Culture notes


Brains on a lithographic slab

Culture notes

The Blyth Gallery is situated in the Sherfield Building, deep in the South Kensington campus of Imperial College London. The Sherfield Building is a labyrinth of concrete, linoleum and glass. Its atmosphere is oppressively institutional. You walk around to the… Read more


From egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly

Culture notes

South Kensington is teeming with butterflies at the moment, or at least the specially constructed tropical enclosure at the Natural History Museum is. Sensational Butterflies (until 14 September) takes you on a journey through the life cycle of, you guessed… Read more


Michael Craig-Martin pokes a giant yellow pitchfork at the ordinary

Culture notes

Visitors to Chatsworth House this spring might wonder if they have stumbled through the looking-glass. The estate’s rolling parkland has been invaded by an army of vibrantly coloured, outsized garden tools, whose outlines seem to hover, mirage-like, over the landscape.… Read more


The art of data

Culture notes

When you’re next waiting for a train at King’s Cross, don’t waste time window shopping on the concourse. Instead, pop round the corner to the British Library to see Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight (until 26 May). It’s not… Read more


Jeremy Deller is lost in Walthamstow

Culture notes

At the Venice Biennale last year, Jeremy Deller presented English Magic in the British Pavilion. It was an aggressive look at contemporary Britain and featured protest art based on socialist politics. It’s fitting, then, that the show has transferred to… Read more


Rome, Open City still shocks

Culture notes

Roberto Rossellini shot his neorealist landmark Rome, Open City while the war still raged and rubble littered the freshly liberated capital. Based on real experiences from the ten-month German occupation, the film follows ordinary Romans, some active dissenters, some just… Read more


Behind the scenes at Spitting Image

Culture notes

If Margaret Thatcher is remembered by many more as a caricature than as her actual self, then blame Spitting Image. The show, which ran from 1984 to 1996, portrayed her variously as a cross-dresser, a fascist and a bully but,… Read more


Do critics make good artists? Come and judge ours

Culture notes

Artists make good critics, but do critics make good artists? It’s hard to tell, when most are too chicken to try. For over 20 years, Spectator critic Andrew Lambirth has been making collages. He caught the habit from the British… Read more


Tutus, loo rolls and a roomful of balloons

Culture notes

A tip: go see Martin Creed’s retrospective at the Hayward in the company of a child. I didn’t, but I tagged on to a merry gaggle of five-year-olds being guided round by their mums. I watched as they pointed at… Read more


Take a look at John Maynard Keynes's armchair

Culture notes

Discoveries: Art, Science and Exploration at Two Temple Place (until 27 April) is like a giant cabinet of curiosities. Maps, gizmos and memorabilia are spread across two floors of this glorious high-Victorian building on the Embankment. There are drawings from… Read more


How to fight back when 'public art' is not for the public

Culture notes

In recent years contemporary art and regeneration have gone hand in hand. Works such as Antony Gormley’s ‘Angel of the North’ have been visible and celebrated examples of regeneration. So when, last year, Southwark Council decided to sell Elephant and… Read more

‘Study of Reclining Knights’ by Edward Burne-Jones; ‘Smell of Plums’ by Chiara Fersini

All the fun of the fair

Culture notes

The Works on Paper annual fair runs from 6 to 9 February at the Science Museum. Its name is a bit of a giveaway: all art must be on paper. There is a huge range of work on display: early,… Read more


Would you have been let in to an '80s club? 

Culture notes

People will go to extraordinary lengths to get into a nightclub. Nowadays you must wear something tight, and look slinky. But, as Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s at the V&A shows (until 16 February), a handful of… Read more


Why is there no God in the British Library's latest exhibition?   

Culture notes

Georgians Revealed: Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain at the British Library (until 11 March) would have you believe that the religious life was not a feature of Georgian Britain. God is an invisible force in this exhibition… Read more


The man who transformed houses

Culture notes

Alec Cobbe is a designer, painter, musician, picture restorer and collector, and has recently donated drawings, photographs and other archives to the V&A, where some of this collection is now on display. Cobbe was born in Dublin and aged four… Read more


Walk on the wild side with the Gruffalo

Culture notes

If, like me, you are allergic to pantomime (‘Oh, no you’re not!’; ‘Oh, yes I am!’) then help is at hand: the Gruffalo is in town and strutting his stuff, to the delight of legions of tiny fans, at the… Read more


How I felt when I stepped inside the Hadron Collider

Culture notes

I have a new party piece. I can explain, with a degree of clarity and precision, how the Hadron Collider at Cern works and what it is looking for. I can’t claim credit for this feat of exposition myself; as… Read more


Blackfish and the scandal of caged killer whales

Culture notes

If you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don’t you think you’d get a little bit psychotic? Well, yes, probably. But this is how captive killer whales live. Tilikum is no different from many of these. A 31-year-old orca… Read more


Mass destruction in an age of mass media

Culture notes

Catalyst: Contemporary Art and War at the Imperial War Museum North (until 23 February) is alone worth a trip to Manchester. The exhibition shows how artists living in the age of mass media have explored conflict in the age of… Read more


The Discerning Eye show is full of great art pieces. I know because I chose them

Culture notes

If you want to buy a picture or a piece of sculpture and have lots of money or not very much, or if you just want to look at more than 450 contemporary works, then the Mall Galleries is the… Read more


How we beat the Boche — at sidecar racing

Culture notes

There’s courage, there’s fearlessness, and then there’s the sort of sublime audacity you need to do something like sidecar racing. Stan Dibben, 87, has it in spades. He won the world sidecar championships in 1953, still whizzes around the racetrack… Read more


Nick Cave is still raising hell

Culture notes

As Sunday night’s storm clouds gathered, one of rock’s great polymath-storytellers whipped up a tempest of his own on the stage of the Hammersmith Apollo with the help of his six compadres. Sharp-suited and spivvy, Nick Cave howled and crooned… Read more


Jeremy Deller curates a fascinating and funny exhibition in Manchester

Culture notes

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is an art show largely without art (at Manchester Art Gallery until 19 January 2014, then touring). No matter: Jeremy Deller, the curator, has found some surprising knick-knacks to illustrate how the Industrial… Read more


Dreaming in the Renaissance

Culture notes

The exhibition The Renaissance and Dream at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris (until 26 January 2014) explores how artists have wrestled with the furthest limits of the imagination, in forms ranging from the muscular elegance of Michelangelo to the… Read more


BFI has got carried away with its live broadcasts

Culture notes

Live broadcasts into cinemas have become something of a commonplace, and a welcome one: operas, theatre performances, even radio programmes. But a live broadcast into cinemas of the audience entering another cinema is a new one on me. The idea… Read more


Pearls: if you’ve got ’em, wear ’em

Culture notes

‘Women spend more money on their ears in pearl earrings than on any other part of their person.’ So said Pliny the Elder, who disapproved of the increasing fashion for pearls in the 1st century. It’s lucky he’s not around… Read more


A modern take on Victoriana

Culture notes

Britain is still an essentially Victorian country (see Daily Mail for details). So it’s no surprise that we keep returning to the period for inspiration. Victoriana: The Art of Revival at the Guildhall Art Gallery (until 8 December) is a… Read more


Blitz Requiem première in St Paul’s

Culture notes

Of all folk memories the Blitz remains one of the most enduring. In the autumn of 1940 the Luftwaffe strafed London on 57 consecutive nights, leaving (if that is the word) 20,000 dead and whole streets pounded to rubble. ‘You… Read more