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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 […]

                How it all went wrong for Damien Hirst

                  I was thinking the other day about an art book I want to write. Its title would be: Art — How It All Turned to Shit. Every word in the book would be true. Playing a central role in the tragedy would be Damien Hirst. Among art critics working today, I do not believe Hirst has […]

                  Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern

                    Zanele Muholi’s self-portraits are magical

                    London Grads Now, Saatchi Gallery, London SW3

                      A lucky few graduates seize the moment — with work that questions nature and identity