’S BACK? The news came as a surprise. Gabriel Attal, whom The New York Times called France’s youngest and first openly gay prime minister, named his cabinet on Thursday, two days after being appointed to lead France’s government. No-one expected Rachida Dati – a key figure in Nicolas Sarkozy‘s conservative government – to replace Rima Abdul Malak as culture minister, and yet this is her new position. The former justice minister (2007-2009) has been serving as mayor of the 7th arrondissement since 2008, for the rightwing LR party, which she was kicked out from a few hours after the announcement of her return to the French cabinet: “I deplore this poaching methode, which does not bode well for the country”, said Eric Ciotti, the president of Les Républicains, in a press release. Dati has been under investigation since July 2021 for corruption and influence peddling over her dealings with disgraced former Renault chief Carlos Ghosn. What does it all have to do with culture?

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JUMP UP! Last November, Sir Elton John sold his long-standing Atlanta condo for $7.225 million. The legendary singer will soon be saying goodbye to its contents next month, at Christie’s New York. The auction, which will consist of eight separate live and online sales kicking off on 21 February, is the reflection of a man with both eclectic and specific tastes. The lots include his Bentley Continental, his Atlanta Braves jersey, dozens of Versace silk shirts, a diamond necklace proclaiming “The Bitch Is Back” (a reference to a 1974 song of the same name), vertiginous silver platform boots, and an ivory jumpsuit that looks “like a glam rock version of Kermit the Frog”. But there’s also a museum-worthy collection of photography—with works by fashion photographers like Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton in addition to prints by artists like Wolfgang TillmansHiroshi Sugimoto, and Candida Höfer—as well as a heart-shaped collage that Damien Hirst dedicated to John and his husband, David Furnish.

The Digest

Asked about data-scraping, Ai Weiwei answered that art that can be easily replicated by artificial intelligence is “meaningless”. Ironically enough, the Chinese artist, who is about to collaborate with an AI, added: “I’m sure if Picasso or Matisse were still alive they will quit their job. It’d be just impossible for them to still think [the same way].” [The Guardian]

The DiGen Art gallery, which is short for Digitally Generated Art, settled in late December 2023 next to the American University of Beirut. Founded by former banker Alex Rayes and Camille Hajjar, graduate from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, it is the first space entirely devoted to digital art in Lebanon and the second in the Middle East. [Le Quotidien de l’Art]

Argentinian artist Liliana Porter, who has appeared in more than 450 exhibitions in 40 countries, shared her secret to achieve longevity in the arts. “I always think that if whatever you do is true, it’s going to be good. It’s important to start from yourself as a point of reference and then look for what you need outside, not the other way around: to really have a dialogue with yourself and be true to yourself”, said the 82-year-old artist, ready for a new adventure. [CULTURED]

Open since mid-November, the 13th edition of the Taipei Biennial has been successful in exploring the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on each and everyone of us, Le Monde reports. Its theme and title “Small World” may not have come off original at first, but its treatment has been so far, through an eclectic selection of art works and through the “Taiwanese point of view” which remains relatively free given the political context. [Le Monde]

Villa 71 will be heading to the auction block via Concierge Auctions from January 18 to January 24. The $125 million glass-enclosed home, which was designed by architect Viktor Udzenija, a protégé of Norman Foster, will be sold at no reserve, with starting bids expected from $50 million and up. [Forbes]

The Kicker

PATT’S PATTERNS. Sit back and relax. The weekend is upon us. Speaking of releasing the pressure, haven’t you heard? After designing clothes inspired by cities he visited, Robert Pattinson imagined an elegant ear-shaped sofa, along with designer Nicole Gordon. The “Twilight” star “engineered a conversation piece cozy enough to keep everyone talking all night long”, as Frances Dodds put it. The actor wanted to make a couch that would not have a lot of hard lines, something people “could embrace—which would embrace them right back”. He had some free time on his hands after filming wrapped for “The Batman” movie (2022) and started sketching. [Architectural Digest]