Arts feature

Beat generation: the indispensable Ringo Starr in 1964

Ringo's no joke. He was a genius and the Beatles were lucky to have him

Arts feature

‘He was the most influential Beatle,’ Yoko Ono recently claimed. When Paul and John first spotted him out in Hamburg, in his suit and beard, sitting ‘drinking bourbon and seven’, they were amazed. ‘This was, like, a grown-up musician,’ thought… Read more

Detroit: a city brought back from the dead

The moral case for gentrification

Arts feature

In its pomp, they used to say that what was good for General Motors, Detroit’s Medici, was good for America. Detroit was imperial. Like Rome, it stood for the whole. Michigan Avenue was like something from a Roman urbs: a… Read more

Glastonbury Festival, where the absence of authority results in order, not anarchy

Steve Hilton's model for policy reform: Glastonbury (yes, really)

Arts feature

There is a phrase that has been fashionable for years in wonkland — places like the upper echelons of the civil service and high-end think tanks. The phrase is ‘evidence-based policy-making’. There, I bet that’s got you going. When I… Read more

West Façade Illumination, 2015, by James Turrell

James Turrell interview: ‘I sell blue sky and coloured air’

Arts feature

James Turrell gave me extremely precise instructions. After dinner, I was to walk out through the grounds at Houghton Hall to the skyspace he has built. Here I should observe the gradual darkening above as brightness fell from the Norfolk… Read more

Jimmy Saville Rolls-Royce

Are we ready for a play about Jimmy Savile?

Arts feature

Have you heard the one about girlfriend-killer Oscar Pistorius not having a leg to stand on? Or what about the Germanwings knock-knock joke? If you find gags like these funny, you could come and stand with me on the terraces… Read more

Cornelia Parker’s War Room at the Whitworth, Manchester

What are modern museums really for?

Arts feature

On 1 July, at a swanky party at Tate Modern, one of Britain’s museums will bank a cheque for £100,000, as the Art Fund announces this year’s Museum of the Year. Sure, the money will come in handy. Sure, the… Read more

Arch enemies: Euston Arch (left), torn down to make way for London’s most miserable train station (right)

Should Euston Arch be raised from the dead?

Arts feature

Yes   William Cook Rejoice! Rejoice! Fifty-four years after its destruction, Euston Arch has returned to Euston. Well, after a fashion. Four blocks from this lost portico, salvaged from a murky river bed in east London, have been deposited outside… Read more

Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima. Photo: Fujitsuka Mitsumasa

Welcome to Japan’s best kept cultural secret: an art island with an underground museum

Arts feature

In his introductory remarks to the Afro–Eurasian Eclipse, one of his later suites for jazz orchestra, Duke Ellington remarked — this was in 1971 — that east and west were blending into one another, and everyone was in danger of… Read more

One of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s Scots pines in the French Pavilion

Martin Gayford finds a few nice paintings amid the dead trees, old clothes and agitprop of the Venice Biennale

Arts feature

At the start of Canto XXI of the ‘Inferno’, Dante and Virgil look down on the pit of Malebolge, the Eighth Circle of Hell, in which sinners guilty of simony, hypocrisy and graft are punished. The last of those spend… Read more

Jackie Mason at the Hollywood Palace in 1964: ‘A good comedian must tell the truth’

Jackie Mason reveals the secret of stand-up: avoid fried food

Arts feature

A lot of people ask what it takes to be a stand-up comic — I’ll be honest, I have absolutely no idea. What I do know is that whatever it is, a lot of people love to think they’ve either… Read more

Titanic: Orson Welles as Falstaff in ‘Chimes at Midnight’ (1966)

Don’t believe Orson Welles, says his biographer Simon Callow — especially when he calls himself a failure

Arts feature

Orson Welles would have been 100 this month. When he died in 1985, aged 70, the wonder was that he had lasted so long. His bulk was so immense, his productivity so prodigious in so many areas, his temperament so… Read more

A clear-eyed account of socialism: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in ‘Hope’ at the Royal Court

If you thought politics was boring, you should check out today’s political theatre

Arts feature

Writers and producers have shown little appetite for putting the coalition on stage. Several reasons suggest themselves. In 2010 wise pundits assured us all that the Rose Garden duo would squabble and part long before the five-year term expired, and… Read more

‘I find my comfort zone in the wilderness’: Barbara Hannigan

Classical music doesn't need to change. It just needs more performers like Barbara Hannigan

Arts feature

Everyone keeps talking about classical music’s image problem, and proposals on the table designed to rescue the music from apparent extinction have included the suggestion that conductors ought to face audiences rather than orchestras, and the cunning plan, mooted by… Read more

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

Cars are our cathedrals

Arts feature

Imagine for a moment Harley Earl, head of design at General Motors, Detroit’s wizard of kitsch. Standing before him, in his studio, is the cetacean bulk, nipple-coloured pink paint, churrigueresque chrome ornaments and rocket-ship details of his 1959 Cadillac Eldorado… Read more

london

Boris Johnson on his plans for the Olympic Park: inspired or whimsical?

