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Arts

David Hockney at work in his studio, c.1967

David Hockney interview: ‘The avant-garde have lost their authority’

Arts feature

‘I just stay here and do my thing,’ David Hockney told me soon after I arrived at his house and studio in Los Angeles this August. ‘I’m not that interested in what happens outside. I live the same way as… Read more

‘Sunrise’, 1938, by John Armstrong

The good, the polite and the ugly: British artistic responses to the Spanish civil war

Exhibitions

The Paris World’s Fair of 1937 was more than a testing ground for artistic innovation; it was a battleground for political ideologies. The Imperial eagle spread its wings over the German Pavilion; the Soviet hammer swung above the Russian Pavilion;… Read more

Conservator Johanna Puisto dusts the cast of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ post-conservation, November 2014

The reopened V&A Cast Courts are a fabulous spectacle of Victorian theft and reverence

Museums

The great municipal museums are products of the 19th-century imagination, evidence of lofty ambitions and cringe-making limitations. They are exact contemporaries of department stores: the whole world acquired, catalogued, labelled, displayed and inspected. Only at the moment of consumer interaction… Read more

Preparations Are Made Ahead Of The Roman Cieslewicz RCA Retrospective

Why students of curation start off as lively citizens of the world and end up as dulled parrots of ideological cant

Culture studies

The world exists and then it disappears, piece by piece, the gaps widening until one age is replaced by another, leaving only fragments of the past. With luck, these pass through the hands of curious collectors dedicated to bridging the… Read more

‘Portrait of Juan de Pareja’ by Velázquez

The story of the first painting to sell for over a million pounds

Arts feature

Nothing could have prepared the art world for the astounding moment in 1970 when, at a Christie’s sale on 27 November, the world auction record for a painting smashed through the million-pound barrier for the very first time. It was… Read more

The erotic Mary, left, by Gregor Erhart (c.1515–20) and the penitent Mary, right, by El Greco (c.1577)

No one in the Bible has been as elaborately misrepresented as Mary Magdalene

Arts feature

How would the real Mary Magdalene have reacted to her posthumous reputation? Not very kindly, one suspects. Our only historical source, the New Testament, does not even hint that she was a prostitute, and she’s unlikely to have been placated… Read more

Soloman and Marion

Norman Mailer’s wife comes out of the shadows

Theatre

‘It’s not as bad as I thought it would be,’ said Norman Mailer to his wife, Norris Church, after reading the first chapters of a novel she wrote in the 1970s. It took her decades to recover from this accolade… Read more

Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones star in The Homesman

Just because The Homesman has a few women in it doesn’t make it a ‘feminist western’

Cinema

The Homesman, which stars Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones and is set in the Nebraska territory in the 1850s, is being sold as ‘a feminist Western’, which is a bit rich. This is not a bad film. It’s modestly… Read more

"Gulf Stream" by Winslow Homer Photo: Getty

Why radio is a surprisingly good medium for talking about art

Radio

You might think it a fool’s errand to attempt programmes about art on the wireless. How can you talk about pictures or sculptures or any other visual form without being able to see them? But features on artists and their… Read more

Confessions of a Copper: Stephen Hayes

Jaw-dropping confessions of a very un-PC Plod

Television

There can’t have been many people who watched Confessions of a Copper (Channel 4, Wednesday) with a growing sense of pride. Among those who did, though, will presumably have been the creators of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes… Read more

‘This era’s supreme objet d’art’: Sylvie Guillem in 1985, aged 19, in her Paris Opera dressing-room

Sylvie Guillem interview: ‘A lot of people hate me. Bon. You can’t please everybody’

Arts feature

If you follow dance or music closely, make them part of your life, you look on certain performers as your daemon. These are the artists who become part of your inner landscape. They act as a tuning fork for your… Read more

‘Gian Girolamo Albani’, c.1570, by Giovanni Battista Moroni

Without a model, Moroni could be stunningly dull. With one, he was peerless...

Exhibitions

Giovanni Battista Moroni, wrote Bernard Berenson, was ‘the only mere portrait painter that Italy has ever produced’. Indeed, Berenson continued, warming to his theme, ‘even in later times, and in periods of miserable decline, that country, Mother of the arts,… Read more

Cecil Beaton with Mickey the cat, Reddish house (self-portrait)

The genius of Cecil Beaton’s interiors

Design

The odds were a hundred to one against him. Brought up in bourgeois Bayswater by genteel parents, Cecil Beaton was effete, pink-and-white pretty, theatrical and mother-adored, with a stodgy brother (but a couple of compliant sisters) —a cliché of post-Edwardian… Read more

Gemma Arterton leads the way in Made in Dagenham Photo: Alex James

Yanks buy stacks of tickets in the West End. Why is Made in Dagenham so rude to them?

Theatre

Go slow at Dagenham. The musical based on the film about a pay dispute in the 1960s starts as a sluggish mire of twee simplicities. We’re in Essex. Grumbling Cockney wage slaves inhabit cramped but spick-and-span council flats. Russet-cheeked kiddiwinkies… Read more

Thomas Ades and Crystal Pite's Polaris at Sadler's Wells. © Foteini Christofilopoulou.

