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IDEALISM ISN'T LOST ON CITY ART CROWD

IF THERE are any City types out there itching to use the dwindling financial job prospects as a catalyst for a change of career, they could do worse than to heed the advice of Thomas Ostenberg.<br /><br />Just before the recession of the early Nineties, Ostenberg decided to leave his career as an independent financial consultant, having also done a stint as a vice president at Citibank, for life as an artist. He&rsquo;s now a full-time sculptor having a whale of a time &ndash; and is adamant he made the right decision all those years ago.<br /><br />&ldquo;You can always buy a faster car or another private jet, but really, I&rsquo;d accumulated everything I could have done materially,&rdquo; he tells The Capitalist. &ldquo;It wasn&rsquo;t a spiritual epiphany or anything, but I just realised that having stuff around me didn&rsquo;t seem that satisfying any more. Being an artist was something I really wanted to do and I feel so lucky to have achieved it. The recession is an opportunity for people to look deeply inside themselves &ndash; money really isn&rsquo;t everything!&rdquo;<br /><br />A refreshing dose of idealism, to be sure. City workers can see a couple of Ostenberg&rsquo;s bronze sculptures on show at the Mint Leaf Lounge in Angel Court at the moment, where they are on display along with works by Nasser Azam, himself an alumnus of Merrill Lynch. Perhaps the idea is catching on?<br /><br /><strong>MANNA FROM HEAVEN</strong><br />For those keen to stay in their jobs, it looks like The Capitalist&rsquo;s countdown of the ten hunkiest gentlemen in the business world, published in yesterday&rsquo;s paper, was just the ticket for a City battered and beaten by the turmoil of the past months.<br /><br />&ldquo;Nice work if you can get it!&rdquo; wrote one jealous reader in an email, while another commented what a lovely morning it was checking out the number one stunner, City Index&rsquo;s Joshua Raymond, on her journey in on the Tube.<br /><br />A whole bevy of readers also got in touch to express their thanks and try to wheedle contact details for any or all of the gorgeous gents, though The Capitalist regrettably cannot act as a dating service. (Perhaps it&rsquo;d be worth looking into as a start-up venture on the side, given the level of interest?)<br /><br />Nominations are still open for the ten loveliest ladies in the City, coming next week. Emails are welcome at thecapitalist@cityam.com &ndash; let&rsquo;s keep them coming in...<br /><br /><strong>CASH BONUS</strong><br />I hear a hefty roll of bank notes has been causing quite a stir down at City fine wining-and-dining venue High Timber. The notes &ndash; all 180 trillion Zimbabwean dollars worth of them &ndash; were proffered by a customer as payment for a bottle of 2007 Thelema chardonnay recently, and have been a talking point ever since.<br /><br />Co-owner Neleen Strauss has even been getting offers from some of her well-heeled diners to purchase the notes for large sums in sterling, simply for the novelty value. Talk about bitter irony.<br /><br /><strong>MOUTHING OFF</strong><br />Sir Alan Sugar&rsquo;s mouthiest Apprentice wannabe ever, Debra Barr, is back with a vengeance, taking over The Capitalist&rsquo;s inbox with a tips-and-tricks email advising lesser beings on &ldquo;how to clinch that interview&rdquo;.<br /><br />Now, we&rsquo;ve heard many a rumble from City firms interested in interviewing toothy runner-up Kate Walsh up to now, but perhaps our Debra is a bit of an untapped talent &ndash; apparently, after multiple run-ins with the grouchy Amstrad tycoon, she has learnt a good deal about making herself, well, a bit more likeable.<br /><br />&ldquo;The Apprentice taught me the importance of accepting constructive criticism &ndash; no matter how hard it is to hear,&rdquo; she writes.<br /><br />&ldquo;There is a lot I&rsquo;ve still got to learn. Initially, I would like to take part in a management training programme to develop how I can motivate and interact with a team of people with various personalities.&rdquo;<br /><br />Wonders will never cease. <br /><br /><strong>FLAME OF PASSION</strong><br />To lunch yesterday with Richard Holmes, the European chief executive of Standard Chartered, at the bank&rsquo;s magnificent new offices just off London Wall, which were opened by former PM John Major last year. The place is peppered with works of art from its core markets around the globe &ndash; tribal sculptures, ethnic Chinese prints and colourful paintings, all hand-picked by a team led by former chairman Mervyn Davies (now Lord Davies, of course, since he became UK trade minister and a life peer earlier this year).<br /><br />But back to lunch, where Holmes tucked in with relish to keep up his strength as he prepares for the Standard Chartered Great City Race on 16 July. Entries for the 5km race, perhaps the best-loved of all the City charity runs, are now closed after City A.M. and other eager teams of Square Milers snapped up the limited places in record time.<br /><br />Still, there&rsquo;s still plenty of watching room available on the sidelines for those hoping to give the brave runners a bit of a moral support. For his part, Holmes is hoping that Bank of England governor Mervyn King, pictured above, might show his face &ndash; after all, the two have a history going back to his university days, when King used to tutor him in economics at Cambridge.<br /><br />&ldquo;King was a fantastic tutor,&rdquo; he remembers, fondly. &ldquo;He was one of those teachers who really instilled a passion for the subject in his pupils&hellip;&rdquo; Let us hope the sobering events of the past year haven&rsquo;t dampened that particular flame.