Arts feature

Overseeing Boris Johnson’s futuristic office, with its spectacular view of the increasingly culinary skyscape of the City of London with its Gherkins and Cheesegraters, is a bust of Pericles, distinctive in his helmet. It is no surprise that the Mayor… Read more

Italy’s highest-paid heart-throb, Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, a film director in ‘creative limbo’

How Fellini made his modernist masterpiece

Arts feature

Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita was a box-office triumph in Italy in 1960. It made $1.5 million at the box office in three months — more than Gone With the Wind had. ‘It was the making of me,’ said Fellini.… Read more

Maria Callas recording an album for EMI at the Salle Wagram, Paris, in 1963. Photo: Robert Doisneau

The audio anoraks bringing the great vintage recordings back to life

Arts feature

If there’s one thing people find annoying about classical music anoraks, it’s our passion for vintage recordings. ‘Listen to that ravishing rubato,’ we gush, as an elderly soprano swoops and scoops to the accompaniment of what sounds like a giant… Read more

Head of a Man with Kausia, third century BC

Reimaging the lost masterpieces of antiquity

Arts feature

For centuries there has been a note of yearning in our feelings about ancient Greek and Roman art. We can’t help mourning for what has irretrievably vanished. In 1764 Johann Joachim Winckelmann wrote that we have ‘nothing but a shadowy… Read more

A still from the indie game Monument Valley

How gaming grew up

Arts feature

Sometimes a guy feels abstracted from the world. He visits Europe’s finest galleries, but the paintings seem to hang like corpses from the walls. The great symphonies fail to stir his interest, let alone his soul. So he goes home,… Read more

Style council: left to right, Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper), January Jones (Betty Draper), Jessica Paré (Megan Draper), Jon Hamm (Donald Draper)

Will you miss Mad Men? James Delingpole won’t

Arts feature

There’s a scene in the finale of season six that embodies everything that’s so right and so wrong with Mad Men. Don Draper, that fathomless enigma of a Madison Avenue copywriting anti-hero, is pitching for the Hershey’s chocolate account. Hershey’s… Read more

The dramatic centrepiece to McQueen’s 2001 spring/summer collection set in an asylum

Alexander McQueen may have been a prat but at least he was an interesting one

Arts feature

Alexander McQueen famously claimed to have stitched ‘I am a c***’ into the entoilage of a jacket for Prince Charles. The insult was invisible behind the lining and his tailor master later investigated and found nothing. So what was this?… Read more

Staying power: Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard in ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’

How Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, Blade Runner, foresaw the way we live today

Arts feature

In 1977 a journeyman actor called Brian Kelly optioned a science-fiction novel called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The book’s author, Philip K. Dick, had been writing science fiction since the early 1950s. He was 49 years old, with… Read more

Crazy horses: Andy Scott’s Kelpies at sunset

The Spectator declares war on bad public art

Arts feature

Like peace, love and lemon-meringue pie, ‘public art’ seems unarguably attractive. Who but a philistine curmudgeon would deny the populace access to the immediate visual thrills and the enduring solace of beauty that the offer of public art seems to… Read more

Wings of desire: film still of Natalia Makarova and Anthony Dowell in ‘Swan Lake’, 1980

Will the real Swan Lake please stand up

Arts feature

It is the end of an era — the Royal Ballet’s extravagant Fabergé-egg Swan Lake production by Anthony Dowell is on its last legs. When this 28-year-old production finishes the current run on 9 April, that will be it for… Read more

Van Gogh's 'The Diggers' (1889). Credit: Collectie Stedelijk

Where Van Gogh learned to paint

Arts feature

In December 1878 Vincent Van Gogh arrived in the Borinage, a bleak coal- mining district near Mons. He was 25 years old. He’d failed to become an art dealer. He’d failed to become a schoolteacher. Drawing was just a hobby… Read more

An early sketch of the standard 'contour' design

The art of Coke

Arts feature

In 1915 D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was premièred, Henry Ford manufactured his millionth Model-T (‘a million of anything is a lot’, he said), Kafka’s Metamorphosis was published and so, too, was one of Einstein’s critical contributions to his… Read more

Turning Japanese: ‘Spirited Away’ by Hayao Miyazaki, who has influenced Pixar’s latest offering, Big Hero 6

How Japan became a pop culture superpower

Arts feature

There is an island nation, just off the main body of a continent. It gained an empire from the force of its military and the finesse of its trading contracts. The empire withered, as they all do, under the gaze… Read more

‘Pan and Syrinx’, 1617, by Peter Paul Rubens

How will the British public take to Rubens’s fatties?

Arts feature

This week a monumental exhibition, Rubens and His Legacy, is opening at the Royal Academy. It makes the case — surely correct — that the Flemish master was among the most influential figures in European art. There are few painters… Read more