Thomas Ades’s Polaris at Sadler’s Wells: the dance premiere of the year

Dance

This has been an extraordinarily exciting fortnight, on and off stage. Premieres in anything from ice-skating to classical ballet, charismatic soloists in flamenco and Indian kathak, the front-page news of Sylvie Guillem’s retirement, and, even more astonishingly, English National Ballet’s… Read more

Railly, railly posh: Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke

The Imitation Game: a film that's as much in the closet as Alan Turing was

Cinema

The Imitation Game is a biopic starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician who broke the German’s Enigma code during the war, created the blueprint for the modern computer and was then hounded to death by the authorities… Read more

Franco Fagioli: a controversial Idamante in ‘Idomeneo’ at the Royal Opera House

Royal Opera’s Idomeneo: get seats but make sure they’re facing away from the stage

Opera

Mozart’s first great opera, Idomeneo, is not often performed, and perhaps it’s better that way. It should be seen as a festival work, celebrating qualities that we rarely reflect on, but are of the utmost importance. In his fine essay… Read more

Indian troops during the  First World War Photo: Getty

The voices of Indian PoWs captured in the first world war

Radio

At six o’clock on 31 May 1916, an Indian soldier who had been captured on the Western Front alongside British troops and held in a German PoW camp stepped up to the microphone and began to speak. Not in Hindi… Read more

Joss Stone visits 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' at the Tower of London  Photo: The Royal British Legion/Charlie Davies

We know that war is hell. But it doesn’t ever make us stop doing it

Television

There’s a plausible theory — recently rehearsed in the BBC’s excellent two-part documentary The Lion’s Last Roar? — that our war in Afghanistan was largely the creation of the Army, which sorely needed a renewed sense of military purpose after… Read more

Proposal for Convoys Wharf, Deptford: a new commuter enclave with a nice view

How Londoners can reclaim the River Thames

Arts feature

Last week, 539 apartments designed by Frank Gehry and Norman Foster were made available for off-plan purchase. This was heralded by simultaneous launches in London and Kuala Lumpur and a press release announcing Sting and Trudie Styler as early buyers.… Read more

Like Star Trek turned up to 11

Interstellar: like Star Trek – but dumber and more tiring

Cinema

Christopher Nolan’s futuristic epic Interstellar isn’t a clever film, or even a dumb film with a clever film trying to get out. Instead, and no matter what the hype may say, this is a dumb film with an even dumber… Read more

‘Before the Mirror’, 1913, by Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele at the Courtauld: a one-note samba of spindly limbs, nipples and pudenda

Exhibitions

One day, as a student — or so the story goes — Egon Schiele called on Gustav Klimt, a celebrated older artist, and showed him a portfolio of drawings with the abrupt query, ‘Do I have talent?’ Klimt looked at… Read more

Mariinsky’s musical director Valery Gergiev Photo: V.Baranovsky

Mariinsky’s Boris Godunov - a revelation

Opera

Anyone who thinks opera singers and orchestral players are overworked should spare a thought for the Mariinsky Opera on its trek round England and Wales this week. After Prokofiev’s Betrothal in a Monastery in Cardiff on Sunday, the whole caravan… Read more

Jonah and Otto Photo: Jack Sain

An inept dud penetrates the Park Theatre’s dross-filters - and I blame Beckett

Theatre

Jonah and Otto is a lost-soul melodrama that keeps its audience guessing. Where are we? The Channel coast somewhere. Indoors or out? Not sure. Near a church maybe? Violence barges in. Jonah, a mouthy scruff, shoves a knife in the… Read more

Tim Burgess of the Charlatans Photo: Getty

Is there anything a gospel choir can't cheer up?

Music

‘I’m starting to think that all of the world’s major problems can be solved with either oyster sauce or backing vocals.’ That was Brian Eno writing in his diary one evening, after a long day’s thinking and maybe a glass… Read more

The gate of Buchenwald concentration camp on which it is written "Jedem das seine" (To each his just deserts) Photo: Getty

Many more Germans were displaced in 1945 than Indians during partition

Radio

What Radio 3 needs is a musical version of Neil MacGregor. The director of the British Museum and now a stalwart of Radio 4 is an intellectual powerhouse but his talks on radio are so clear, so crisp, so deceptively… Read more

Country music legend Dolly Parton

James Walton uncovers the sound of Nashville - money

Television

Twenty minutes into BBC4’s The Heart of Country (Friday), there was a clip of Chet Atkins, country music’s star producer of the 1960s, being asked to define ‘the Nashville sound’. Atkins reached into his pocket, pulled out some coins and… Read more

‘Hat Stand’, 1969, one of a group of three sculptures that caused controversy early on in the artist’s career

The pop artist whose transgressions went too far – for the PC art world

Arts feature

Allen Jones (born 1937) has been demonised. In 1969 he made a group of three sculptures of scantily-clad female figures. They were slightly larger than life and arranged in positions that enabled them (with the addition of a glass top… Read more