Robots, In-Flight WiFi, and Frieze Week

Welcome to the weekend, and yet another non-stop week in the world of art and technology. I have been staying in hotels with my day job, so have made use of the little quiet time to catch up with what has been happening around the globe.


About time too, the Indian art-market is suddenly springing back into life, long after the struggle to overcome the effects of the 2008 credit crunch and a lull in luxury purchases. I cannot believe that this particular market has taken so long to recover, but 7-years on, and we are only just seeing the rest of the world wake up too. I have mentioned before that art that sells in excess of €200m is on the up, so it’s little surprise that we are now seeing some staggering numbers at the sales.

Indian online auction house Saffronart held a live auction at The Oberoi Hotel in New Delhi this month and sold a hugely impressive 97 per cent of lots offered for $12.7 million (£8.2 million). Four world records were broken, including one for the modern Indian artist Francis Newton Souza, whose 1957 painting Man and Woman Laughing sold for $2.6 million.

The sale, which attracted a number of art patrons, collectors, dealers and connoisseurs, proved how live auctions can outperform the somewhat less theatrical online auctions and was the first held under the watchful eye of Hugo Weihe, who left Christie’s last year, and is now CEO of Saffronart.


Divers who explore the marine life of Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast can now also enjoy culture after an exhibition set up by a diving group was set up in the depths. The Poseidon group, based in the south-eastern seaside resort of Primorsko, has submerged copies of two of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous works. Waterproof versions of The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa have been attached to a reef 8m (26ft) beneath the surface, to mark Bulgarian Independence Day on 22 September, the report says. While the Leonardo masterpieces are the first to be displayed, the group is planning another exhibition later this year. I wonder how long it will be before we start to see submerged originals.


The BBC, that bastion of British Television supported by TV licence payers in the UK, is spending more than £8m on a collection of digital art including a Gaelic birdsong video and Syrian puppet films. The Space website has spent the money, despite the corporations’ bosses complaining about cuts to their £5.1 billion-per-year budget.

Featured on the site is a puppet series called Top Goon Reloaded, created by Masasit Mati, a Syrian art collective. Another project features the ‘mimesis of birdsong in Gaelic song’, while ‘Mix The City’ with ‘YouTube sensation’ Kutiman invites people to use sight, sounds and music to create their own interpretation of Tel Aviv.

So far £3.6million has been spent on The Space with the BBC promising to pay out £8.16million in all. Arts Council funding will bring the total budget to £16.2million.

Insiders have told The Sun newspaper that the BBC’s £330,000-a-year creative director Alan Yentob is the man behind the project, which began trading as a company in September 2013.


No matter how cute they make them, they're all slightly sinister!


There is a disputed notion that humans only ever use 10% of their brain capacity. The science is most likely backed up by observations when carrying out the school run, or driving down the motorway in thick fog, and no one has their lights on. But it isn’t a scientific fact at all. We use multiple parts of our brains at different times to do different things, the exact science of which I cannot begin to comprehend, especially as people tell me that only 10% of my brain is active.

Empowering technology, is often defied by people who show a cowardice towards it. Tech-cowards as we will call them for the benefit of this post are paralyzed by three things.

Technology is used by a specialist is a view that those who cry away from it often express.

However, fear not, there are an abundance of user guides on YouTube that show people how to use technology. If you don’t feel like dipping the toe into the technical water by accessing the popular video service, then please pick up a copy of Henry Ford's practices of Division of Labor. You will be glad of a step-by-step video guide after reading this for a few hours.

Others achievements will be better than mine. If you have an idea for a new social platform that uses a like button, as a ‘techless’ person, (sounds much better than tech Luddite), you might feel less confident about creating a whole new platform based on the same principles.

What will prevent you doing this is the thought that others do it better. There is an expectation of defeat before you even begin. The reality is actually different. You can actually attempt your idea by lowering your own expectations. Set up the new platform as a trial or a harmless attempt at change. Believe me, if I thought everyone had a better product that the ones I create in my day job, I would just give up.

Tech savvy start-ups give you a mental block. If you have an idea or a template, let’s say a way to create new homes, or create a recipe, you need to realise that you can deviate from the familiar pre-conceived ideas that everyone has. Things are only done the way they are because that is all that has been previously thought.

