Category Archives: Cultural Atmosphere

Ron Mueck / Andy Hope, Hauser and Wirth, review


Mark Hudson reviews four new sculptures by YBA realist Ron Mueck (three stars), and the first solo exhibition of young German artist Andy Hope (two stars) at Hauser and Wirth.

Ron Mueck sprang to prominence via Dead Dad, his father’s pallid, naked corpse recreated in silicone, with every last micro-blade of stubble rendered in unnerving hyper-real detail. What made the piece particularly disconcerting was the fact that it was, at 3ft, roughly half life-size; the sense of looking at an old man’s body on the scale of a small child’s inducing mixed feelings of vulnerability, compassion and a kind of shamed revulsion.

Seen alongside Damien Hirst’s dead shark in Sensation, the exhibition that launched the YBA generation amid an orgy of publicity in 1997, Dead Dad felt all of a piece with that group’s preoccupation with mortality and macabre spectacle.

Horizon: Defeating Cancer, BBC Two, review

imageTerry Ramsey reviews the latest episode of BBC Two’s Horizon series, which explores ways of defeating cancer and the patients receiving the treatments.

As far as I am aware, there is no award for Best Cancer Hospital in the World but if there were, the Royal Marsden in London would be a contender. Horizon: Defeating Cancer (BBC Two) was a fascinating documentary that started off looking like it would simply be an account of the hospital’s treatment of three patients, Ray, Phil and Rosemary. But it was that and so much more, as it opened up the complex science behind the latest cancer treatments, as well as highlighting what they mean to people on the receiving end. “I am over the moon,” said Ray on hearing his treatment had worked. Phil’s wife was likewise delighted at her husband’s all-clear. “We have got a few more years to do caravanning then, haven’t we?” she said.

Unknown portrait by Dante Gabriel Rossetti emerges

imageThe portrait, unknown to scholars for over a hundred years, depicts Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s muse Jane Morris.

A portrait redolent of one of the most famous romances of the Victorian era has surfaced for sale from a private collection in Scotland where it has been, unrecorded and unknown to scholars, for over a hundred years.

Painted in 1869 by the pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, it represents his muse, Jane Morris, who was married to Rossetti’s business partner, the artist and designer William Morris.

Artist and sitter first met and were attracted to each other in 1857, but as Rossetti was already engaged to Elizabeth Siddall, she married Morris instead. However, after Siddall tragically took her life in 1862, and the Morris marriage appeared to flounder, the relationship was rekindled.

Land of the Lost Wolves, BBC One, review

imageLouise Gray reviews Land of the Lost Wolves on BBC One.

In Washington state in the US, wolves were driven to extinction 70 years ago but against the odds they are coming back across the border from Canada. Land of the Lost Wolves (BBC One) explored the love/hate relationship between the locals and these beautiful animals.

While biologists are hoping this marks a comeback for the wolf in the western states, with the territory they use spreading as far south as Mexico over the next few decades, hunters are twitching their triggers. Ranchers claimed the wolves threaten their grandchildren as well as their livestock and are ready to “shoot, shovel and shut up” – even though it is illegal to kill one.

The film would have made particularly fascinating viewing for animal lovers in Scotland, where there are serious suggestions that wolves should be reintroduced in the Highlands.

Banksy: primed and all set for take-off

imageIs the art market witnessing a Banksy revival? Colin Gleadell investigates.

After a few years in the wilderness, the elusive graffiti artist Banksy was back on form last week with two highly successful auction sales. At Christie’s, a metal panel from the exterior of a sound-system lorry which Banksy had spray-painted with military helicopter images for the 1998 Glastonbury festival, trebled estimates to sell for £103,250.

It had been an image that impressed Damon Albarn, the frontman for Blur, who were performing at the festival, leading to a commission to design the cover for the band’s Think Tank album. But more importantly, it was a rare outdoor work for which Banksy had given permission to be sold. Four years ago, Banksy stopped the trade in his outdoor work because, he said, it was never meant to be sold, so this was an exception.

Art market news: Serge Lifar’s estate sold for 7.3 million

iamageBuyers were on a high at the Geneva sale of dancer Serge Lifar’s estate.

Buyers were on a high at the Geneva sale last week of dancer Serge Lifar’s estate. The sale was estimated to fetch 1.5 million Swiss Francs (£1 million), but realised 7.3 million SFr. Top lot was a set of 48 drawings by Jean Cocteau for his book Opium, which sold for 912,000 SFr – nearly 10 times the estimate – to Paris book dealer Jean-Claude Vrain. The Musée des lettres et manuscrits de Paris was extremely active, spending nearly 1 million SFr on autographed manuscripts and drawings by Cocteau and his friend Raymond Radiguet. One of the most extraordinary results was the 430,000 SFr paid for two inscribed photographs of Lifar with Coco Chanel, and a letter from Chanel. The estimate was 300 SFr.

Return to the Falklands, ITV1: ”The Paras had killed with bayonet as well as bullet”

imageWar reporter Michael Nicholson recalls his memories of the Falklands after returning to the Islands for a new ITV film.

Exactly 30 years ago, at the end of a very bloody conflict, I left the Falklands never expecting to go back. Returning to a war zone is the oddest mix of excitement and sadness. But nostalgia can be a very assorted package and in the Falklands it is especially so.

All the other wars I have covered have been other people’s wars. But in 1982, in those 10 weeks and 8,000 miles away in the South Atlantic, I was reporting a war among my own people, alongside British soldiers fighting on behalf of a few thousand islanders who were defiantly British.

Rights Gone Wrong?, BBC Two, review

imageDid Andrew Neil prove that human rights laws are failing us? James Walton reviews BBC Two’s timely documentary.

Just in case he wasn’t unpopular enough already, Rights Gone Wrong? (BBC Two) suggested that Adolf Hitler is also responsible for our inability to get rid of Abu Qatada. As the programme explained, the European Convention on Human Rights – which has prevented Qatada’s deportation — was drawn up in 1950 to ensure that no European nation ever went the way of Nazi Germany again. Any citizens who thought their governments were behaving unjustly could now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Mexican Museum

imageThe soul and spirit of the arts and cultures of Mexico and the America are fundamentally linked. The Mexican Museum voices the complexity and richness of Latino art throughout the America, encouraging dialogue among the broadest public.

The Mexican Museum has a permanent collection of various artistic and cultural art crafts which attracts people from the entire world. Mexico City is itself a hub of cultural monuments and artistic architecture.

Rihanna is not a good role Model

imageWill Young very openly and bluntly said that Rihanna is not a good role model for young girls in music because the lyrics of her music doesn’t empower young girls. Young girls need to listen to those lyrics that are empowering.

Will Young also admitted that Rihanna is a brilliant pop star but her lyrics need to empower young girls which they don’t.

He said: ”I don’t think Rihanna is a massively great role model for women, her lyrics aren’t empowering”.

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Top Gear, series 18, episode 7, BBC Two, review

imageRachel Ward reviews the final episode of the current series of BBC Two’s Top Gear

Thanks to Dave (the TV channel, not Cameron), I’ve seen my fair share of Top Gear episodes. This, the last of the series, was the one with Slash, Kimi Raikkonen, and golf. I must admit that much of this 18th series has passed me by, mainly because (sorry super fans) I’m usually tuned into Dancing on Ice on ITV1 – an adrenalin-fuelled activity of a very different kind.

The Story of Bauhaus Art

imageBauhaus is a modern day art which started from a German art school and it speaks about the modern day era by combing the history with the daily life trends. It is indeed one of the remarkable art forms in arts and culture as it focuses on the freedom, functionality and practicality of life.

