William Cook rss

Cornelia Parker’s War Room at the Whitworth, Manchester

What are modern museums really for?

30 May 2015

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… Read more

Guild houses in the Grote Markt, Antwerp

Antwerp: the compact, charming capital of a country that doesn’t quite exist yet

23 May 2015

Napoleon didn’t think much of Antwerp. ‘Scarcely a European city at all,’ he scoffed. If only he could see it today. Ten years ago, Antwerp felt provincial. Now it feels… Read more

Incline your upper body slightly forward and place your feet on a low foot rest. Then all the angles are correct

Digestion may be disgusting, but it makes for fascinating — and apparently now fashionable — reading

16 May 2015
Follow Your Gut: The Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes Rob Knight, with Brendan Buhler

Simon & Schuster, pp.120, £7.99, ISBN: 9781471138904

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ Giulia Enders

Scribe, pp.288, £14.99, ISBN: 9781922247964

The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood and Your Long-Term Health Justin and Erica Sonnenburg

Bantam, pp.320, £14.99, ISBN: 9780593074299

Funnily enough, after my editor sent me these three books to read, my guts started playing up. Suddenly, food seemed to go straight through me. At first I wasn’t bothered,… Read more

Bigger mouths and longer legs—all the better to bite you with, and run away

Bigger, better bedbugs bite back with a vengeance

25 April 2015
Infested: How the Bedbug Infiltrated our Bedrooms and Took Over the World Brooke Borel

University of Chicago Press, pp.251, £18, ISBN: 9780226041933

‘Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite,’ my mother used to say when she tucked me in at night, which may be why, like the author of this… Read more

The guilty man: Johann Strauss

Vienna is a crossroads of the world again – but something’s missing

21 March 2015

People get the wrong idea about Vienna and I blame Johann Strauss. His plinky-plonky waltzes have become the soundtrack to the city, cementing Vienna’s public image as a place of… 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

7 March 2015

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… Read more

Heckler-210215

The Heckler: how funny really was Spitting Image?

21 February 2015

Hold the front page! Spitting Image is back! Well, sort of. A new six-part series, from (some of) the team behind Fluck and Law’s puppetry satire show, will be broadcast… Read more

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

Where Van Gogh learned to paint

14 February 2015

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… Read more

‘The Spectators’, 1947 and 'Woman with the birdcage' by Robert Colquhoun

The tragic tale of the Two Roberts is a story of two artists cut off in their prime

10 January 2015
The Two Roberts: Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

In 1933, two new students met on their first day at Glasgow School of Art. From then on they were inseparable. They lived and worked together. They became lovers. They… Read more

Bali

Cockfighting: the last, hidden link to Bali’s warlike past

3 January 2015

Driving around Bali, the first thing I noticed was the big wicker baskets by the roadside. Inside each basket was a cockerel. I asked my friend Wayan why these birds… Read more

backfront

Europeans no longer fear Germany. But do the Germans still fear themselves?

13 December 2014

In the old Death Strip between East and West Berlin, which runs through the centre of the city, there is a graveyard full of German war heroes and a few… Read more

The undiscovered country: ‘Germany? Where is it?’, asked Goethe and Schiller in a collaborative poem. ‘I don’t know where to find such a place.’ Above: ‘Goethe in the Roman Campagna’, 1787, by Johann Tischbein, currently on show at the British Museum

German history is uniquely awful: that’s what makes it so engrossing

13 December 2014
Germany: Memories of a Nation Neil MacGregor

Allen Lane, pp.640, £30, ISBN: 9780241008331

As I grew up half German in England in the 1970s, my German heritage was confined to the few curios my grandmother had brought here after the war: a signet… Read more

northstar

Fortune tellers, pound shops and Orville: why I love Blackpool

13 December 2014

‘Jesus is the light of the world,’ reads the sign outside Blackpool’s Central Methodist Church, but all along the promenade the lights are going out. I’d returned to my favourite… Read more

Vallée de Joux

Down on the Swiss watch farms

29 November 2014

In a cosy attic above Junod, Lausanne’s oldest watch shop, there’s a museum which charts the story of Switzerland’s obsessive quest to create the perfect wristwatch. There are all sorts… Read more

Sea change: the old fishing town of Warnemünde has been transformed into an affluent resort

A voyage along my grandfather’s coastline

25 October 2014

My grandfather was born in a huge white house on the Baltic coast of eastern Germany, and ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by this enigmatic tideless… Read more

Quiet, quaint and understated: Cobblers Cove

Chasing the shadows of slavery in Barbados

18 October 2014

Driving up the west coast, from Bridge-town to Speightstown, you soon see why people around here call this the Platinum Coast. It’s not just the colour of the coral sand… 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

18 October 2014
Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010 Tate Modern

‘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… Read more

Herculean feat: hauling a steamship over a mountain for ‘Fitzcarraldo’

The enigma of Werner Herzog

30 August 2014

Strange things happen to Werner Herzog — almost as strange as the things that happen in his haunting, hypnotic films. In 1971, while making a movie in Peru, he was… Read more

Switzerland’s loveliest lake lies before you

The loveliness of Lucerne

26 July 2014

When Queen Victoria came here for her summer holidays, Lucerne was already a bustling tourist destination. Today it’s just as popular. It’s easy to see why. When you emerge from… Read more

Photo: Alex Kouprianoff

How Napoleon won at Waterloo

5 July 2014

In a one-horse town called Hestrud, on the Franco-Belgian border, there’s a monument which encapsulates Europe’s enduring fascination with Napoleon. The story carved upon this plinth is more like poetry… Read more

More than just a pretty place: Salzburg

Salzburg – more than just a ridiculously pretty place

14 June 2014

Salzburg is so ridiculously pretty, it’s sometimes hard to take it seriously. Standing on the ramparts of its knights-in-armour castle, surrounded by snowcapped mountains, admiring the delicate cluster of domes… Read more

Bill-Forsyth

Bill Forsyth interview: ‘If we hadn’t made a go of it, my plan was just to disappear.’

31 May 2014

I watched the new DVD of Gregory’s Girl on the train from London up to Edinburgh. I hadn’t seen Bill Forsyth’s school-yard comedy in more than 30 years. Incredibly, it… Read more

New old city: Dresden

Notes on… Eastern Germany

26 April 2014

Ever since the Berlin Wall came down, I’ve been pottering around eastern Germany, where my father’s family came from, and fled from at the end of the second world war.… Read more

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-UNREST-POLITICS-CRIMEA

Today Crimea, tomorrow Estonia?

8 March 2014

 Tallinn, Monday  ‘I have some sad news,’ says the Estonian politician, as we sit down to dinner. ‘War has broken out.’ The pain in his voice is palpable. For this… Read more

‘French Window’ video still, 1973, by Ian Emes, whose show opens in April

The Ikon Gallery's greatest hits

1 March 2014
Ikon Icons Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

In a crowded storeroom at Ikon, Birmingham’s contemporary art gallery, its director Jonathan Watkins is unwrapping the pictures for his latest show. His excitement is infectious. He’s like a big… Read more