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Cowboy Carter: Beyonce becomes first black artist to top UK chart with a country album – while achieving record double | Ents & Arts News

Beyonce has become the first black artist ever to hit number one with a country album in the UK, topping the chart with her eighth record, Cowboy Carter.

Not only that, but the star has done the double – with the album’s lead single, Texas Hold ‘Em, returning to the top spot in the singles chart for a fifth non-consecutive week.

Beyonce follows in the footsteps of Shania Twain, who was the first female country artist to score a UK number one album when Come On Over topped the Official Albums Chart in September 1999.

Incredibly, Queen of Country Dolly Parton, with a career spanning nearly 50 years and hits including Jolene, I Will Always Love You and 9 To 5, has never achieved a number one single or album in the UK.

This is Queen Bey’s second UK charts double, mirroring her instant success as a solo artist when she topped the album and singles charts simultaneously with her smash hit Crazy In Love, featuring Jay-Z, and debut album Dangerously In Love, in 2003.

Plus, she has two other tracks from Cowboy Carter in the singles top 10 – her cover of Parton’s Jolene at number eight, and II Most Wanted, a duet with Miley Cyrus, at number nine. Previously she has achieved two top 10 entries on two separate occasions – in 2008 with If I Were A Boy and Listen, and again in 2009 with If I Were A Boy and Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) – according to the Official Charts.

Dolly Parton – step aside (for now)

FILE - Dolly Parton poses at the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy Ceremony in New York on Oct. 13, 2022. Parton will close out the awards show with her performance of ...World On Fire,... from her record ...Rock Star.... The ACMs will air on May 11 on Prime Video live from Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki, File)
Dolly Parton has said she is excited about Beyonce’s country album. Pic: AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

Congratulating the star, Official Charts chief executive officer Martin Talbot said Parton should “step aside (for now)” as “Bey is the *current* Queen of Country”.

In a statement, he said: “In a career of huge achievements, congratulations to Beyonce on securing a slew of UK chart records with her country single and album this week, underlining her position as one of the world’s most ground-breaking musical artists.”

As well as her cover of Jolene, Beyonce also covers Blackbird, the civil rights-inspired song by The Beatles, on Cowboy Carter.

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Sir Paul McCartney has praised the star for her “magnificent” version, saying it “reinforces the civil rights message that inspired me to write the song in the first place”.

Writing on Instagram, he said they had spoken on FaceTime about her recording the song.

“When I saw the footage on the television in the early 60s of the black girls being turned away from school, I found it shocking and I can’t believe that still in these days there are places where this kind of thing is happening right now,” Sir Paul said.

“Anything my song and Beyonce’s fabulous version can do to ease racial tension would be a great thing and makes me very proud.”

Parton has also praised the star, saying: “I’m a big fan of Beyonce and very excited that she’s done a country album.”

Acid to destroy masterpieces by Picasso, Rembrandt and Warhol if Julian Assange dies in prison, artist claims | UK News

An artist has defended plans to destroy masterpieces by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt and Andy Warhol with acid if Julian Assange dies in prison.

Andrei Molodkin says he has gathered 16 works of art – which he estimates are collectively worth more than $45m (£42.77m) – in a 29-tonne safe with an “extremely corrosive” substance.

Inside the vault are boxes containing the art and a pneumatic pump connecting two white barrels – one with acid powder and the other with an accelerator that could cause a chemical reaction strong enough to turn the safe’s contents to debris, Molodkin claims.

Famous works of art will be destroyed by acid in a safe if Julian Assange dies in prison, artist Andrei Molodkin says. Pics: AP/The Foundry Studio
Julian Assange in 2017 – and the safe purported to contain the art that will be destroyed if he dies in prison. Pics: AP/The Foundry Studio

The project – called “Dead Man’s Switch” – is being backed by Assange’s wife Stella, whose husband is awaiting his final appeal against being extradited to the US, where he faces charges under the Espionage Act.

