Culture

Culture

The good, the bad and the ugly in books, exhibitions, cinema, TV, dance, music, podcasts and theatre.

Suppress your groans: this women-only show is fascinating

Exhibitions

In a Victorian art dealer’s shop a woman waits with her young son while the supercilious owner examines her work; behind her two top-hatted gents interrupt their inspection of a drawing of a dancer in a tutu to give her the once-over. The woman’s shabby umbrella, propped against the counter, awaits reopening in the rain

Beguiling: Yinka Shonibare, at the Serpentine Galleries, reviewed

Exhibitions

More than seven centuries ago, the medieval cartographer Richard of Haldingham created Hereford Cathedral’s Mappa Mundi; I say ‘created’ because when he drew his map it was largely a work of the imagination. Its terra incognita is populated with bizarre creatures born of the fever dreams of early travel writers: his Africa is inhabited by

Fascinating insight into the mind of Michelangelo

Exhibitions

You’re pushing 60 and an important patron asks you to repeat an artistic feat you accomplished in your thirties. There’s nothing more daunting than having to compete with your younger self, but the patron is the Pope. How can you say no? Besides, it’s an excuse to get away from Florence, where your work for

Kandinsky is the star of Tate’s expressionist show

Exhibitions

‘We invented the name Blaue Reiter whilst sitting around a coffee table in Marc’s garden at Sindelsdorf… we both loved blue, Marc liked horses and I liked riders, so the name came of its own accord.’ Christened so casually by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in 1911, the Blue Rider was always more of an

How flabby our ideas of draughtsmanship have become

Exhibitions

The term drawing is a broad umbrella, so in an exhibition of 120 works it helps to outline some distinctions. A good place to start is to ask what drawings are for, and that is what Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has done with its current show of sketches by Flemish masters – staged in collaboration with

The ghostly charcoals of Frank Auerbach

Exhibitions

‘In some curious way, the practice of art and the awareness of the imminence of death are connected,’ Frank Auerbach said in 2012. ‘Otherwise, we would not find it necessary to do the work art finally does – to pin something down and take it out of time.’ There’s no sense of the imminence of

The true inventor of the superhero comic? William Blake

Exhibitions

Among the documents in the West Sussex Record Office is an indictment for sedition of a certain William Blake. During an altercation in a Felpham garden in August 1803, he is accused by one John Scofield, a soldier in the British army then at war with France, of having shouted: ‘Damn the King. The soldiers

Another exhibition that sees everything through the prism of race

Exhibitions

A wave of totalising race-first exhibitions has swept through UK art institutions of late. The National Portrait Gallery’s remit of ‘reflecting’ British society could reasonably make one wary of its turn at the same project. Indeed, a false, stilted language accompanies curator Ekow Eshun’s The Time is Always Now. To have some 20 artists ‘reframing

The genius of Yoko Ono

Exhibitions

The first I heard of Yoko Ono was when my sister’s boyfriend brought home a little book of hers called Grapefruit. It was 1970, four years after John Lennon took the bite out of an apple that led to the break-up of the Beatles. The apple had been on a plinth in Ono’s 1966 exhibition

Winning: When Forms Come Alive, at the Hayward, reviewed

Exhibitions

In case you didn’t know, we live in a ‘post-minimalist’ age, sculpturally speaking. Not a maximalist age, though some of the works in the Hayward’s new sculpture show are huge – an age of revolution against neatness. Who’s to blame for this call to disorder? Women. The two prime movers of this movement, if you

Joyous chaos: Lucy Harwood, at Firstsite, reviewed

Exhibitions

‘Welcome to England’s Most Misunderstood County’, reads an imitation road sign inside the entrance to Firstsite gallery. It’s part of ‘The Essex Way’ (2021), a monumental collage commissioned from local boy Michael Landy to mark the 10th anniversary of the Colchester gallery’s opening. With its discombobulating mix of illustrations of native birdlife and views of

The killer satire of James Gillray

Exhibitions

‘I hope the day will never come when I shall neither be the subject of calumny or ridicule, for then I shall be neglected and forgotten’, is how Samuel Johnson greeted the news that James Gillray had caricatured him as Dr Pomposo. In Georgian London, a caricature was a fast-track to celebrity. And, as described

The spare, graceful, revelatory sculptures of Kim Lim

Exhibitions

In 1989, the sculptor Lorna Green circulated a questionnaire among 320 of her female peers about their experiences as women in a male-dominated field; three years ago she sent a follow-up survey. The work of 29 respondents to both is currently on show in an instructive exhibition, If Not Now, When? Generations of Women in

David Starkey on the inventor of the portrait

Exhibitions

On 12 November 1549, the 12-year-old Edward VI, newly liberated from the tutelage of his overweening uncle, Lord Protector Somerset, was at last able to enter his father Henry VIII’s private apartments in the Palace of Whitehall. From the extraordinary mixture of treasures and bric-à-brac he found there, he chose one thing: ‘a book of

Britain’s forgotten female pop artist 

Exhibitions

T o describe Pauline Boty as a ‘pioneer’ is a bit like calling someone a ‘one-off’. It’s not an adequate description of her in any way. Pauline was the only female British pop-art painter of the early 1960s. You may not know of her. She died in 1966, aged 28, and her name has remained

Melanie McDonagh

Why did this brilliant Irish artist fall off the radar? 

Exhibitions

Sir John Lavery has always had a place in Irish affections. His depiction of his wife, Hazel, as the mythical figure of Cathleen ni Houlihan, which appeared on the old ten shilling and subsequently on the watermark of the Irish pound notes, meant, as the joke went, that every Irishman kept her close to his