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Arts

‘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

The many faces of Essex: it was the architects’ intention to create ‘Something Fierce’ — a designed environment that was actively stimulating. ALL PHOTOGRAPHS FROM ESSEX UNIVERSITY'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY BROCHURE

The only way is Essex University

Architecture

We are told this is now a ‘knowledge economy’. Strange, then, that there are so few recent educational buildings of note. An expansion of universities has not led to much enlightened architectural patronage. Rather the opposite, in fact. The university… Read more

Alan Beeton, ‘Reposing’, 1929

Art's shameful secret and the birth of the mannequin

Exhibitions

A 19th-century London artists’ supplier named Charles Roberson offered imitation human beings for sale or rent, with papier-mâché heads, soft leather skin and flexible, jointed limbs. The top-of-the-range article — described in Roberson’s catalogue as ‘Parisian stuffed’ — was pricey.… Read more

Timothy-Spall-as-Mr-Turner

Mr Turner: the gruntiest, snortiest, huffiest film of the year - and the most beautiful too

Cinema

Mr Turner may be the gruntiest film of the year, possibly the gruntiest film ever. ‘Grunt, grunt, grunt,’ goes Mr Turner (Timothy Spall) as he sketches, paints, gropes his housekeeper, woos a Margate landlady, winds up John Constable something rotten.… Read more

Finding his feet: ‘Untitled (man and two women in a pastoral setting)’, 1940

How Rothko become the mythic superman of mystical abstraction

Exhibitions

Mark Rothko was an abstract artist who didn’t see himself as an abstract artist — or at least not in any ‘formalist’ sense. If a critic called him a ‘colourist’, he would bristle; if they admired his sense of composition,… Read more

Grayson Perry almost makes you like Chris Huhne: some feat

James Delingpole falls in love with Grayson Perry - and almost comes round to Chris Huhne

Television

I love Grayson Perry. You might almost call him the anti-Russell Brand: a genuinely talented artist who also has some very interesting stuff to say — as he’s demonstrating yet again in his highly entertaining new series Who Are You?… Read more

Alexander Rodchenko’s costume design for Meyerhold masterwork, ‘The 
Bedbug’, 1929

Russians made the theatre space the most liberating imaginative device ever invented

Exhibitions

You have to hand it to the Russians. They beat us into space, beat us to sexual equality, and a small display of early Soviet avant-garde theatre and film design, tucked away in the V&A’s ‘Performance’ area, proves that they… Read more

Anna Netrebko as Lady in Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’, Metropolitan Opera

Met Opera Live's Macbeth: Netrebko's singing stirred almost as much as her décolletage

Opera

This season of live Met relays got off to a most impressive start, with an electrifying account of Verdi’s tenth opera and first really great, though uneven piece, Macbetto (as I think it should be called; that’s what the central… Read more

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Peter Phillips is mugged by a gang of Praetorius-loving six-year-old girls in China

Music

We have read about the remarkable opening up of China in recent years: how many people live there and how good they are at business, perhaps finding the prospect of them rushing into our world rather daunting. However, a part… Read more

All was beauteous with the Royal Ballet’s ‘Symphonic Variations’ on the first night

Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet battle for the heart of English dance

Dance

English ballet erupted out of the second world war in the hands of the rival choreographers Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann, colleagues but of different instincts, one for dance, the other for drama. The case is currently being made for… Read more

Oppressed by the set in ‘Neville’s Island’

Neville's Island: a play from the era of Men Behaving Badly - when women were seen as exotic excrescences

Theatre

Start with a joke. Neville’s Island. Get it? Laughing yet? Are your ribs splitting into pieces? It’s a cracker, isn’t it? Well it’s a pun, at least, on Devil’s Island. Tim Firth’s play, regarded as a modern classic, premiered 22… Read more

Alana Valentine praises the BBC's World Service Photo: Getty

Kate Chisholm on what makes the BBC World Service so special

Radio

‘Don’t take it for granted,’ she warned. ‘It’s one of the few places where you can hear diverse voices, different points of view; where you can understand that the world is infinitely complex.’ Alana Valentine, an Australian writer, was talking… Read more

Left: The Apostle Simon, 1661. Right: Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan, 1658–60

Rembrandt at the National Gallery: the greatest show on earth

Arts feature

At the opening of Rembrandt: The Late Works at the National Gallery (until 18 January), I met a painter friend of mine in the final room. This was, he said, one of the most magnificent exhibitions he had seen in… Read more

Plisetskaya in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, 1964. She was one of the supreme trophies in the Soviet display case, the most garlanded, the most suspected

Maya Plisetskaya and Rodion Shchedrin: ‘The KGB put a microphone in our marriage bed'

Arts feature

‘People in the West don’t understand nothing. Even the new Russian generation don’t understand anything at all. You don’t know, and it’s better you don’t.’ Maya Plisetskaya scrutinises me with her beautiful, kohl-rimmed, 88-year-old eyes, a gaze made wary in… Read more

Jane Horrocks as the slovenly matriarch still fond of her bullying husband George (‘East is East’ playwright Ayub Khan Din, left)

Is London's West End Jewish enough for David Baddiel’s musical The Infidel?