It is said that arts and culture have a close linkage with the history and that is pretty much what Bauhaus art explains too. Bauhaus art has its roots deep down into Germany and it started during the early 1900’s at a German arts and culture school. Later on, the Bauhaus art took many twists and turns in itself with the changing world, wars, and political regimes and became one of the most popular modern era art forms in arts and culture.

The Voice: a first look

imageThe BBC has released three videos to promote The Voice, its new Saturday night talent show set to launch later this month on BBC One

The BBC has released three preview videos ahead of the launch of its major new talent show at the end of March.

The Voice is already a mega-hit in 30 different countries around the world. The US version is the top-rated show on American TV.

The BBC spent £22 million acquiring British rights from the show’s Dutch creator, John de Mol, whose production company has also been behind shows such as Big Brother and Deal or No Deal.

Alighiero Boetti, Tate Modern, review

imageA rewarding new show at the Tate Modern reveals that conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti took as his subject the very foundations of reality, says Richard Dorment .

The Italian conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti didn’t do things by halves. Fixating on an idea, he followed it through to its logical conclusion — no matter where it might lead, how long it took to get there, or how absurd the conclusion turned out to be. And ideas just poured out of Boetti. In a life-size bronze self-portrait made at the end of his life, the artist stands under a cascade of water as though trying to cool down a brain literally steaming with them.

Wonderland: Granny’s Moving In, BBC Two, review

imageMichael Deacon on the unforgettable Wonderland film about the blackly comic wretchedness of ageing.

Philip Larkin was terrified of dying. Then again, he was also terrified of living to old age. I think that’s probably what you call a lose-lose situation. As it turned out, he died at only 63, so he at least escaped the latter of those two fates.

At 50 he’d written “The Old Fools”, about what he imagined it must be like to start losing your mind; the poem is empathetic, appalled, and chilling. “Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms/ Inside your head, and people in them, acting./ People you know, yet can’t quite name… That is where [the old] live:/ Not here and now, but where all happened once./ That is why they give/ An air of baffled absence, trying to be there/ Yet being here…”

When Guernica Came to Town

imageIn 1938, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings was rolled up and taken to places previously untouched by art – even car showrooms

Every day, 11,000 people make the trip to the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid to see Picasso’s Guernica. The invisible infra-red wire around the painting is hyper-vigilant — the tiniest of leans (and I speak from experience) has alarms ringing, and guards to their feet, within seconds. Understandable, but a pity since all but the most eagle-eyed will miss the clues to an extraordinary story.

Over its 75-year history, it has been rolled and unrolled, stretched, nailed up, pulled down, driven, shipped and flown, all in the service of a cause. Creases and cracks mark its surface; its four corners are littered with puncture marks tracing the life it’s led.

Johan Zoffany, Royal Academy, review

imageThe Royal Academy’s Johan Zoffany show gives a spectacularly detailed vision of rumbustious 18th century life.

If you wish to understand why the German-born 18th-century painter Johan Zoffany is considered a good artist, then head straight for the sixth section of a new show at the Royal Academy, the first substantial exhibition of his work in Britain since 1977. There, visitors can pore over a staggering picture called The Tribuna of the Uffizi, which is often described as the best painting he ever made.

Posh actors have it easier, says Downton Abbey footman

imagePosh actors have it easier, says Downton Abbey footman
Working class actors are being squeezed out of the profession by “posh” actors who can afford to live without a regular wage, according to one of the stars of Downton Abbey.

Rob James-Collier, who plays Thomas the footman in the ITV period drama, said that those from privileged backgrounds have the “comfort blanket” of family wealth to fund their ambitions.

He likened the early years of an acting career to other professions in which only middle-class offspring can afford to do unpaid internships.

“You have to work for a year with no money. How on earth are you going to finance that?” he asked, adding that he had fought hard to make it as a “working class lad”.

Emily Brontë portrait goes under the hammer

imagePortrait believed to be of author Emily Bronte will be auctioned.

A hitherto unknown portrait believed to be of author Emily Bronte is expected to fetch thousands of pounds when it goes under the hammer this week.

The oil painting is the latest in a flurry of items relating to the Bronte sisters to be put up for auction in the last few months.

Its sale by JP Humbert’s in Northamptonshire comes after the auction house sold another painting of the reclusive writer for £23,836 in December.

Emilia Fox on her lesbian romance in Upstairs Downstairs

imageBenji Wilson talks to Emilia Fox about her role as a lesbian alongside Alex Kingston in the new series of BBC One’s period drama Upstairs Downstairs

Last year, someone tried to steal Emilia Fox’s identity.

“I got a text from my bank, saying your request to change your mobile phone number has been accepted. I rang the bank, gave my address as a security code and they said, ‘As of two days ago that’s not your address.’ Someone was about to suck my life away. They’d actually gone in to the bank, with my signature, as me.”

How to Make Japanese Art Designs

imageJapan is an island with varied terrain, including snowy mountaintops, grassy ponds and rocky coastlines. Traditional Japanese art is inspired by religion and geography. Japanese ceramics, textiles, prints, paintings and folk art usually depict symbols of Buddhism or elements of the land. To create art in a Japanese style, incorporate natural elements of Japan such as bamboo, cherry blossoms and Japanese maples into your paper or fabric art design.

Hall of Fame, Watts Gallery, review


GF Watts’s penetrating portraits amounted to a panorama of Victorian society, says Richard Dorment .

It’s like an artistic form of multiple-personality disorder: the minute you think you have a handle on the work of the Victorian painter GF Watts, you find you didn’t know it at all. The painter of myths and allegories we saw in the Tate Gallery’s Symbolist exhibition is unrecognisable as the portrait painter we discovered at the National Portrait Gallery a few years later.

Frieze Art Fair in America: Armory fights British invasion

imageFrieze Week stands a good chance of replacing the Armory Show as America’s biggest art fair when it arrives in New York. Colin Gleadell reports.

Which is the greatest contemporary art fair in America? Is it the Armory Show, the biggest home-grown fair in New York? Is it Art Basel/Miami Beach, the American off-shoot of Europe’s mighty Art Basel, which launched in Florida in 2002? Or will it be Frieze, the London fair, now 10 years old and another foreign brand? Frieze’s announcement that it will launch its first New York edition in May has been sending shivers down the backbones of its competitors.

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Heidi Thomas: ‘My dramas are the new Sunday lunch’

imageThe writer of the wildly successful ‘Call the Midwife’, ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ and ‘Cranford’ explains their broad appeal.

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the success of Call the Midwife has been the passionate and positive feedback from viewers. I don’t read reviews, but I’ve been hugged by strangers in the street (they looked a bit embarrassed afterwards), and the day after the first episode was broadcast I looked out of my window to see the man next door give me a massive two-thumbs up as he went past. It made me cry.

Elmgreen and Dragset’s Fourth Plinth, review

imageWhat does Elmgreen and Dragset’s Fourth Plinth sculpture say about us, asks Alastair

Glinting in the winter sunlight, unblemished as yet by pigeon droppings, the latest work of art to occupy the Fourth Plinth in the north-west corner of Trafalgar Square was unveiled today — and in one sense it is the most old-fashioned yet.

Conceived by the Nordic artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, Powerless Structures, Fig 101, the eighth contemporary artwork commissioned for the plinth since 1999, is a monumental bronze equestrian statue more than 4m high. Executed in a realistic figurative style, it belongs to a tradition that stretches back to the ancient world, when Rome was awash with colossal gilt-bronze portraits of emperors mounted on horseback.

Emily Brontë portrait goes under the hammer

imagePortrait believed to be of author Emily Bronte will be auctioned.

A hitherto unknown portrait believed to be of author Emily Bronte is expected to fetch thousands of pounds when it goes under the hammer this week.

The oil painting is the latest in a flurry of items relating to the Bronte sisters to be put up for auction in the last few months.