The Wikileaks founder is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The 52-year-old denies any wrongdoing.

He has been held in London’s Belmarsh prison for almost five years and will have his final appeal heard at the High Court in London on February 20 and 21.

Assange’s supporters say he faces 175 years in prison if he is extradited. His lawyer claims the Australian’s life “is at risk” if the appeal fails.

Stella Assange, the wife of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Pic: PA
Stella Assange is supporting Andrei Molodkin’s ‘Dead Man’s Switch’ project. Pic: PA

Molodkin told Sky News: “In our catastrophic time – when we have so many wars – to destroy art is much more taboo than to destroy the life of a person.

“Since Julian Assange has been in prison… freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of information has started to be more and more repressed. I have this feeling very strongly now.”

The Russian dissident has refused to reveal which pieces of art are inside the safe but says it includes works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jannis Kounellis, Robert Rauschenberg, Sarah Lucas, Santiago Sierra, Jake Chapman, and Molodkin himself, among others.

The safe includes acid that can be triggered to destroy the artwork, Andrei Molodkin says. Pic: Andrei Molodkin/The Foundry Studio
The works of art are being contained in boxes, the artist says. Pic: Andrei Molodkin/The Foundry Studio

“I believe if something happened and we erased some masterpiece, it will be erased from history – nobody will know which kind of piece it was,” he says.

“We have all the documentation and we photographed all of them.”

The safe will be locked on Friday and it is being kept at Molodkin’s studio in the south of France, the artist says, but he plans for it to be moved to a museum.

Explaining how the “Dead Man’s Switch” works, he says a 24-hour countdown timer must be reset before it reaches zero to prevent the corrosive material from being released.

Andrei Molodkin's sketches for the project. Pic: Andrei Molodkin/The Foundry Studio
Molodkin’s sketches for the Dead Man’s Switch project. Pic: Andrei Molodkin/The Foundry Studio

He says this will be done by “someone close” to Assange confirming he is still alive in prison each day – which will mean the timer can be reactivated.

If Assange is released from prison, the works of art will be returned to their owners, Molodkin adds.

He admits “many collectors are really scared” about the acid going off accidentally but insists the work has been done “very professionally”.

Molodkin says he would feel “no emotion” if the art was destroyed because “freedom is much more important”.

Artist Andrei Molodkin
Artist Andrei Molodkin

Giampaolo Abbondio, who owns an art gallery in Milan, says he has provided the Picasso artwork for the safe and has signed a non-disclosure agreement preventing him from revealing which one.

He said his first response when he was asked to take part was: “No way”, but he was convinced by Molodkin, who he has known since 2008.

“It got me round to the idea that it’s more relevant for the world to have one Assange than an extra Picasso, so I decided to accept,” Mr Abbondio told Sky News.

“Let’s say I’m an optimist and I’ve lent it. If Assange goes free, I can have it back.

“Picasso can vary from 10,000 to 100 million but I don’t think it’s the number of zeros that makes it more relevant when we’re talking about a human life.”

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June 2022: Why is Assange wanted by US?

Artist Franko B says he has provided one of the works which will be kept in the safe.

“It’s a beautiful piece… it’s one of my best pieces,” he told Sky News.

“I thought it was important that I committed something I care about. I didn’t donate something that I found in the corner of my studio. I donated a piece of work that is very dear to me that talks about freedom, censorship.

“It’s important. It’s a small gesture compared to what Assange did and what he’s going through.”

Who is controversial artist Andrei Molodkin?

Andrei Molodkin made headlines last year after selling blood-soaked copies of Prince Harry’s memoir.

The artist had previously projected a sculpture filled with the blood of Afghans on to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Both stunts were in protest over Harry’s remarks in his book about his number of kills in Afghanistan.

Previously, to coincide with the World Cup in Qatar, Molodkin unveiled a replica of the World Cup trophy that slowly filled with crude oil. It had a symbolic price of $150m – a figure that matched the amount of money allegedly spent on bribes and kickbacks to FIFA officials.

