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From temple to labyrinth — the art museum today

At a certain point, the critic Robert Hughes once noted, at the heart of American cities churches began to be replaced by museums. Much the same occurred elsewhere in the world in the later 20th and early 21st centuries. Museums have sprouted from the earth in many diverse forms and numerous places. Enormous sums have

Sowing seeds of comfort

If you had asked me a year ago how a pandemic-panicked world of stockpiles, curfews and social isolation would influence my life in the garden, I might have drawn you a picture of myself as a kind of prepper homesteader, proudly feeding my family from the veg beds, trading spuds for loo rolls in the

What does it really mean to feel English?

Referring to the precarious future of the Union of England and Scotland, the authors of Englishness: The Political Force Transforming Britain conclude their book with the observation that ‘it is hard to imagine that any break-up would not be the source of regret and recrimination’. I imagine our present prime minister, even though he has

Problem parents: My Phantoms, by Gwendoline Riley, reviewed

Gwendoline Riley’s unsentimental fiction hovers on the edge of comedy and bleakness, and has drawn comparisons from Jean Rhys to Albert Camus. First Love, her fifth novel, put a toxic relationship under the microscope, winning the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 2017 and being shortlisted for five others, including the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Expanding

The magnificent fiasco of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House

John Ruskin believed the most beautiful things are also the most useless, citing lilies and peacocks. Had he known about the Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, a rural community 50 miles west of Chicago, he might have suggested it too. Except this modernist building of 1951 is an evolved expression of the emerging industrial culture

Working remotely: five formidable female anthropologists

I was first sent a version of Undreamed Shores: The Hidden Heroines of British Anthropology in June last year. I started my review; but publication was delayed. So I tore up my opening paragraphs, which began with the remark that only armchair travel was possible at present. By 2021, I imagined, that would be out

Anti-Semitism and the far left

The comic David Baddiel has written a book which explains that much of the far left hates Jews. There are exceptions. They are OK with dead Jews (the Holocaust gets a sad face emoji if it isn’t ‘exploited’ by living Jews, in which case it gets an angry face emoji), and penitent Jews (the ones

Sleeping with the enemy: the wartime story of ‘La Chatte’

The name ‘Carré’ immediately evokes the shadowy world of espionage. Ironically, however, few people today have heard of the real Carré, also known as ‘Victoire’ and ‘La Chatte’, a female intelligence agent inside Nazi-occupied France whose life had enough plot twists and moral ambiguity to satisfy any spy novelist. Mathilde Carré (1908-2007) had beena clever