Arts & Culture

Emily Jo Gibbs’s horse chestnut bag (1996).

‘Bags: Inside Out’

Susannah Clapp

20 May 2021

The best ever riff​ on bags was written by Lucy Ellmann in her novel Doctors and Nurses (2006). In swirling prose she attacks – as if just knocking it out – the essential points...

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Michael Wood

20 May 2021

The​ first thing that dies in Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland (which will be in cinemas from 17 May) is a town called Empire, in Nevada. The life-supporting sheetrock plant shuts down, the people . . .

At the Half

Andrew O’Hagan

20 May 2021

Stage​ actors tend to be judged on how they cope in front of an audience rather than backstage, but dressing room etiquette is definitely a thing. Some performers do great work in the afterglow . . .

Painting in Marble

Nicholas Penny

20 May 2021

Fabio​ Barry’s book about stones alters our understanding of the sacred, or at least symbolic, nature of much of the great architecture of the past. In addition to his command of specialist . . .

‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

Michael Wood

22 April 2021

Shaka King’s​ Judas and the Black Messiah (available on Amazon Prime) leaves us in no doubt as to who is the more interesting character. This preference is obscured (or perhaps highlighted) . . .

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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This world of pattern and texture, which Tom Harris spent his career tracing, is as natural to humans as it is to plants. We can find it by rubbing our eyes, in the phosphenes flashing against our eyelids,...

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Drama of the Gowns

Lisa Cohen, 22 April 2021

Claire Wilcox becomes ‘absorbed in the fabrics and the stitching and embroidery, respectful of the drama of the gowns, the mastery of soft leather, the button-holing and the beading’. Patch...

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Mon cher Monsieur: Prove your Frenchness

Julian Barnes, 22 April 2021

In the 1930s many of the elite Jewish families donated their houses and collect­ions to the French state. It was as if they were saying: we are French, and we leave our greatest treas­ures to France....

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Aboutness: Bosch in Paradise

T.J. Clark, 1 April 2021

It would be horrible – ludicrous – to be solemn about Bosch, one of whose lessons is that Doom is a comedy; and whose picture of Utopia (heaven on earth, the pursuit of happiness) is of weightless,...

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Yeah, that was cool: ‘Rave’

Harry Strawson, 1 April 2021

Rainald Goetz isn’t much interested in telling tales of hedonistic excess. He’s not above name­dropping, showing off about the DJs he was friends with and the cool clubs he went to, but...

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For Roland Barthes, the Encyclopédie’s peaceful scenes and ordered arrangements of objects, materials and tools conceal a violence, a ‘wild surrealism’ that, whether we want it...

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Lee Daniels’s​ The United States v. Billie Holiday (on Sky Cinema) hesitates a little about what kind of movie it is. Is it about the war on drugs, with Holiday’s career as an...

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Silence is survival: there’s a thin line, as The Wiz illustrates, between exuberant shouts and terrified screams. When Diana Ross sings the words ‘happy ending’ in ‘Is This What...

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Open in a Scream

Colm Tóibín, 4 March 2021

Since Bacon was known for his tangled personal life, his gambling, his drinking and the chaos of his studio, with the stories of his sexual habits and ghastly Irish childhood in circulation, something...

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On the A1

Andrew O’Hagan, 4 March 2021

‘The road is a no man’s land on the edge of society,’ Rupert Martin wrote in 1983, introducing Paul Graham’s photo­graphs of the A1, ‘and its inhabitants...

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At the National Gallery: Artemisia

Clare Bucknell, 4 March 2021

Artemisia Gentileschi, who understood – and relied on – the fact that male collectors were liable to see her face and body behind each Judith, Cleopatra or Susannah, was no stranger to playing...

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Blowing religious buildings up was appealing to the Bolsheviks, but so was protecting them as symbols of national heritage and pride; or preserving them while transforming their use and meaning, turning...

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At the Movies: ‘One Night in Miami’

Michael Wood, 18 February 2021

There​ is plenty of angry talk in Regina King’s One Night in Miami – available on Amazon Prime and adapted from Kemp Powers’s play – but the cruellest remark is very...

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The Rio group’s photographs engage with their subjects, who aren’t documented but rather are in dialogue with the camera, active participants in the cultural and political life around them....

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Motorised Youth Rebellion: Radical LA

Andy Beckett, 18 February 2021

A typical headline in the Los Angeles Times read: HIPPIES BLAMED FOR DECLINE OF THE SUNSET STRIP. Yet in the longer term the teenagers won a partial victory. As the bands that played on the Strip...

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In​ the opening scene of his television series Civilisation (1969), Kenneth Clark admits that while he can’t define exactly what civilisation is, he knows it when he sees it. The camera...

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The Phonic and the Phoney: Being Hans Keller

Nicholas Spice, 4 February 2021

The source of Keller’s energy and drive was what he called ‘musical truth’, the revelation of a metaphysical reality deeper than anything accessible to other art forms. Like the aficionados...

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At the Movies: ‘Mank’

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...

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