Its sale by JP Humbert’s in Northamptonshire comes after the auction house sold another painting of the reclusive writer for £23,836 in December.

Going, going, gone for a song

imageThe salerooms are booming and new records are being set – no wonder Lord Coleridge was aggrieved that his Tudor chain of office was sold for a fraction of its worth.

Two years ago, a couple from Pinner found a Chinese vase in a dusty recess of their parents’ house and took it to an auctioneer in Ruislip. Everyone was astounded when it was knocked down for £53 million. It was, as headline writers noted at the time, the ultimate cash in the attic.

Top Gear, series 18, episode 4, review

imageAndrew Marszal reviews episode four of the latest series of BBC Two’s Top Gear

At some point during the endless cycle of offensive jokes, demands for apologies and “boys will be boys” refusals, somebody at the BBC seems to have decided enough is enough, because tonight’s episode of Top Gear (BBC Two) seemed intent on being as congenial and helpful as possible.

Art sales: records and surprises in London


Art sales: records and surprises in London
Colin Gleadell reports on the latest goings on in the art market, including a Valentine-themed sale and a contemporary homage to Alghiero Boetti.
The Impressionist and Modern art sales in London last week saw an impressive £278 million change hands – one of the highest totals for a winter series of such sales in London. While it was generally Henry Moore’s week, with £33 million of sales, there were also strong prices for Impressionist paintings.

Aquino confirms dating Korean TV host

image“We’re seeing each other,” Aquino answered when asked at the tailend of a news briefing the real score between him and the radio talk show host and TV anchor.

The reporters cheered the President, “Yihee.”

Pressed on how long they’ve been seeing each other, the President  invoked his right to privacy.

Aquino, 51, has been linked to various women, many of them younger than him.

Picasso and Modern British Art, Tate Britain, review

imageRichard Dorment wavers between exultance and despair at the Tate Britain’s exhibition about Picasso’s influence on British art.

When Tate Britain announced plans for an exhibition about Picasso’s influence on British artists such as Duncan Grant and Graham Sutherland, my snorts of disbelief could be heard in Sidcup. Recent exhibitions have pitted him against Titian, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Goya, Delacroix, and Matisse. To hang important works by him in a show full of his British imitators would be an act of cruelty.

Off with his head – how Henry VIII was decapitated from royal painting

imageOne of Tudor England’s most famous paintings, The Field of the Cloth of Gold, contains an unsolved puzzle.

It is one of Tudor England’s most famous paintings, depicting the pomp and splendour of Henry VIII’s reign.

But a key feature of The Field of the Cloth of Gold remains shrouded in mystery – just how Henry lost his head.

The painting portrays the 1520 meeting between Henry and Francis I of France near Calais, an 18-day spectacle arranged by Henry to boost propaganda surrounding his reign and project an image of harmony between the two nations.

Roger & Val Have Just Got In, BBC Two,

image“I’d like to keep it as bleak as possible,” said Val at the start of the return of Roger & Val Have Just Got In (BBC Two), and it felt like we were getting a hefty nudge from the scriptwriters. It’s going to be bleak, we like it bleak, they seemed to be saying. Which was presumably a message aimed at newcomers to the programme, because anyone who watched the first series would need no reminding that Roger & Val Have Just Got In is rather like a trip across the Russian steppes.

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Art and exhibitions preview of the year 2012

imageAlastair Sooke selects the key dates in the art year 2012 from January to the end of March.
Pick of the exhibitions 2012: Damien Hirst
Tate Modern, London SE1 (020 7887 8888), April 4-Sept 9
Britain’s most famous living artist has never had a retrospective at a major public gallery in this country. Yet Hirst has fashioned an artistic identity that resembles an enduring corporate brand, with currency in auction rooms on both sides of the Atlantic. It seems appropriate, therefore, that the Tate should turn to him during an Olympic year, when Britain is courting the attention of the world, and finally offer to stage one. It should allow us to evaluate his strengths and failings as an artist, not a showman, and whether he deserves a place in the pantheon of artistic greats.

Downton Abbey, Christmas special, ITV1, review

imageDownton Abbey, Christmas special, ITV1, review
Sarah Crompton reviews the Christmas day special of ‘Downton Abbey’ and is relieved to find the love story perfectly wrapped up for Christmas.

So now the last eye has been wiped, the last heart string wrung: Downton Abbey (ITV1) has delivered the consummation devoutly to be wished. That handsome, kind-hearted Matthew has got down on one knee in front of Lady Mary in the gently falling snow, and she has agreed to be his wife.

Lowry dominates British sales landscape

imageWill the Tate Britain finally give Lowry the exhibition he so richly deserves, asks Colin Gleadell.

Paintings and drawings by L S Lowry dominated last week’s sales of Modern British art. Of the 485 lots offered, only 33 were by Lowry, but they contributed precisely half of the total £40 million generated by the sales. As whispers begin to circulate that Tate Britain is finally to give Lowry the exhibition he so richly deserves, 14 works from the collection of the late Lord Forte at Christie’s sold for more than £18 million, with a painting of Piccadilly Circus equalling the record for Lowry at £5.6 million. Forte bought most of his Lowrys in the 1960s and 1970s, but added this to his collection in 1983 when the swashbuckling art dealer Roy Miles persuaded him he should have it because he had launched his first “milk bar” within a stone’s throw in Regent Street. Lord Forte, as he became in 1982, also owned the Café Royale in Regent Street, and the Criterion building and Lillywhite’s, from where Lowry’s view may have been painted.

Slow Moving Millie: ‘Morrissey said it was delightful’

imageNeil McCormick meets Amelia Warner, the singer behind the John Lewis commercial.

Amelia Warner is the voice of the Christmas ad that is dividing the nation. You must know the one I am talking about. The new TV campaign for the John Lewis department store chain features a cute child waiting impatiently for Christmas, while Warner’s dreamy version of the Smiths’ Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want plays in the background. So far, so mawkish.

Only it turns out he’s waiting to give his parents a present because, of course, ’tis better to give than to receive (as long as you are giving something from John Lewis, presumably).

Richard Green: Mayfair’s new temple to modern art

As Richard Green expands his London gallery empire, Colin Gleadell looks back at his remarkable rise to the top.


Tuesday sees the official opening of one of the most talked about art galleries in London. Bang next to Sotheby’s, above which it rises by a single, graceful story, the new Richard Green gallery looks as though it has been there for ever. That’s due to the skill of Young Architect of the Year contender George Saumarez Smith, who has effectively rebuilt two previously unremarkable buildings as one, and cloaked it with a magnificent neo-classical façade replete with a Hellenistic-style frieze that spans the width of the building.

Why studio audiences do no favours to radio comedy

Gillian Reynolds assesses some of the changes Radio 4 Controller Gwyneth Williams has made and reviews the week’s radio, including the new Radio 4 panel game Dilemma and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (Radio 4).


Gwyneth Williams, Radio 4’s Controller, is adamant. She is, she told Feedback (Radio 4, Friday, repeated Sunday) “editorially driven”, convinced that she is right to have extended The World at One by 15 minutes because “we need it”. So far, Feedback’s correspondents don’t agree. What was the point, said one, of the “dull and pointless” interview with Bill Gates? Why, asked another, was economist Vicky Price quizzed more on the break-up of her marriage (to Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change) than economics?

Radio 4 protected in BBC cuts


The BBC is to protect high-quality output such as news, drama and Radio 4 from its forthcoming cuts programme by seeking heavy savings from mass-market services such as BBC Two and Radio 1, the corporation will announce this week.

Mark Thompson, the Director-General, will on Thursday reveal the contents of his Delivering Quality First strategy, which will see the corporation announce cuts of around £700 million to the £3.5 billion it currently spends each year.

