When​ in 2010 a group of Old Testament paintings by Francisco de Zurbarán were offered for private sale it came as something of a surprise. The owner couldn’t be blamed for failing...

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Sightbites: Archigram’s Ghost

Jonathan Meades, 21 May 2020

Archigram was an out-of-hours architectural band of six men – Peter Cook, Warren Chalk, Ron Herron, Dennis Crompton, Michael Webb and David Greene – whose day jobs were with big...

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Edward James was filmed in the late 1970s, striding round Las Pozas in a sweater and a tattered dressing-gown, surmounted by parrots. When asked what motivated him, he replied: ‘Pure megalomania!’ 

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Asmartly​ dressed man, wearing suit, tie and hat in the 1920s fashion, walks towards us along a New York street, accompanied by a stylish woman. Suddenly, he is flat on his back. He gets up,...

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Short Cuts: Internet Speak

Lauren Oyler, 7 May 2020

The tone of my correspondence veers from ebullient to combative to conspiratorial to semi-ironically frustrated, outraged, mournful. A message that follows spelling and grammar conventions is rare; it’s...

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On​ 5 November 1982, the post-punk group Ludus played a gig at the Haçienda, the Manchester club run by Factory Records and best known today for its association with New Order and the...

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At the Royal Academy: Léon Spilliaert

John-Paul Stonard, 16 April 2020

Léon Spilliaert's ghostly works seem to have more in common with Chinese ink painting than with the art of fin-de-siècle Belgium. There is life in the ordinary objects Spilliaert paints –...

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The lush heaviness into which your eyes sink suggests that whatever breathes or glistens or crinkles – clouds, foliage, faces, cloaks, jewels, metalware and stone – has been stroked and befriended...

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Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson, 2 April 2020

Like sturgeons and swans in medieval England, public information began as royal property. Today, we understand more vividly than ever before that information is also a commodity: I have it, you don’t;...

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What did Lucian Freud know about pregnancy? Not very much, perhaps. But he did know about sex. The expression on Kitty’s face is not dissimilar to that of an animal before mating.

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The Bedroom of a Sorcerer: Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison, 2 April 2020

In Petipa’s works, the ballerina is as abstract as Goethe’s Eternal Feminine. His heroines, as Alastair Macaulay writes, are advocates of traditional values who ‘live only for marriage...

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For one so sensitive and so irritable, reviewing the Salon must have been a secular martyrdom. The 1879 Salon was ‘a heap of crackbrained nonsense’: of its 3040 pictures ‘not a hundred...

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In​ Aeschylus’ Oresteia, and in the myth he was staging, the Furies that drove vengeance and justice are appeased, and converted into the so-called Kindly Ones. Pier Paolo Pasolini...

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The Scene on the Bridge: Françoise Gilot

Lili Owen Rowlands, 19 March 2020

He painted her hair as a green, swooping bun that sat on the side of her head like a leaf. ‘We’re all animals, more or less,’ Picasso explained, but she belonged to the plant kingdom.

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The BBC on the Rack

James Butler, 19 March 2020

A post-broadcast era need not be a post-democratic one; an increasingly plural public sphere could be a resource as much as a threat. The BBC’s hegemony in Britain affords it opportunities to...

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At the Morgan Library: Ubu Jarry

Hal Foster, 19 March 2020

What happens when a travesty of authority becomes a template for power, when Dada sets up in the White House or at 10 Downing Street?

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At​ a recent event at the National Gallery in Washington, the painter Oliver Lee Jackson recalled hearing Charlie Parker and Max Roach play at nightclubs in the 1950s. Jackson, who was born in...

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We’re not​ dealing with an ordinary man, or a conformist. There he is in the abandoned shell of Fort Point in San Francisco, this fierce and frightened man, looking like Lee Marvin. The...

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