Molodkin also presented a sculpture of the White House that reportedly contained the radioactive blood of Nagasaki-born men to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.

In 2022, Molodkin showcased a glass portrait of Vladimir Putin which was filled with the blood of Ukrainian soldiers. An image of the artwork was said to have been live-streamed near Moscow’s Red Square as Mr Putin oversaw Russia’s Victory Day parade.

Back in 2013, Molodkin opened an exhibition called Catholic Blood that featured an installation where he pumped blood donated solely by Catholics around his replica of the Rose Window at Westminster Abbey, which he saw as a Protestant symbol.

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Mrs Assange, who has two children with her husband, told Sky News: “Which is the greater taboo – destroying art or destroying human life?

“Dead Man’s Switch is a work of art. Julian’s political imprisonment is an act of real terrorism against democracy.

“The true targets here are not just Julian Assange but the public’s right to know, and the future of being able to hold power accountable.

“If democracy wins, the art will be preserved – as will Julian’s life.”

Assange has been held at Belmarsh prison since his arrest in April 2019 after leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had claimed political asylum in June 2012.

The UK government approved Assange’s extradition to the US in June 2022.

Meet the artist living in a skip to make ‘statement’ about London’s rent prices | UK News

“Living in a tip” is a phrase most people use to describe a messy home.

But for artist Harrison Marshall, it will have a much more literal meaning.

The 28-year-old moved into a converted metal skip in Bermondsey, southeast London, in January, as part of a project aiming to make a “statement” about the “crazy” cost of living in England’s capital city.

He aims to live in the standard eight-yard skip, usually used for storing, moving and dumping waste building material, for the rest of this year.

Undated handout photo issued by SKIP House of Harrison Marshall, 28, an artist and co-founder of Caukin Studio, who moved into a converted skip in Bermondsey, south-east London, in January and will aim to live in it for a year. Mr Marshall described the move as a "statement" in the face of the "crazy" cost of living in London. Issue date: Monday February 13, 2023.
Mr Marshall aims to live in the skip for a year

‘Is it possible to live in a skip?’

Speaking about the project, he said: “For me to live in this area, this was the only option for me to do that, which is just mad.

“When I came back to London I started the hunt for a room, and, obviously, within that timeframe, the prices had gone kind of crazy.

“People were getting hundreds of messages for a single room… it was at the point where if you weren’t willing to put your deposit down the same day as viewing it, you didn’t really stand a chance.

“And so that’s when I started picking up the idea again, about is it actually possible to live in a skip?”

Mr Marshall’s new home comprises a standard 12m x 6m (39ft x 19.5ft) builder’s skip with an insulated timber frame and a barrel roof.

The artist also has access to a portaloo, while he will mostly shower at work or the gym.

He also hopes to be connected to a power source which will enable him to use a heater and a cooker.

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Undated handout photo issued by SKIP House of Harrison Marshall, 28, an artist and co-founder of Caukin Studio, who moved into a converted skip in Bermondsey, south-east London, in January and will aim to live in it for a year. Mr Marshall described the move as a "statement" in the face of the "crazy" cost of living in London. Issue date: Monday February 13, 2023.
Mr Marshall aims to live in the skip for a year

‘Crazy’ living in central London

The skip has been provided for a nominal rate of £50 a month, while the initial build-cost was £4,000.

“I don’t expect other people to pursue this or replicate it,” Mr Marshall said.

“It’s very hard to replicate. So, really, it’s more of a statement and something which tackles or talks about the issue in a light-hearted way and highlights just how crazy it is to live in central London.”

Mr Marshall, who has decorated his new home with friends’ artwork and gifts from his family, described his neighbours as “very friendly” and has even welcomed guests.

He added: “I’ve had friends come over already, everyone wants to come and see the new place.”

The Skip House is part of Skip Gallery, a public art initiative intended to create space and opportunity for emerging artists.