Arts & Culture

A 19th-century thangka of the deity Narodakini.


James Butler

21 January 2021

Tantra isn’t a religion, but it profoundly transformed two major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. It isn’t about sex, but it’s shot through with sexuality. Its practitioners range from hucksterish wandering mystics to kings, from celibate monks to rock stars.

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Michael Wood

21 January 2021

Much​ of what Pauline Kael had to say in ‘Raising Kane’ (1971), her long article in the New Yorker, got lost in the controversy it created. One of her aims was to draw attention to Herman . . .

The Masks of Doom

Niela Orr

21 January 2021

Paul Laurence Dunbar​’s poem ‘We Wear the Mask’ was published in 1895.We wear the mask that grins and lies,It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, –This debt we pay to human . . .

William Smith’s Geological Maps

Ben Walker

7 January 2021

Behind velvet curtains on a staircase in the east wing of Burlington House in London is an eight foot tall map of England, Scotland and Wales made up of 15 pages (available to view by appointment). The . . .

Beethoven gets going

James Wood

7 January 2021

It took me some time to listen properly to Beethoven, to get past the heroic glower of his portrait, the worldwide canonicity. (Surely it didn’t help that our entire generation, like those before . . .

Picasso and Tragedy

T.J. Clark, 17 August 2017

Perhaps, then – though the thought is a grim one – we turn to Guernica with a kind of nostalgia. Suffering and horror were once this large. They were dreadful, but they had a tragic dimension.

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Ian Penman, 2 July 2015

Sinatra’s sexual charge was like his song: underplayed, tinged with unflappable cool picked up second-hand in the shady cloisters of jazz.

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Is Wagner bad for us?

Nicholas Spice, 11 April 2013

Wagner’s work is everywhere preoccupied with boundaries set and overstepped, limits reached and exceeded.

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At the End of My Pencil

Bridget Riley, 8 October 2009

As I drew, things began to change. Quite suddenly something was happening down there on the paper that I had not anticipated. I continued, I went on drawing; I pushed ahead, both intuitively and consciously. The squares began to lose their original form.

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It’s a playground: Kiarostami et Compagnie

Gilberto Perez, 27 June 2002

A photograph of Abbas Kiarostami in Hamid Dabashi’s book shows him crouching over a frying pan that has two eggs in it. Beside him, and like him focused on the eggs, is the original movie camera invented by Lumière.

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That Wooden Leg: Conversations with Don Luis

Michael Wood, 7 September 2000

‘Studio Vingt-Huit – high up a winding street of Montmartre, in the full blasphemy of a freezing Sunday; taxis arriving, friends greeting each other, an excitable afternoon...

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Noovs’ hoovs in the trough

Angela Carter, 24 January 1985

‘Be modern – worship food,’ exhorts the cover of The Official Foodie Handbook. One of the ironies resulting from the North/South dichotomy of our planet is the appearance of this...

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The Raphael Question

Lawrence Gowing, 15 March 1984

When I used to give a survey course for first-year students, I dreaded December. That was when I reached the High Renaissance and my audience fell away. It was not only the alternative seasonable...

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Dressing and Undressing

Anita Brookner, 15 April 1982

Fashion,​ according to Baudelaire, is a moral affair. It is, more specifically, the obligation laid upon a woman to transform herself, outwardly and visibly, into a work of art, or, at the very...

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We want our Mars Bars! Arsène Who?

Will Frears, 7 January 2021

The football played in England today – the speed, the spectacle, the insane athleticism, the obsession with the distance a player has run, the Gegenpressing, the stats, Pep, Klopp, Mo Salah, Kevin...

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What interested Rembrandt and his contemporaries, as it interests those attempting to reconcile the archival record of historical black Amsterdam with its visual remains, was the ways in which artists...