The savings are necessary after the BBC agreed to freeze the licence fee for six years, and take on the funding of the World Service from the Foreign Office.

Half of the cuts, some £350 million, will come from productivity and efficiency savings, with executives warning that rank and file BBC staff face a “painful” few months. Around 2,500 jobs will be cut from the corporation’s 17,000 employees, with back-office areas such as human resources, marketing and legal departments hardest hit.

Frank Stella interview: the bigger picture

imageFrank Stella has been at the forefront of abstract art for half a century. Ahead of an extensive retrospective in Britain, he talks about his work

If you are looking for clues to the character of Frank Stella, the Formula One racing car parked inside his vast studio in upstate New York is a giveaway. ‘Ferrari gave that to me,’ the American abstract artist tells me nonchalantly, hooking a Cuban cigar from an ashtray beside him. ‘It did race, but it doesn’t have a motor now, so it’s just for show.’

Stella has been probing the limits of painting for more than five decades. His love of fast cars, though, dates from the mid-1970s, when BMW gave him one in exchange for decorating a racing model that competed at Le Mans. Six years later, in 1982, he was arrested for hurtling at 105mph along a highway in New York State. But the supercar inside his studio in Rock Tavern is testament not only to the artist’s love of speed. Once driven by Michael Schumacher, it also represents the competitive streak that has blazed through Stella’s life.

Take tennis. When he was younger – before, he says, his hip and knees ‘gave way’ – he used to play for hours, several times a week. After a while, though, his friends stopped playing with him. The gallery director Lawrence Rubin, who gave Stella his second solo show, in Paris in 1961, once said, ‘He doesn’t play for the fun of playing. He plays to win. And that’s the way he plays art.’

The Marvellous Mrs Beeton, with Sophie Dahl, BBC Two, review

imageKylie O’Brien reviews The Marvellous Mrs Beeton, with Sophie Dahl, on BBC Two.

Could someone have a quiet word with Sophie Dahl? Cheekbones like Sabatier knives and a smile wide as a Bath Oliver biscuit do not a great presenter make, and last night’s effort – The Marvellous Mrs Beeton, with Sophie Dahl (BBC Two) – was damp as undercooked pastry.

It could be that a lot of charm goes a very little way, as last month’s request for £500,000 to save her grandpa Roald’s shed proves (what was the Today programme thinking? That we’d all chip in a fiver to save a millionairess model, wife to multimillionaire musician Jamie Cullum, not to mention the Dahl estate, from coughing up, simply because Sophie asked us nicely?). It didn’t wash.

Ford Madox Brown, Manchester Art Gallery, review

imageA new show captures the brilliance of Ford Madox Brown, says Richard Dorment

Ford Madox Brown is the odd man out among the Pre-Raphaelites. Born in 1821 to English parents in Calais, he learnt to paint in the academies at Antwerp, Ghent and Paris. But from the beginning Brown was a paid-up member of the awkward squad. He rejected the academic systems and conventions he’d been taught at these institutions in favour of the archaic purity of line he found in the work of the German Nazarene painters, and although he shared the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he never felt the need to became a member.

Life and Fate: vivid, heartbreaking, illuminating and utterly brilliant

imageRadio 4’s eight-hour adaptation of Vasily Grossman’s epic Life and Fate represents the pinnacle of radio drama

Everything about Vasily Grossman’s novel, Life and Fate is epic. It’s 900 pages long. It was deemed so dangerous when published in 1959 that the KBG arrested the book itself, and even confiscated the typewriter ribbons Grossman had used. Praise from its fans is dizzying, with the book described by many as the most important of the 20th century. And Radio 4 has this week for the first time ever given all of the station’s drama slots – bar The Archers – over to an eight-hour dramatisation of it.

Andrew Marr, on Feedback last week, recalled the moment Mark Damazer – the former Radio 4 controller who was responsible for this immersive approach to the drama – pressed a copy of the novel onto him, saying, “If you want to be a serious person, you have to read this book”.

John Martin: Apocalypse, at Tate Britain, Seven magazine review

imageJohn Martin exposed the Victorians’ darkest fears – with devastating effect

To say the art of John Martin divided 19th-century critical opinion would be an understatement. Edward Bulwer Lytton declared him to be “the greatest, the most lofty, the most original genius of the age”. But Samuel Taylor Coleridge thought he was “a poor creature” who “looked at Nature through bits of stained glass, and was never satisfied with any appearance that was not prodigious”.

John Martin: Apocalypse, the most extensive exhibition of the painter’s work since his death in 1854, is an opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. On this evidence, his genius is open to question but he was certainly a thunderously entertaining painter of death, destruction and doom.

From The Fades to Misfits – is youth drama leading the way?


Fantasy series The Fades joins Misfits, Skins and Being Human in demonstrating that youth drama is among the most bold and innovative on TV

“It was about a boy who investigates ghosts that live in pipes with his Grandad,” says writer Jack Thorne of the very early drafts of his BBC3 fantasy series The Fades. “It was shit”. Fortunately the show that the Skins and This is England scriptwriter did eventually come to complete – the first episode of which aired last night – is weird, off the wall, annoying in places and with a bit too much wisecracking. But far from shit.

National Gallery announces first major photography exhibition


The National Gallery have announced their 2012 exhibitions programme, with a photography retrospective among the blockbuster shows.

Will photographers ever truly rank among art history’s great masters? If that old debate has not yet been put to bed, it can be now.

Among the National Gallery’s three major paying exhibitions for next year are shows which will focus on Turner, Titian and photography respectively.

‘Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present’, which is slated to open in October, will showcase “exceptional examples” of early and contemporary photography in a display which will span 150 years of the medium.

The Fades, BBC Three, review


Michael Deacon reviews episode one of The Fades, BBC Three’s new fantasy horror serial.

In The Fades, BBC Three’s new fantasy horror serial, our teenage hero Paul (Iain de Caestecker) wets the bed. Still, at least he has an excuse: during the night he’s haunted by terrifyingly intense visions of apocalypse. Oh, and when he’s awake he can see dead people.

That last sentence may sound eerily similar to the premise of M Night Shyamalan’s 1999 film The Sixth Sense (as indeed Paul’s best friend pointed out to him), but there’s a bit more to it than that: one of these spirits (or “Fades”) is on a murder spree.

So far The Fades is promisingly tense, and should appeal to fans of Being Human (also on BBC Three). Its appeal to others depends on their ability to stomach the exposition.

Is Damien Hirst trying to influence the art market?

imageDespite his huge wealth, Damien Hirst is still obsessed with making his paintings pay.There is an old joke that the clue to contemporary art is in the name: it is a con, and it is temporary. Even those inured to the industry’s excesses, however, might have been surprised by a report at the weekend about Damien Hirst. Not apparently content with his £215 million fortune, the original Young British Artist has allegedly taken to “bullying” auction houses into refusing to sell prints individually, insisting that they should be sold only as a complete package.

The work in question was In a Spin, the Action of the World on Things, a 4ft by 3ft box covered in one of Hirst’s iconic spin paintings, which are created by a machine pouring paint on to a canvas. Inside each box (Hirst made 68 of them) are 23 signed prints of spin images.

Hay Festival Segovia – Anselm Kiefer: ‘The truth is always gray’

imageNot long ago Germany’s great conceptual artist Anselm Kiefer collided with the Golden Age of Castilian culture for a new series of works, which he named after a line from a sonnet by baroque poet Francisco de Quevedo. ‘I hold all Indias in my hand,’ is the line, taken from an achingly romantic sonnet, in which Quevedo describes holding a ring that bears the portrait of his beloved.

But Kiefer, a habitual forager of imagery and inspiration from great poets of the past, stole the line for some large, weathered and paint-spattered photographs which depict the artist’s tiny head just visible above surface of a choppy sea, as he appears ready to be enveloped by waves at any second.