Theatre

David Baddiel has turned his movie, The Infidel, into a musical. The set-up is so contrived and clumsy that it has a sweetness all its own. A golden-hearted London cabbie, named Mahmoud, discovers that he was adopted at birth and… Read more

Frieze Art Fair - VIP Preview

Frieze Art Fair: where great refinement meets harrowing vulgarity

Arts feature

If you wanted to find a middle-aged man in a bright orange suit, matching tie and sneakers, Frieze is a good place to start looking. I found one. Or maybe he was a limited edition existing in several reproductions. Certainly,… Read more

Brad Pitt with the crew of the Sherman tank, Fury

Fury: the men blow stuff up, then Brad Pitt takes his top off

Cinema

Fury is a second world war drama that plays with us viscerally and unsparingly — I think I saw a head being blown off; I think I saw a sliced-off face, flopping about — but is still just another second… Read more

Miles (Thomas Delgado-Little) and Flora (Louise Moseley) in Glyndebourne's creepy Turn of the Screw. © Tristram Kenton

Glyndebourne’s Turn of the Screw: horrors of the most innocent and creepy kind

Opera

We all know that ‘They fuck you up your mum and dad’, but nowhere is this more reliably (and violently) true than in the opera house. If you have the misfortune to be born into an operatic family you can… Read more

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai

What it's like being a scarily talented teenager

Radio

It was when she said how she loved ‘watching the computer do exactly what you wanted it to do’ that I realised how exceptional she must be. To be so young, just 19, and so at home with technology that… Read more

Carrie's back: Clare Danes in Homeland

Hooray for Homeland - Carrie’s back blasting America’s enemies to pieces with drones

Television

One of the more welcome and surprising things about television at the moment is that Homeland (Channel 4, Sunday) is good again. As I’m not the only person to have pointed out, the first series was great. After that, though,… Read more

Timothy Spall as the eponymous painter in Mike Leigh’s new film ‘Mr Turner’

Mike Leigh interview: 'A guy in the Guardian wants to sue me for defamation of Ruskin!'

Arts feature

Mike Leigh is in a cheerfully bullish mood when I meet him at the Soho Hotel. ‘Have you read today’s Guardian?’ Dammit — I should have seen that coming. ‘A guy in G2 would like to sue me for defamation… Read more

'Supermarkets' (1976), by Sigmar Polke. Picture: The Estate of Sigmar Polke

Tate Modern’s latest show feels like it’s from another planet

Exhibitions

‘Some day we shall no longer need pictures: we shall just be happy.’ — Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, 1966 Who says Germans have no sense of humour? OK, so their writers tend to be a pretty gloomy bunch —… Read more

Composer Alexander Glazunov Photo: Getty

The drunk conductor who ruined Rachmaninov’s career

Music

Would musical history have turned out differently if Alexander Glazunov hadn’t been smashed out of his wits when he conducted the first performance of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1 in D minor? The best of Glazunov’s own neatly carpentered symphonies hover… Read more

Hye-Youn Lee as Violetta in ‘La traviata’

Opera North's Coronation of Poppea: a premium-rate sex-line of an opera

Opera

Virtue, hide thyself! The Coronation of Poppea opens with a warning and closes with a love duet for a concubine and a psychopath, their union celebrated in sinuous melismas over a blameless passacaglia. First performed in 1643, Monteverdi’s final opera… Read more

Turning feral: Lord of the Flies

Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies: when boys turn feral

Dance

GCSE Eng Lit pupils are doing well from dance this season with two set books told in the medium of dance, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and even Dylan Thomas gets a look in.… Read more

Harriet Walter as King Henry

Donmar's Henry IV: Phyllida Lloyd has nothing but contempt for her audience

Theatre

The age of ‘ladies first’ is back. Phyllida Lloyd reserves all the roles for the weaker sex, as I imagine she thinks of them, in this hybrid play assembled from Henry IV (i) and (ii). It’s a twin-layered production that… Read more

Tissues at the ready: James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan in The Best of Me

The Best of Me is more of a sleepie than a weepie - especially when our old friend No Sexual Chemistry makes an appearance

Cinema

Take tissues to The Best of Me, I’d read, as it’s such a weepie, so I took tissues, being a weeper at weepies — I still dab my eyes whenever I even think about War Horse — but it was… Read more

Mackenzie Crook's Detectorists

Fellow saddoes rejoice: BBC4 has made a comedy-drama about metal detecting

Television

Detectorists (BBC4) is a sad git’s niche comedy that would never have been commissioned if it hadn’t been written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (who sort of counts as a Hollywood star, now, because after making his name in The… Read more