Arts feature

Fraser Nelson

The art of persuasion

It’s hard to admire communist art with an entirely clear conscience. The centenary of the October revolution, which falls this month, marks a national calamity whose casualties are still being counted. When my father-in-law comes to visit, I have to hide my modest collection of Russian propaganda: he grew up under the Soviets and has

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Wayne’s world

Ballet would have been an obvious revenue stream for Sadler’s Wells when it reopened back in 1998 but straight-up classics have been few and far between over the past two decades — the Rothbart of the Royal Ballet of Flanders’ Swan Lake wore a live owl on his head. And yet, while the theatre’s programming

Football focus

The early 1970s was football’s brute era of Passchendaele pitches and Stalingrad tactics. The gnarled ruffians of Leeds United — wee hatchet man Billy Bremner, the graceful assassin Johnny Giles, Norman ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Hunter — embodied the age. Not that you’d guess this from the badge on the club’s shirt: the letters LU were

Rattle’s hall

Even in a Trump world where reality is what you say it is, the London Symphony Orchestra’s announcement of a new concert hall occupies a bubble of pure fantasy. New York architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro have been awarded a contract for a project that has no funding. Concert hall, what concert hall? The only

The old ways

I’m sitting across a café table from a young man with a sheaf of drawings that have an archive look to them but are in fact brand new. His Jacob Rees-Mogg attire — well-cut chalk-stripe suit and immaculate tie — sets him apart from the others in the room, who are mostly architects and architectural

London calling | 26 October 2017

Madame Monet was bored. Wouldn’t you have been? Exiled to London in the bad, cold winter of 1870–71. In rented rooms above Shaftesbury Avenue, with a three-year-old son in tow, a husband who couldn’t speak English, and no money coming in. Every day roast beef and potatoes and fog, fog, fog choking the city. ‘Brouillardopolis’,


Family planning

Beginning starts at the end. A Crouch End party has just finished and the sitting room is a waste tip of punctured beer cans, tortured napkins and crushed nibbles. Wine bottles lie scattered across the carpet like fallen ninepins. Hostess Laura invites her last guest, Danny, for a final glass of Chardonnay. Twitchy conversation ensues.


Irish ayes | 26 October 2017

Luigi Cherubini is the pantomime villain of French romantic music. As head of the Paris Conservatoire in the 1820s he was the embodiment of obsolescence: Berlioz’s Memoirs recount an occasion when some state functionary told the ageing master that he should really write an opera. ‘One can dimly imagine the indignant consternation of the author


Pass the sick bag

The opening of Gunpowder (BBC1, Saturdays) was just about the most knuckle-gnawingly tense ten minutes I’ve ever seen on TV. It’s 1603 and James I is on the throne. At the Warwickshire great house of Baddesley Clinton, a group of aristocratic Catholics, including Robert Catesby (Kit Harington) and Anne Vaux (Liv Tyler), are celebrating Mass


Emotional rescue

In the 1880s the young Max Klinger made a series of etchings detailing the surreal adventures of a woman’s glove picked up by a stranger at an ice rink. At a certain point the glove washes up, nightmarishly large, beside a sleeping man’s bed on to which a shipwrecked sailor is desperately hauling himself. Storm-tossed


Amazing Grace

In the first scene of this distinctly odd documentary, Grace Jones meets a group of fans, who squeal with delight at the sight of her and nearly pass out with excitement when they hear her speak. And that, I suspect, is the effect which the film confidently expects to have on the rest of us.


The ties that bound us

Only Neil MacGregor could do it — take us in a single thread from a blackened copper coin, about the size of a 10p piece, dating from Rome in about 200 AD, to a packed music hall in London during the first world war. In his new 30-part series for Radio 4, Living with the