Radio makes us happier than TV – so cut out those webcams

imageTo quote the song from which Lady Gaga took her name: radio – someone still loves you. Lots of people, in fact. A study has found that listening to the radio boosts our happiness by 100 per cent, and our energy levels by 300 per cent, much greater increases than we get from watching TV or surfing the web. Those of us in Team Marconi rather than Team Logie Baird won’t be surprised by this.

First the pictures are better. Romping through the fields of your own imagination is much more uplifting than being told exactly how a scene or a character looks. And second (this is why radio will always be such a significant factor in most people’s day-to-day lives) – you can do other things while you’re listening to it. Consuming TV and the internet are sedentary activities.

Rothko in Britain: a timeline



A new show at the Whitechapel Gallery celebrates a landmark exhibition which would seal a special bond between the American painter Mark Rothko and his British contemporaries.


• Rothko sailed to Britain – he never flew – for a holiday with his wife and daughter Kate. It was his third time in Europe.

• He stayed with his close friend and painter William Scott – whom he had met in New York in 1953 – and his family in their cottage in Somerset.

• At lunch with British abstract painters Peter Lanyon and Terry Frost, Rothko expressed his frustration with his work being misunderstood. He said: “You think my paintings are calm, like windows in some cathedral? You should look again. I’m the most violent of all the American painters. Behind those colours there hides the final cataclysm.”

The British Design Awards

Vote for your favourites in this year’s competition, and you could win a £5,000 spree in John Lewis .


As the world stumbles from one economic crisis to another, the effects are felt far and wide. Over the course of the past year some of our favourite shops and designers have been faced with the incredibly difficult task of simply staying in business. Not everyone has been successful, but some have truly flourished.

That’s why the Telegraph Magazine is proud to be working with Elle Decoration to bring you its British Design Awards. Now in their 10th year, the awards are a celebration of the very best of British design over the past 12 months, an acknowledgement of the design industry’s true innovators. These are the people, the shops and the brands whose innovation and creativity has ensured that their appeal to an increasingly demanding consumer has endured.

Degas and the Ballet, review


Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement, Royal Academy of Arts, review
As this brilliant exhibition shows, Degas perfectly captured the whirling yet transient energy of dance, writes Alastair Sooke n February 1874, the French writer Edmond de Goncourt visited “a strange painter called Degas” in his studio. It proved a memorable occasion. Degas performed a kind of jig — a “choreographic sequence”, as Goncourt put it in his journal, based on the movements of ballerinas. The whole incident was “very amusing”, as Goncourt watched Degas “high on his points, his arms rounded, mixing the aesthetics of a dance master with those of a painter”.

Downton Abbey fever fuels bidding frenzy at Cowdray Park House auction

imageFamily heirlooms from Cowdray Park House fetched way over the estimated sale price today thanks to the public’s clamour for a take-away slice of the aristocracy, driven in part by the popularity of the ITV drama.

Christie’s auctioneers had thought the entire three-day sale would raise £5 million, but by the end of the first day today it had already taken £5.7 million.

Viscount Cowdray is putting 1,200 lots under the hammer at the auction of art, furniture and bric-a-brac where members of the public can pick up their own piece of country house history for as little as £50.

Support your local chapel

Our churches are a thrilling link with our past. And 10,000 will open their doors today .


If we have no sense of the past, our sense of the present is diminished. Of the many gateways to our past the churches and chapels of Britain offer the most profound insights. Grand houses and castles may be more impressive but the simple parish church usually outdates them all.

I live in a Sussex hamlet right under the Downs. There are some traces of old houses, but nothing earlier than the 16th century. Our church, on the other hand, dates back to the mid-13th century and probably before that. Our first rector, Gervase, was worshipping here in 1226.

Taking off the Mask

imageIt seems I haven’t written a personal essay in a very long time. My life has changed in subtle ways since my year-long essay-writing binge on this blog. I am consumed more than ever by my activities on the internet, with less time to let my mind “go blank” or empty itself.

Mostly, I am preoccupied with Escape into Life, the online arts journal I founded about a year ago. Working with programmers and designers, attracting writers and readers, and editing submissions on an almost daily basis wears me down. Some days I would just like to disappear from the online world.

TV review: Perfect Couples; Happy Endings

Friends was a joy. Sad, then, that E4 has replaced it with two formulaic comedies


If you’ve ever wanted to witness a terrifying race to the bottom, in which wit, charm and belly laughs are supplanted by something distinctly sulphurous, allow me to introduce you to E4’s new Thursday night sitcoms. The channel stopped showing repeats of Friends on Sunday, and the rush to replace it brought forth two formulaic shows, each featuring three young men and three young women wisecracking in a fashion that made that previous Friends rip-off, How I Met Your Mother, look positively Wildean.

The joy of watching Friends was that for all the ridiculous scenarios – Phoebe believing her mother had been reincarnated as a cat, say – there was something essentially believable about the characters. Also, likable. They could easily have fallen into sexist stereotypes, with Joey as a boorish bloke, and Rachel as a hot airhead, but they never quite did. All had spirit and charm, and the women were just as friendly with the men as they were with each other. The two sexes weren’t presented as entirely different species.

Ben Nicholson’s northern period serves up a Middlesbrough treat

The Northerner’s art supremo, Alan Sykes, inspects mima’s latest exhibition with a learned Cumbrian eye


Ben Nicholson one of the pioneers of modernist painting in the UK, is generally associated with London and the St Ives School which he and his friend Kit Wood effectively founded.

However, Nicholson spent a significant part of his early development living with his first wife Winifred Nicholson at a family farm of her’s right on Hadrian’s Wall, not far from Carlisle, where they were visited by many other artists from their circle, including Paul Nash, Ivon Hitchens and Jean Hugo.

Market News: Edinburgh Art Festival offers work from Scottish artists

Some of the shows have opened already, but officially the Edinburgh Art Festival – that’s for visual arts as opposed to the more famous one for performing arts, which has separate funding – begins on Thursday.


Richard Ingleby, one of the trustees, particularly welcomes the Scottish Government’s Expo funding this year, which has allowed the commissioning of works that will have a life in Edinburgh beyond the festival itself.

These include permanent works by two Scottish former Turner Prize winners – Martin Creed’s The Scotsman Steps, in which the artist has marbled each step of a historic public stairway in the city, and Richard Wright’s Stairwell Project, in which the artist has painted tiny organic shapes on the walls and ceiling of a stairwell in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Degas: the ascetic with an eye for the ladies

Degas had a unique genius for capturing the female form in motion. On the ever of a major new exhibition, Mark Hudson looks at the most enigmatic of the Impressionists.


Beyond the opulent facade of the Paris Opera, and the marbled entrance halls and salons, there is a warren of bleak corridors connecting the offices, rehearsal rooms and costume-makers’ workshops.

In the centre of this area, right behind the stage itself, lies a gilded chamber quite as splendid as anything in the theatre’s public areas: the so-called Foyer de la Danse. It was here, in the 19th century, that the abonnés, rich and powerful men whose status as “subscribers” gave them access to every area of the theatre, would come after performances to meet the dancers and proposition them.

Radio head: Covering the riots

In times of trouble it seems people turn to the radio for impressive detail and context The radio has barely been off since Saturday.


Television news might have the dramatic pictures, but radio does the detail and context swiftly and impressively. And it seems that in times of trouble, we turn to radio in even greater numbers: LBC yesterday reported an unprecedented 20,000 calls to the station in 24 hours.

Some of the calls making it on air will stay for a while with anyone who heard them. Nick Ferrari – whose strong style suited the shocking grimness of the morning’s news – spoke to Helen, a musician who had to flee her flat in Ealing when the shop downstairs was looted.