So where has this sudden deep thinking come from? Probably from the amount of news items recently that are saying that robots are about to take away everyone’s jobs. I remember a few years ago when a small toy robot called the RoboSapien was introduced on to our Christmas lists. It cost less than £100 ($160) at the time and was advanced enough to keep us entertained until the New Year, or at least until the batteries ran out. This thing even produced a mildly rude sound similar to the one you encounter after eating a mild curry. Incredible.

I also remember seeing the Honda built Robot when I visited Innoventions at Disney World’s Epcot. It managed to climb a set of stairs by the time I had wandered around the World Showcase, had a bite to eat at Harry Ramsden’s in the British pavilion, and made it back to Innoventions East or West, I can’t for the life of me remember which side. That too, incredible.

But more recently I have seen many articles of gloom, all suggesting that the future will be populated with robots who are intent on taking away our jobs. Believe me when I say that if a robot could do my day job, I would gladly sit back and relax. It would no doubt need some AI therapy after the first day. I have also an increase in the number of companies trying to get in on the action.

Tokyo Robotics Company Softbank is gearing up to launch its latest innovation, a robot called ‘Pepper’ that not only recognises human emotions, but can react to them too.

The robot was shown off to Japanese journalists on a stage at a Tokyo theatre on 18 June 2015. It rolled onto stage, talked to celebrity guests, did a little dance and sang a birthday song. It also showed off its emotional programming.

Pepper is equipped with code that allows it to converse and respond to what you say. It detects joy, surprise, anger, doubt and sadness from facial expressions, body language and the words that its owner says. If it thinks you're feeling glum, for example, it might try playing your favourite song. Sounds delightful, but I would actually prefer a cat.

But if you feel that you need some robotic love in your life, for a mere $1600, (£1000) ‘Pepper’ is now on sale. However, it is currently only available in Japan, so it could end up becoming a rather expensive gift.

Personally I don’t think we are ready just yet to allow robots to take over everything, if you read this blog regularly you will already know that I am not a fan of self-driving cars, and I do have a question. ‘Who will build the robots that build the robots?” I think we are safe enough, well, at least for the next 18-months.


In Flight WiFi
In Flight WiFi coming soon to Europe


In-flight Wi-Fi is relatively common in the U.S, albeit very slow, and very expensive; but it’s not a feature that Europeans have had the privilege of using. All this is set to change due to a new partnership between the UK’s Immarsat and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom.

300 high-capacity 4G base stations are to be built across the European continent, specifically to provide this new in-flight service. The companies have suggested that speeds will be similar to home broadband speeds, but we will need to wait until 2016 before Lufthansa starts with the roll-out. Further airline partners are expected to join the network in 2017.

This will become the first aviation network in Europe powered by both LTE and satellite. Aircraft will switch between ground and satellite networks as they ascend and descend. What is unclear at the moment is exactly how much this will add to the cost of an already expensive ticket. The companies involved have said that it will depend on the class of cabin you are travelling in, and the amount you have paid for your ticket.

I expect it will be priced similarly to cruise ships, and having experienced the costs of a day’s Wi-Fi on a cruise ship recently, I think we can all safely assume it will be expensive. If you have experienced the benefit of in-flight Wi-Fi, please tell us all about your experience, was it worth the cost? Also, let us know if this is something that you would plan to use irrespective of the costs involved.


London Frieze Week
London Frieze Week

London’s Frieze Week opens between the 14th and 17th October 2015, and Petr Doig’s ‘Cabin Essence’ will be leading Christie’s auctions during the week.

London - Christie’s is delighted to present Peter Doig’s Cabin Essence as a highlight of the Post War and Contemporary Evening Auction on 16 October 2015. A crystalline vision of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, one of the most important modernist buildings of all time, the painting was executed between 1993 and 1994 and is the largest work within Doig’s celebrated sequence of Concrete Cabins.

