Recent articles

Donatello at the V&A — a show missing its star

    Open any serious telling of the story of art, turn to the chapters on the Renaissance and you will find many pages devoted to the Florentine sculptor Donatello. He is one of the giants, the books insist, up there with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Giotto. So sure is the Victoria and Albert Museum of his rank that […]

    Mike Nelson at Hayward Gallery: Extinction Beckons

      Do you remember when they assassinated Osama bin Laden? It was 2011. May. I remember it because a couple of weeks later the Venice Biennale opened, and representing Britain, unforgettably, was Mike Nelson. Inside the British pavilion, in a dankly atmospheric installation, Nelson had built a labyrinth of desolate Middle Eastern spaces through which we […]

      BIG WOMEN: at last, art to make us laugh

        Humour is a valuable quality in art. Rembrandt with his peeing monk; Michelangelo with his foolish Boaz on the Sistine ceiling; pretty much all of Bruegel; lots of Picasso — great artists have often had great funny bones. It is something that contemporary art has widely forgotten as it drops barbells on our spirit with […]

        Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum is the exhibition of the century

          Everybody loves Vermeer. He’s irresistible. The magical light, the air of perfection, the whispery moods, the intoxicating combinations of yellow and blue. They get to all of us. So it is entirely unsurprising that the Vermeer extravaganza at the Rijksmuseum — it’s the largest collection of his paintings assembled in history, featuring 28 of his […]

          Tate Britain: finally, a gallery rehang that works

            A few months ago I was clicking aimlessly through Tate Britain’s online paperwork when I saw a job advert that plunged a dagger into my heart. “Project Manager, Tate Britain Rehang,” blared the ad. Salary £30,000. “Oh no,” my inner art lover screamed. “A willy is about to be waggled.” Again. The gallery rehang is the […]

            Was this ‘angelic’ Italian artist a fascist?

              Was Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) a fascist? I ask the question because the Morandi exhibition, which has arrived at the Estorick Collection in north London, does not — the paperwork for the event could hardly be more gushing or unquestioning — but also because devotees of Morandi’s art seem to find his work so angelic. Perhaps […]

              Spain and the Hispanic World: one masterpiece is worth the entrance fee alone

                To prepare myself to see Spain and the Hispanic World at the Royal Academy, I did that thing psychologists advise where you write down the first words that come into your mind. As an aficionado of Spanish art, spewing the words was easy. I closed my eyes and out they poured: “Dark, passionate, exciting, Catholic, […]

                From Rome to Madrid — the January exhibitions worth braving Ryanair for

                  Happy new year, art lovers! Now we have the pleasantries out of the way, let’s get down to tackling that scarring and insistent question that lurches up from our depths during the first hesitant steps of every new annus: where in the Devil’s name can we get a decent art fix in January? As every […]

                  The mystery of the woman who invented the Nativity

                    We don’t hear enough of Birgitta Birgersdotter and her immense contribution to Christmas. Basically, she invented it. These days, alas, her fabulous involvement goes under the radar. It never used to. Birgitta was from Uppland in Sweden. She was born in about 1303 and when she was 13 she was married off to Ulf Gudmarsson, […]

                    Sex, art and washing machines

                      These are exciting times in art. Every day seems to bring new evidence of fertility and achievement in two key areas — black art and women’s art. Some have been sniffy about it and are calling it a fashion, but they’re wrong. It’s a revelation. The canon is being rewritten and accompanying the rewrite is […]