Terry Wogan shows how to sign off

Terry Wogan’s graceful and whimsical goodbye was a victory for him as the nation’s court jester – and for BBC Radio 2 Sir Terry Wogan’s whimsical announcement yesterday morning that he will be stepping down from his hallowed Radio 2 breakfast slot left me and his millions of listeners, I’ll wager, with a sense of relief at the manner of his departure.

image There seemed no rancour in Wogan’s words to sully his achievements. It is never easy to say goodbye, but he is bowing out graciously, at the top of his game, and without moaning, at 71. To have done anything less would have undermined his status as the nation’s court jester.

The manner of Wogan’s gentle easing out is also quite unlike the bad tempered mood that marked the ousting of Radio 2’s other knight, Sir Jimmy Young, back in 2002.

Strictly Come Dancing 2011: who will be on the dancefloor?

Strictly Come Dancing is back with another batch of famous faces aiming to waltz, foxtrot and salsa their way into our hearts September is upon us, the nights are drawing in, and the X Factor is in full swing – it’s time to dust off Bruce Forsyth and let Tess Daly’s cleavage spill forth in HD for a new series of Strictly Come Dancing!


Series nine kicks off on BBC1 this Saturday, with a new batch of celebs warming up their rictus grins and attempting to waltz, foxtrot and salsa their way into the nation’s living rooms.

So who’s tripping the light fantastic this year? The celebrities will be unveiled on the One Show on Tuesday night, but according to reports in the Sun, this year will bring the usual mix of soap has-beens, TV actors of yesteryear, sports stars and daytime TV randoms. Surprisingly, I’ve heard of all but two of the starting 14 celebs; a significant improvement on previous years. Either I’m becoming more celebrity aware, or they’ve raided the 1980s and 90s in a big way.

Harry’s Arctic Heroes, BBC One, review

Benji Wilson reviews the first part of Harry’s Arctic Heroes (BBC One), in which Prince Harry accompanies four wounded soldiers on a polar expedition; plus Channel 4’s one-off drama Random.


As I sit here typing, knowing that my greatest struggle today will probably consist of changing a printer cartridge, the scale of my admiration for the severely injured soldiers who decided to trek to the North Pole in last night’s Harry’s Arctic Heroes (BBC One) is somewhere approaching intergalactic.

Four British soldiers, all badly wounded in Afghanistan, set out on an unsupported walk to the Pole. Their injuries had smashed them to bits both physically – two arms and a leg amputated; a broken back and 32 operations between the four of them – as well as mentally. Every one of them just wanted to be back soldiering; they never will.

Saudi Arabia takes step to build world’s tallest tower

Saudi Arabia is set to start work on building the world’s tallest skyscraper in a bid to outdo Gulf neighbour Dubai, which inaugurated its own record-breaking skyscraper less than two years ago.


The Saudis awarded a more than $1 billion contract for a spire that will soar two-thirds of a mile high, to be named the Kingdom Tower. It will have a Four Seasons hotel, serviced apartments, luxury condominiums and offices, encompassing, in all, about 5.4 million square feet.
Saudi Arabia takes step to build world’s tallest tower: The Kingdom Tower
A model of the world’s tallest tower to be built in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

Eastenders or the Archers, Woman’s Hour or Loose Women, which medium do you prefer?


Over coffee this morning I discovered that a new colleague is, like me, a huge fan of radio. We fell into passionately comparing likes, dislikes and must-listen shows and, at the end of a mammoth discussion about the virtues of Radio 4 (even if that Sunday night 40th birthday programme, 4 at 40, did go on far, far too long and boringly), my companion muttered something about telly and then looked a bit abashed. “I don’t suppose you watch much,” he said. It was clearly meant to be a compliment, and testimony to my long-standing, ultra-purist radio allegiance. Given that I had spent last night glued to The Restaurant on BBC2, and will do the same tonight for the “challenge” show, I rather choked on the flattery.

Art and Design connection

imageAccording to one of its most general definitions, art is the product or the creative process of arranging elements (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the human senses, emotions, and intellect. It encompasses a wide range of activities, creations, and modes of expression, including paintings, music, photography, literature, sculpture, and films. The definitions of art are explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics, and even disciplines such as history and psychology analyze its relationship with humanity.

The Chapman Brothers: Jake or Dinos Chapman at the White Cube, review

The brothers grim, Jake and Dinos Chapman, present the same old familiar shocks at the White Cube. Rating: * *


THE distinguished career of Dinos and Jake Chapman peaked in 2000 with the exhibition at the Royal Academy of Hell, a three- dimensional panoramic sculptural collage in which 10,000 toy Nazis and their skeletal assistants were shown gleefully engaged in mass extermination of their fellow men, women and children for the sheer fun of the thing. Soon after that coup de théâtre they came up with their glorious send-up of ethnographic art and The Chapman Family Collection and then they capped those two bullseyes with their inspired defacement of the 83 etchings in Goya’s Disasters of War.

Show Me the Funny – and the unfunny

A contest between 10 jobbing standups is more MasterChef than The X Factor bringing as much awkwardness as laughter


It was only a matter of time before standup got its own The X Factor. So we should be thankful that ITV’s Show Me the Funny isn’t as crass as it might have been. A contest between 10 jobbing standups, to win £100,000, a live tour and a DVD deal, the show starts tonight with the first heats in Liverpool. It’s full of blowhard guff about how scary standup is to do, and what a tough crowd Scousers are. And, like The X Factor, it promotes a narrow idea of its artform. But it’s watchable enough, and not without modest insights into the life and work of the professional joker.

TV review: Show Me The Funny and British Masters

Show Me The Funny? You get a lot more laughs from Karren, Nick and Lord Sugar


The first and last time I laughed during Show Me The Funny (ITV1) was when the world’s only half-Welsh, half-Spanish comedian introduced himself to his audience. “Buenas tardes. I am Ignacio Lopez,” he began. “Some of you may recognise me as the barman you slept with in Magaluf a couple of years ago.”

Miraculously, he channelled both halves of his noble heritage: Tom Jones’s understandably smug expression before being showered with knickers; and Antonio Banderas’s cross-species sexual braggadocio in Shrek. You remember, when he voiced Puss in Boots and propositioned Cameron Diaz’s princess.

Only a fool would dismiss the BBC’s ‘Mixed-Race’ season as PC box-ticking

imageYesterday the BBC announced their new “Mixed-Race” season of programmes to be screened in the autumn. From a documentary on singer Shirley Bassey to a programme on race, sex and empire, the series will explore what it means to be mixed-race in Britain today.

Only a fool would dismiss this season as an exercise in multicultural box-ticking. Britain in 2011 has proportionately the largest mixed-race population in the Western world and it continues to rise. This reflection of contemporary society soon to be on our screens is both exciting and necessary.

Radio makes us happier than TV – so cut out those webcams

imageTo quote the song from which Lady Gaga took her name: radio – someone still loves you. Lots of people, in fact. A study has found that listening to the radio boosts our happiness by 100 per cent, and our energy levels by 300 per cent, much greater increases than we get from watching TV or surfing the web.

Those of us in Team Marconi rather than Team Logie Baird won’t be surprised by this.First the pictures are better. Romping through the fields of your own imagination is much more uplifting than being told exactly how a scene or a character looks. And second (this is why radio will always be such a significant factor in most people’s day-to-day lives) – you can do other things while you’re listening to it. Consuming TV and the internet are sedentary activities. Radio, on the other hand, can be listened to while changing a nappy, slicing a courgette, hoovering the stairs or (if you’re particularly talented) all three at the same time. A stimulating programme makes you quicker at domestic tasks, therefore more productive, therefore happier and more energetic. I hate ironing – yet if I do it to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Drive programme it becomes bearable. Better still do it to a music station: you can iron in time to the beat.

