Recent articles

Saint Francis — an edgy messianic cult leader or Mr Nice Guy?

    Saint Francis of Assisi at the National Gallery in London is a happy-clappy affair replete with sugar-coated religiosity and a level of investigative ambition worthy of the under-tens class at a Sunday school. What’s to blame? The coronation moment? Internal confusion at the National about critical standards? Beats me. What I do know is that the […]

    Lavinia Fontana: the first female painter of nudes knew about desire

      The best thing about the obsession with identity that currently drives art is the array of new voices it has forced into the open. At both extremes of art’s spectrum — old masters at the beginning, ultra contemporaries at our end — we are encountering an expanded cast. True, the me, me, meism on the […]

      How two of our finest galleries threw out the old — and brought in the new

        The gods of art are at it again. For reasons lost somewhere deep in the annals of humanity these mischievous imps of heaven love to stir and poke and confuse. And in the past couple of weeks, what fun they’ve been having. First they arranged for Tate Britain to unveil a floor-to-ceiling rehang, the first […]

        My arts manifesto for our new king

          Your Majesty, Forgive the early hour of this missive. The butler may not have had a chance yet to brush the royal teeth and the new crown is still perched, I imagine, on the bedside table, next to the royal reading glasses. But there’s an old Polish saying that advises, “Kick your horse at the […]

          Soutine/Kossoff review — Chaïm Soutine was a filthy genius

            Most of the trickiest questions in art are impossible to answer. Who’s the greatest painter of all time? Who produced the best landscapes? Don’t ask me. I haven’t a clue. Art is a universe of subtleties. But there is one question to which not only I but everyone else in the art world immediately knows […]

            Tate Modern: a marvellous show of preposterous gobbledygook

              For proof of how rapidly tastes change in art, I recommend a visit to the unlikely pairing of Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian at Tate Modern. What a turn up! Ten years ago this show would have been impossible. Five years ago it would have been improbable. Today it is fully on the button, […]

              National Gallery, After Impressionism review — art’s finest moment

                If you put a gun to my head, pushed me against a lamppost and demanded I name my favourite art movement, I would probably splutter: “Post-impressionism.” It’s the one that presses my buzzers most firmly. My biggest buzzer, the macro buzzer, responds to the overall impact of a movement. The simple truth here is that […]

                This is how we’ll remember Gilbert & George and Tracey Emin

                  It happens to us all. If we jump enough fences in the Grand National of life we eventually get to the run-in, and there, looming up before us, are the final hurdles. How will I be remembered? What do I leave behind? What was the point of it all? They’re the kind of questions everyone […]

                  Reunited: the National Gallery’s Ugly Duchess finds her partner

                    There’s a hairy wart on her cheek. Her nostrils flare like a chimpanzee’s and there’s something simian, too, about the distance between her nose and her mouth. Her forehead is crudely domed. Her ears stick out. However charitably we may try to observe her, it cannot be denied that the Ugly Duchess is unlovely. The […]

                    The Gary Lineker saga and why we’ve lost our artistic soul

                      Another week, another cock-up. Who needs the Keystone Kops when you’ve got the BBC? Even by Auntie’s declining standards it’s been a bad fortnight. No sooner had the smell of Garygate begun to clear our nostrils than we discovered that the much-loved BBC Singers were to be terminated and that savage cuts to the BBC […]