Arts feature

Contours of the mind

In Australia, I have been told, the female pubic area is sometimes known as a ‘mapatasi’ because its triangular shape resembles a map of Tasmania. And since we are discussing cartography and the nether regions, it is wonderful to find in the British Library’s new exhibition, Maps and the 20th Century, that Countess Mountbatten wore

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March of the makers

Until earlier this year, a squat sculpture nestled rather unobtrusively outside 20 Manchester Square in Marylebone, an address once made famous by the cover of a number of albums by the Beatles. The building has since been renovated into smart, slightly anonymous offices and the sculpture suited it. Few knew that it was a work


Sweet and sour | 27 October 2016

Great subject, terminal illness. Popular dramas like Love Story, Terms of Endearment and My Night With Reg handle the issue with tact and artistry by presenting us with a single victim and a narrative focus that reveals as much about the survivors as about the patient. Crucially, the disease is omitted from the title for


A night at the circus

The Royal Opera’s latest production is Shostakovich’s The Nose and to paraphrase Mark Steyn, whatever else can be said about it, you certainly get a lot of noses for your money. Noses are tossed from character to character, noses kneel in prayer and noses stroll casually past in the background. They poke through curtains, mingle


The lying game | 27 October 2016

‘Adam Curtis believed that 200,000 Guardian readers watching BBC2 could change the world. But this was a fantasy. In fact, he had created the televisual equivalent of a drunken late-night Wikipedia binge with pretentions to narrative coherence…’ You really must watch Ben Woodhams’s brilliant 2011 Adam Curtis-pastiche mini-documentary The Loving Trap, which you’ll find on


Halloween hire

To use a vulgar phrase, I can’t get my head around this exhibition. It seems anything but ‘vulgar’. Daintily laid out and dimly lit in the gloomier cloisters of Fortress Barbican is a series of dresses — the chaps hardly get a look-in, save for some of those white-knee-britched, jaboty, gold-laced-coat get-ups that people like

Romantic modern

In 1932 Paul Nash posed the question, is it possible to ‘go modern’ and still ‘be British?’ — a conundrum that still perplexes the national consciousness more than 80 years later. It is true that the artist himself answered that query with an emphatic ‘yes’. But, as the fine exhibition at Tate Britain makes clear,

Going Dutch | 27 October 2016

In debates about what should and should not be taught in art school, the subject of survival skills almost never comes up. Yet the Dutch, who more or less invented the art market, were already aware of its importance in the 17th century. In his Introduction to the Academy of Painting (1678), Samuel van Hoogstraten


Net effect

As a documentary-maker, Werner Herzog is a master of tone. His widely parodied voiceovers — breathy, raspy, ominous — are cunningly ambivalent. The interviews he conducts are seldom less than strange, often shocking, and the pacing and tenor of his films are subtly modulated. Never more so than here. Lo and Behold is divided into


Identity crisis | 27 October 2016

You may not listen to them every year. Or even to every lecture in the current series. But the survival of the annual Reith Lectures on Radio 4 from the old days of the Home Service and Radio 3 (they were established in 1948 to honour what Reith had done for the corporation) is crucial