Art exhibitions of 2011

2011 is going to be another year of unforgettable shows, says Richard Dorment.


As always, it’s at the British Museum we’ll see the kind of shows no other institution in this country does or could do. In March we see what in art amounts to a rare and endangered species — ancient and medieval objects from the National Museum in Kabul. After visitations from the Russians and the Taliban the most amazing thing about ‘Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World’ is that there was anything left to lend (March 30 July 3). In June lovers of bling everywhere should beat a path to the BM’s ‘Treasures of Heaven’, an exhibition of gem studded silver and gold Medieval and Renaissance reliquaries, many still containing a bit of the saint’s bone or splinter from the true cross (October 27- February 2012). Finally in the autumn the British Museum will stage a show of art so old that I wasn’t aware it existed — for the sculpture and drawings we’ll see in ‘Ice Age Art’ were made some 35,000 years ago. Beat that.

Devotion by Design, National Gallery / Treasures of Heaven, British Museum, review

Two new shows at the National Gallery and British Museum highlight the importance of religious paintings and relics, says Richard Dorment . Rating: Devotion by Design: image

Selected entirely from pictures in the permanent collection, the National Gallery’s exhibition of Italian 14th- and 15th-century altarpieces is so beautiful that it would be easy to miss the breathtaking audacity of the installation. Even if you feel you know these images well, to see them dramatically lit against dark walls and at the height they would have been hung in their original architectural setting is to see them as though for the first time.

An altarpiece is a specific kind of religious image because it was made to hang in a church where it served to create or intensify spiritual experience. To transfer an altarpiece to an art gallery is to change its meaning by shifting the viewer’s attention to questions of authorship, date, school and stylistic development.

We need a Toulouse-Lautrec to record our sleazy, hedonistic times

You may not have heard of Jane Avril, but you’ve probably seen her. A dancer at the Moulin Rouge, she was Toulouse-Lautrec’s favourite model; her orange-red hair and long, gangly legs pop up all over the place in his posters and paintings.


There she is, dancing the can-can at the Jardin de Paris, in the audience at the Divan Japonais (pictured) – two other Paris nightclubs – or knocking back absinthe at the Moulin Rouge.

All these pictures and posters have been brought together at a revealing exhibition, which has just opened at the Courtauld Gallery on the Strand (until September 18). Toulouse-Lautrec has been much loved in Britain since his first show here in 1894 – his posters still adorn a million student bedrooms and high street bistro walls – but there hasn’t been a show of his pictures in London for 20 years.

New heights for modern Czech art at landmark London sale

One sculpture of a man on a bicycle by Otakar Svec sold for seven times its higher estimate.

imagePrices for modern Czech art were going through the roof at Sotheby’s on Monday.

The auction of works from the Hascoe collection, which was previewed here last week, had doubled its £5 million pre-sale estimate mid way through the sale after landmark record prices were set for Frantisek Kupka (£1.5 million), Josef Capek (£565,250), Frantisek Foltyn (£433,250), and Bohumil Kubista (£397,250).

Government Art Collection, Whitechapel Gallery, review

A new exhibition gives the public a rare insight into the work – and works – of the Government Art Collection, says Richard Dorment.


In his best-seller Blink, Malcolm Gladwell made the point that human beings make up their minds about people, places and situations based on first impressions – and that these split-second judgments usually turn out to be right. The Government Art Collection (GAC) exists to create those first impressions. Established in 1935, its purpose is to ensure that the art on the walls of buildings the British government owns both at home and abroad is of the highest quality. Art tells the world who we are and the values we share – and anyone who doubts it should visit a foreign embassy or consulate where otherwise bare walls are adorned with the country’s national flag or a photograph of its supreme leader.

Green Lantern: ‘Joyless garbage’, say American critics

£100million blockbuster The Green Lantern is savaged by critics as film receives its Hollywood premiere.


The Green Lantern, which cost £100million to make and stars Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, had its American premiere last night in Hollywood – but the American critics have given it a critical mauling. Here’s what they are saying:

“As summer garbage goes, The Green Lantern can’t go fast enough. Even in the brainless world of cinematic comic books gone bad, it’s as bad as it gets—a dumb, pointless, ugly, moronic and incomprehensible jumble of botched effects, technical blunders, and cluttered chaos. Oh yes. It is also – did I forget to mention? – boring.”

“Remember when big, summer blockbusters were fun — when they were a light, clever and entertaining escape? That notion apparently eluded the makers of Green Lantern, a joyless amalgamation of expository dialogue and special effects that aren’t especially special.’

Do you like good music? Watch Abbey Road Debuts


Here’s some exciting news for music fans. Abbey Road Debuts, a new show stepping into the barren land of British music television, starts tonight. Readers, I think our sadness over the death of Top of the Pops is about to be assuaged. And those reruns of TOTP from 1976 that were announced last week do not constitute a “return” of the programme.

It will be similar to TOTP in that it includes new music, an audience and a high profile presenter (Tom Ravenscroft, the diverse BBC6 music DJ and son of the late John Peel).

Also, it will be a place from which new artists are talked about and filter into the wider cultural consciousness.

Eurovision 2011: Live Blog

imageJoin in my live Eurovision Song Contest blog by commenting below, emailing me at, or finding me on Twitter – @neilmidgley.

23.28 Someone’s just tweeted that there are only 58 hotels listed on TripAdvisor for the whole of Azerbaijan. Eurovision’s just taken on a whole new post-Soviet dimension… Goodnight all!

23.19 Some of the crowd are on the pitch… We’re off to Azerbaijan next year. Good evening Baku!

I’m black, I love Radio 4, and I don’t want to be patronised

imageI’m a black British (mixed-race) Londoner, and that’s precisely the reason I love Radio 4. If I want ragga music, grime or grammatically tortuous inane patois, I can easily tune into a myriad of local pirate radio stations, or even into the BBC’s very own Radio 1Xtra – the official “yoof” black music station, which specialises in moronic “street” drivel set to the latest syncopated beats.

We should remember that, as much as I would like to hear more non-white talent and ethnic minority interest stories on Radio 4, we still live in a country which is 94 per cent white. For better or for worse, I happily accept that.

BBC Radio 3’s decision to broadcast live concerts is music to my ears

imageThe news broke yesterday that BBC Radio 3 will start to broadcast “live” concerts again after a four-year hiatus. But not just a few celebrity events dotted here and there: no, every weekday evening for 46 weeks of the year we will be able to tune in to a happening event as it happens.

Modern art, not rubbish

imageArt is often a refuge for unwanted objects. From German artist H.A. Schult’s Trash People to Gustav Metzger’s waste paper sculptures, the line between art and rubbish is often fine.So much so that Anish Kapoor’s polystyrene, resin and cement sculptures was accidentally thrown out by waste disposal experts last year. Oh, and Damien Hirst who had an installation accidentally put in the rubbish bin in 2001 – though some would say that was justified.Laura White’s artworks are similarly constructed from rubbish.

Great expectations?

imageBig artists often badmouth their arts institutions… but rarely have I heard criticism for the college praising them too much.

But this is exactly what was reported today. Artists, including Royal College of Art success story Gavin Turk and Chelsea School of Art graduate Fiona MacDonald, are criticising art colleges for a ‘celebrity culture’  that they say makes students think they can make it, regardless of the credit crunch.

Does the Royal College of Art suffer from a celebrity culture?

The £30m Turner sale shows how all-powerful the Getty Museum is

imageTurner’s “Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino” deserves the £29.7m record price that the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles paid for it.
Not only does it show Turner’s soft, hazy, original brush working well. It’s also of a thumpingly familiar, picture postcard scene  – the view down from the Capitoline Hill across the ancient ruins of the Forum, then still called the Campo Vaccino, or cattle field, because of the thick layers of earth and vegetation that covered it after the fall of Rome. It’s still a pleasingly rural spot in Turner’s picture – with goats and peasants roaming the ruins, and very few tourists on mini-breaks.