The property of a private American collector, a significant portion of the proceeds of the sale will be given to benefit The World Justice Project. Following the record-breaking performance of Doig’s Swamped (1990) at Christie’s New York in May of this year, Cabin Essence will lead a week of Post War and Contemporary auctions at Christie’s London and will be on view at Christie’s New York from 26 to 29 September and Christie’s London from 10 October.

‘At the heart of Tate Britain`s retrospective of Peter Doig is a room of paintings for which the artist is perhaps most known: the “Concrete Cabin” series of 1991-96, comprising views of a modernist building seen through thick, dark trees. Among these works, Cabin Essence, 1993-94, is one of the best ... [It] is a great lyrical work that, although telling no particular story, distils the striking format of a strong inner structure held within a field of floating organic and decorative elements ... the image is one of rationality submerged in mystery.’ Artforum, April 2008.

Debuted as part of the original suite of Concrete Cabins, at Victoria Miro Gallery, London in 1994, Cabin Essence was then shown at the Tate’s Turner Prize exhibition that same year. The Concrete Cabins series, created between 1991 and 1998, is of central significance to Doig’s practice; Concrete Cabin (1991-1992), the first in the series, is currently housed in the Leicester Arts and Museum Service and Boiler House (1994) is a promised gift to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Most recently, Cabin Essence was shown as part of Foundation Beyeler’s (Basel) Peter Doig retrospective that took place 2014-2015.

A monumentally scaled investigation into the mechanics of vision and memory, Cabin Essence is Doig’s portrayal of his experience when he travelled to take part in the restoration of Le Corbusier’s abandoned Unité d’Habitation at Briey-en-Forêt in northern France. Doig first visited Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in 1991. As a recent graduate living in London, he was part of a group of artists, architects and designers involved in the building’s restoration. Built in 1957, and abandoned less than twenty years later, the Unité was one of the structures that proposed a new form of democratic living in post-War Europe. This forsaken temple of Modernist aspiration, an impeccable architectural grid subsumed by the chaos of nature, had a profound impact upon Doig.

Doig has recalled: ‘The building took me by surprise as a piece of architecture. But it was not until I saw the photograph I had taken of the building through the trees that it became interesting. That made me go back and look at it again. I was surprised by the way the building transformed itself from a piece of architecture into a feeling. It was all emotion suddenly. ’ This encounter with this derelict Modernist utopia, seen through dense layers of trees, gave rise to a cycle of paintings based on his recollection of the event. Doig was only able to capture the sublime quality of this encounter by transforming original colour video footage, which was taken on location, into a sequence of black and white stills that were in turn photocopied into a book of blurred vignettes and only then finally translated into paint.

Rendered in tones of russet, green, yellow and blue that intermingle in shimmering, translucent bands, the painting is inscribed with thick passages of streaked impasto and bejewelled beads of colour that rain down upon this unearthly paradise. The visual splendour of the work is finely balanced with an intricate web of reference and association that Doig has continued to employ throughout his oeuvre; recalling the Canadian pine forests of his youth at the same time as anticipating the Caribbean jungles to which he would turn his attention the following decade, as well as establishing a dialogue with the work of Richter and Bonnard, Munch, Mondrian and Cézanne.

Francis Outred Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art EMERI said: ‘At Christie’s we have been privileged to present some of Peter Doig’s greatest works in recent years, yet we have never had a work like this. One of the largest works made by Doig in the 1990s, it conjures an atmosphere that you could walk right into. There is such a wealth of art history referenced in the process and technique of the painting but ultimately it represents an entirely new means of figurative painting. Quite simply the holy grail of Doig’s ‘Concrete Cabins’; acquired by the present owner from the Turner Prize in 1994 it comes to auction for the first time with an outstanding museum exhibition history.’

As the leading auction house for Post War and Contemporary art, Christie’s brings together a line-up of world-class auctions during Frieze week. Together the Post War and Contemporary Evening Auction, Italian Sale and the Day Sale, bring the highest quality of art from 1945 to the present day and are an integral part of the most important week in London for the art world’s calendar.

So that’s all for today, but more to come on Sunday, so be sure to bookmark this blog for the latest updates and news from the world of art, technology, and my life within Beechhouse Media. I will also be bringing my long awaited feature on the technology we have lost. In the meantime, why not check out my artist website at



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