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On the Sofa: ‘Small Axe’

Yohann Koshy, 7 January 2021

The poet​ Linton Kwesi Johnson calls the first two generations of Caribbean people in postwar Britain the ‘heroic’ generation and the ‘rebel’ generation. The Windrush...

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At the Movies: Marlene Dietrich

Michael Wood, 17 December 2020

When we think of Marlene Dietrich’s films, innocence is not the first word that comes to mind. But there is something unmarked about her persona, as if the ironic wisdom her characters often express...

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At BAMPFA: Rosie Lee Tompkins

Julia Bryan-Wilson, 17 December 2020

Rosie Lee Tompkins’s work is attuned to all the nuances of race, gender and class that fabric can signify. Synthetic calico is set next to a Mexican serape poncho which is placed next to an Indian...

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Shaggy Horse Story: Fabulising about Form

Julian Bell, 17 December 2020

There’s a shaggy horse drawn in charcoal 13,000 years ago on a wall of the Niaux cave in Southern France, and every frisky hatching looks as though it could have been set down yesterday by a student...

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Short Cuts: Diego! Diego!

Thomas Jones, 17 December 2020

Maradona was under no illusions about football’s symbolic power, or its limits. He couldn’t solve anyone’s problems, least of all his own. But, for ninety minutes at a time, he could...

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Diary: Painting in the Dark

Celia Paul, 17 December 2020

Perhaps the great women artists are noct­urnal creatures who prefer to create freely in the darkness. In this way, too, they avoid being referred to as ‘one of these neurotics’. Perhaps...

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At MoMA: Félix Fénéon

Hal Foster, 3 December 2020

Like the pictures that Fénéon most admired, his texts aim to be ‘self-governing’ – like communes, we are prompted to think. This autonomy takes nothing away from the singularity...

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Antique Tears: Consumptive Chic

Kate Retford, 3 December 2020

Thin, skimpy dresses left women cold and more susceptible to illness (flu was ‘muslin disease’), perhaps even to consumption, which was believed to bring women to the peak of beauty before...

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Summarising Oneself: Degas’s Vanity

Julian Barnes, 19 November 2020

Degas’s notion of success was particular to him. He wanted only artistic success, of which he was the sole judge. But he was absolutely, ruthlessly uninterested in fame, in social conquest, in honours,...

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At the Movies: ‘Time’

Michael Wood, 19 November 2020

It’s​ an old narrative device and a very effective one: to provide the day or month without mentioning the year. Garrett Bradley’s new feature-length documentary, Time (on Amazon...

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Clare Bucknell, 19 November 2020

In​ 1660, a Commonwealth warship called HMS Naseby sailed to the Dutch Republic to bring the new king-in-waiting home to England. During its journey the ship was renamed the Royal Charles in...

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At the Pace Gallery: Trevor Paglen

Daniel Soar, 19 November 2020

Trevor Paglen’s works are information sublimated: the learning they represent could be conveyed in words – thousands of them – but as images they’re wired direct to the brain.

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Diary: Alone in Venice

Colm Tóibín, 19 November 2020

Suddenly,​ there was nothing to complain about. No cruise ships went up the Giudecca Canal. There were no tourists clogging up the narrow streets. Piazza San Marco was often completely deserted....

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Diary: The only girl in the moshpit

Joanna Biggs, 5 November 2020

I am the feminist killjoy of Caitlin Moran’s nightmares, scratching my biroed objections all over the book, making a reading list for her in my head. She wrote her first book to eliminate people...

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Book Reviewing: On the ‘TLS’

Stefan Collini, 5 November 2020

In July​ 1921, Alfred Harmsworth – by then ennobled as Viscount Northcliffe, proprietor of the Daily Mail, the Times, and numerous other publications – wrote in irritable mood to the...

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Short Cuts: Fox News

Deborah Friedell, 5 November 2020

Trump is known to watch so much Fox News (up to seven hours a day, coded on his schedule as ‘executive time’) that some advertisers – farmers seeking subsidies, airlines opposed to foreign...

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