Most famous and influential people in history

imageA friend sent me the link to this fascinating painting of famous people in history discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante.  It is from 2006, oil on canvas, by Chinese artists Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang An.  You have to scroll to the right, and each figure is linked to their Wikipedia entry.

Who do you think is missing from the line-up?  Or who is there who should not be?

The Stubbs that ticks all the billionaire boxes

imageGimcrack on Newmarket Heath, by Stubbs, is about to go on sale at Christie’s, and is bound to go for more than £20m – a buyer has assured the auction house that they’ll pay at least that.

Even without that assurance, it was bound to go for a fortune. Not just because it is a supremely fine, supremely English picture, and an exceptional Stubbs, but also because it is pure modern billionaire art.

The most famous racehorse of the 18th century at the most famous flat racecourse of any century? There are any number of sporting billionaires who’d pay £20m for it. Racing may be called the Sport of Kings; but it is also the Sport of the Superzillionaire with cash to spare, from all over the world, but particularly in the Middle East and America.

Sesame Street and Friends ‘pumping out left wing messages

Sesame Street, Friends and Happy Days are being used to promote secret left wing messages, according to a new book.

imageConservative columnist and author Ben Shapiro accused television executives and writers of pushing a liberal agenda in several high profile American television entertainment shows.

His book “Primetime Propaganda” will show how the “most powerful medium of mass communication in human history became a vehicle for spreading the radical agenda of the left side of the political spectrum,” according to the publishers HarperCollins.

Today’s radio highlights

The best radio programmes on BBC, commercial and digital stations chosen by Gillian Reynolds, the UK’s top radio critic.imageMONDAY 30 MAY

Afternoon Play: Corrinne Come Back and Gone

Radio 4FM, 2.15pm

This is Lenny Henry’s first play for Radio 4 and it is a powerful piece, especially for a Spring Bank Holiday afternoon. Corrinne (Claire Benedict, excellent in the part) left Jamaica years ago, in flight from a brutal husband. Now he’s dead and she’s free to go back to see the three daughters she had to leave behind. They’re grown up now, with lives, families and fears and hopes of their own. Each has strong things to say to Corrinne. But there are still ways in which they can learn from each other, once they can find the courage to be honest.

Confession: I was in Sweden


I neglected to mention that I’ve been wandering around Stockholm since Saturday. My mum, AKA Grandma G, insists it’s not good practice to tell your thousands of daily readers that you’re not at home. Just in case one of them wants to figure out where you live and tries to steal your cool orange stapler.

But I’ve just returned! Details about my awesome trip to come. In the meantime, enjoy this delightful Stockholm print by Ian Winstanley, available for a mere $17.99 at

Republican art rules OK


The royal wedding will showcase Westminster Abbey, but it is under republics, not monarchies, that artists flourish the most The cultural heritage of the British monarchy is about to go on display all over the world as screens glow with the architectural and sculptural grandeur of Westminster Abbey. Founded in the 10th century, loaded with new marvels down the ages of which the most sublime is surely the chapel of Henry VII with its filigree fan vaulting, this royal abbey church is the best example anyone could ever adduce to support the contention that British culture is profoundly beholden to and involved in the regal tradition.

Art market news


A ceramic stripy cat was the surprise sale of the David Hockney auction last week.

The big surprise of Bonhams’ David Hockney sale last week was the discovery of an early ceramic of a well-fed, stripy cat, dated 1955, when the artist was an 18-year-old student in Bradford (see below). Paintings by Hockney from this period are rare; ceramics are virtually unheard of. So how does this cat add to our understanding of Hockney’s development as an artist? Is it evidence of a brief flirtation with craft over fine art studies? A remnant of his schoolboy facility for cartoons? Perhaps an early example of his fondness for decorative stripes? Bonhams offered no information about it apart from a tentative £5,000 to £7,000 estimate, which was duly hammered as it fetched a goodly £33,600 – enough to tempt more Hockney ceramics out of the woodwork, if there are any.

Is there too much crime drama on TV?


BBC1 chief Danny Cohen justified the decision to axe Zen by claiming there were too many crime series on our screens. So are there – and which would you kill off?

On Wednesday BBC1 controller Danny Cohen defended his decision to axe Zen, starring Rufus Sewell, on the basis that television already has too many male detectives and crime dramas. “You can’t keep on doing everything if you want to bring in new things. I felt that we risked having too many male detectives, and arguably we have had maybe too much crime,” Cohen said.

A week listening to … Classic FM


Despite its smorgasbord of celebrity DJs, a self-promoting Classic FM manages to retain a soothing quality – until David Mellor turns up Because my dentist plays Classic FM in her surgery, I will forever associate it with a rather painful series of root canal treatments. But I too have employed it for its soothing properties – tuning in as a last ditch attempt to calm frayed nerves on long family car journeys. It never works but due to Classic FM’s land-grab of the dial between 100 and 102MHz its often the only station my temperamental car radio can pick up. Not that we ever stay listening for long – I think eight minutes is our record before the quest to find a bit of Rihanna or Lady Gaga starts up again.

Your royal wedding-free viewing schedule


Can you avoid the wall-to-wall coverage of Will and Kate’s big day and still fit in a full day of bank holiday viewing? Follow our guide to dodging all talk of tiaras..

Hopefully you won’t need this guide. Hopefully the weeks and months of suffocating royal wedding coverage will have sufficiently conditioned you. By now, you should have a finely honed instinct to change channels at the merest hint of a crown or a veil or some bunting or the phrase “street party” or Huw Edwards’s face.

Chris Lilley returns with Angry Boys


Star and creator of We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High will be back on UK screens this summer. Will you be watching?

Neighbours, Kylie, Home and Away, Prisoner Cell Block H, Dame Edna, John Torode. Australia has made its mark on television history, but it hasn’t always been pioneering. Then Chris Lilley came along. And now the creator and star of We Can Be Heroes and the immense Summer Heights High is returning to our screens with a new 12-part series, Angry Boys – you can watch a trailer for it here – a co-production between the Australian network ABC and HBO which will be shown on the BBC in the summer.

Today’s radio highlights


The best radio programmes on BBC, commercial and digital stations chosen by Gillian Reynolds, the UK’s top radio critic.
Gillian Reynolds, the UK’s top radio critic.
Stephen Hird
By Gillian Reynolds 5:00PM BST 15 Apr 2011

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Vivian Maier: the nanny with a flair for photography


To those who knew her, Vivian Maier was a loving if eccentric nanny. But now this mysterious Mary Poppins figure has been exposed as a photographic great
Vivain Maier self portrait
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Today’s TV highlights


The day’s best TV programmes on BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Freeview, Freesat, Sky and cable as chosen by the Telegraph’s critics.
The Story of Jesus
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The Story of Jesus Photo: BBC
8:30AM BST 22 Apr 2011

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Dutch Landscapes in the Palace


The 17th century saw an astonishing upsurge of painting in the Netherlands. Alastair Sooke admires its earthy charm.

An exemplary exhibition: Meyndert Hobbema, A Watermill Beside a Woody Lane, 1665/8

Dutch Landscapes
Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Reading the crisp catalogue that accompanies the Royal Collection’s new exhibition offers a reminder that art from the Netherlands hasn’t always found favour in Britain. Horace Walpole, the 18th-century antiquarian and man of letters, deplored Dutch artists as “drudging Mimics of Nature’s most uncomely coarsenesses”. In a letter of 1779, he complained that they “thought a man vomiting a good joke; and would not have grudged a week on finishing a belch, if mere labour and patience could have compassed it”.

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