Andrew Lambirth looks forward to this year’s exhibitions — from El Greco to Ken KiffThe chief thrill of this year’s gallery-going has to be the El Greco exhibition at the National Gallery (11 February to 23 May). It will be the first major showing of his work in this country, and for many the first chance to study his visionary paintings in any depth. Domenikos Theotocopulos (1541–1614), who settled in the Spanish city of Toledo in 1577, was known as ‘the Greek’ because he hailed from Crete, whence he introduced a modern version of the Byzantine style to a shocked and admiring audience.
In Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie described the bed that the ‘rampageous’ boys made for themselves in their magical primitive home in Neverland: ‘It filled nearly half the room and all the boys slept in it, lying like sardines in a tin.’ Today, the sleeping arrangements at a modern version of this fantastic place have led to one of the most explosive prosecutions in recent criminal history. The singer Michael Jackson, who so loves the Peter Pan story that he named his own Californian ranch ‘Neverland’, is awaiting trial on charges of molesting a 12-year-old boy, Gavin Arvizo, who has cancer, and of using an ‘intoxicating agent’ to facilitate sexual contact.
This year is the centenary year of the Entente Cordiale, and I intend to celebrate it by buying a house in France (the acte authentique, the final signing, takes place later this month) and, in the not very distant future, by living there. Whether this will improve Anglo–French relations remains to be seen.
France is no terrestrial paradise, but I know from experience of living abroad that other country’s blemishes do not affect you in the same way as your own country’s blemishes, which weigh heavily on your soul.