Art in The Week That Was

A selection of creative current affairs and events which have hit the headlines…


Temple III (the Temple of the Priest), Tikal archaeological site, Guatamala.

In the largest ever survey of the Northern lowlands of Guatemala, archaeologists have revealed they have discovered the remains of a further 60,000 Mayan cities.  Structures such as farms, barracks, housing and 60 miles of interconnecting roads have been recorded by lazers, in an area previously thought to have been sparsely populated.  Shocked scientists have since raised the approximate ancient population levels to around 7 to 11 million people occupying the region in circa 650 to 800 AD.  The new remote survey sensing method (LIDAR) is able to differentiate organic material from ancient structures and so give a clearer picture of the previous landscape.  Such detail was previously missed by archaeologists surveying the area on foot, who are surprised to find out they were merely walking around on top of the relics without realising, due to dense rainforest undergrowth.  The study’s author – Mary Jane Acuna, Director of El Tintal Archaeological Project, Guatamala – shared that it was akin to ‘putting on glasses when your eyesight is blurry’.  The survey, which has been published in the academic journal Science this week, will now prompt further investigation into the region.


A page from the illuminated ancient text The St Cuthbert Gospel (an important example of Insular Art).

It was announced this week that Europe’s oldest surviving intact book will feature in an exhibition at the British Library, entitled ‘Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms:  Art, Word War.  The St Cuthbert Gospel (also known as the Stonyhurst Gospel) is believed to have been slipped into the coffin of its namesake, St Cuthbert, in the 7th Century AD.  Discovered when the saints remains were transferred to a new reliquary at Durham Cathedral in 1104, the book was then kept as a separate artefact, and at length acquired by the British Library in 2012.  Featuring the text of the Gospel of John, the book is believed to have been used as a sacred talisman.

Stuart McWilliams, lecturer in English, in Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural, comments:-

While many kinds of relic could be worn as amulets, books were particularly desirable, and there are multiple accounts of Gospels and Psalters (especially those linked with saints) being fitted with cord or placed in a pouch and worn on the body, a practice associated with books as early as the seventh/eighth-century Stonyhurst Gospel of St. Cuthbert…’.


Image by Lizzy Gadd, Sony Alpha Imaging Collective Member.

Sony – the photography industry giant – have publicised a major open competition this week.  With 5 substantial top prizes of $25,000 (grants) plus $5,000 (camera equipment), the Alpha Female contest is aimed specifically at giving more opportunity to female creatives in a male-dominated arts industry.  Winners will have their work displayed in exhibitions showcased in New York and Los Angeles, along with gaining mentorship opportunities with Sony Artisans.  The only entry requirement is that subject matter is shot using Sony gear, but precisely what you capture is up to you.  Interested parties can apply via by 7th October 2018.


Lady Gaga at the ‘A Star Is Born’ premier wearing Alexander McQueen.

Lady Gaga showcased her individualised, sartorial style recently when she appeared on the Red Carpet at the ‘A Star Is Born’ premiere, wearing an Elizabeth-I-style gown.  The stunning dress – fittingly designed by Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton – was from the fashion house’s 2013 Autumn/Winter collection.  The atelier describe the dress as an…

‘organza jacquard lace dress with 3-dimensional gold and pearl embroidery, dropped sleeves and a gold and pearl-embroidered harness with a ruffle collar’.

The bodice features an astonishing amount of close beadwork and overlaid gold threadwork.

Native American Fashion Designer – Charlene Holy Bear (a member of the Standing Rock Lakota Sioux Tribe) – has been tasked with giving trainer brand VANS a new look.  Working out of her sewing room at home in Sante Fe, the designer and embroiderer first customised her son’s VANS for a Pow Wow display, using an indigenous, tribal beaded pattern.  Once his pictures were shared on social media, other VANS wearers from around the world began contacting Charlene to modify their shoes, and so the craze began.  Following an interview by Vogue magazine, Charlene has been inundated with customisation requests.  Each pair usually takes 2 weeks to complete, but the dedicated artist reveals she has managed to finish one shoe in just a day.

Charlene Holy Bear also creates indigenous, figurative dolls inspired by the Great Plains region (


H&M and Walmart Phnom Penh (Cambodia) factory workers launched a hunger strike in 2013 to protest pitifully-low wages.

High street fashion brand H&M has come under fire this week for allegedly failing to ensure its overseas workers are paid a proper ‘living wage’.  Interviews carried out by CCC (the Clean Clothes Campaign) with H&M factory workers in Turkey, Bulgaria, Cambodia and India revealed that their wages are so low, they fail to support their families’ basic needs.  It is reported that H&M (the world’s second largest fashion retailer), made a promise back in 2013 that they would improve basic pay to some 850,000 factory workers by this year – but they have been unable to live up to their target.  Bettina Musiolek (CCC) stated that:-

‘H&M needs to take action immediately to stop the scandal of poverty wages and workers’ rights violations…’.

H&M has hit back, claiming to have so far ameliorated the pay of over 930,000 textile workers due to its Fair Living Wage strategy.

The British Library, London.

The British Library announced this week that current figures show that its Business Centre & IP Centre (BCIP) helps 52 people to become entrepreneurs every day.  On 20th September, the library held its annual Start Up Day, encouraging anyone with an ingenious, creative business idea to come into the library and take the first steps in turning it into a viable earning strategy.  Start Up Day has now permeated 13 other libraries outside of the Capital, reaching as far as Glasgow, Exeter, Cambridge and Newcastle.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said:-

Start-up Day has become an unmissable event for aspiring business owners around the UK. This year I am particularly pleased to welcome Cambridge, Nottingham and Glasgow to our Business & IP Centre National Network. The British Library has a mission to help business to innovate and grow, both at St Pancras and across the UK – that means making sure everyone with a great business idea knows that they are welcome here.’.



[Credits:  Feature image – View of the pyramid at Becan archaeological site, Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Campeche (REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya);  Newsweek;; Reuters; British Library Press Office; JSTOR Daily; Insider;;; Facebook;; Today Show;; Business Insider UK]



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