Sajid Javid’s first task is to recognise that the price of a cultural asset lies in its value as art

12 April 2014 10:30

The suggestion, made by the poet Michael Rosen and others, that Sajid Javid is not sufficiently cultured to be Culture Secretary is as ludicrous as it is pompous. The secretary… Continue reading

Finally, Gerald Scarfe has made it: he has had a bar named after him. (JENS SCHLUETER/AFP/Getty Images)

A tipple and a scribble with Gerald Scarfe

8 April 2014 12:46

Mr Steerpike longs for the day that he has a bar named after him, so he went to doff his cap to Gerald Scarfe at Scarfe’s Bar last night. Cartoonist… Continue reading

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Mr S could have been an Ukrainian egg decorator, but he didn't have the minimum PTTLS. (DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/GettyImages)

Eggcellent openings in Westminster

2 April 2014 11:45

Westminster City Council is advertising the role (offered by the Westminster Adult Education Service) of tutor in ‘Ukrainian egg decoration’ – at £25 an hour. Anyone who thinks that the job… Continue reading

Alain de Botton. Photo: Francesco Guidicini

Alain de Botton: We need art to help us to live and to die

24 March 2014 9:55

The world’s big national museums are deeply glamorous places. We keep quiet in their hallowed halls, we wander the galleries in reverence, we look at a caption here and there,… Continue reading

Alain de Botton. Photo: Vincent Mentzel

Why Alain de Botton is a moron

19 March 2014 13:08

It’s become too easy of late to be rude about Alain de Botton. His banal aphoristic “insights” and homilies on Twitter, his efforts to turn the media away from “meanness”… Continue reading

Artist Lydia Corbett who modelled for Pablo Picasso in the early sixties

The Picasso muse who became an artist

14 March 2014 13:00

With her long blonde hair tied in a ponytail, Sylvette David is familiar from many of Picasso’s paintings. She met the artist in the South of France as a teenager… Continue reading

Montpellier’s Antigone District by Ricardo Bofill. Photo: Patrick EOCHE/ Getty Images

France’s cultural excess is immoral (but I still love it)

21 February 2014 12:11

For a committed, if unsuccessful, capitalist, I enjoy French culture an embarrassing amount – every last state-funded drop of it. Give me five-act operas with cast lists the size of… Continue reading

Ai Weiwei's 'Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn' (1995). Photo: AP Photo/Keystone/Steffen Schmidt

Anything you can smash, I can smash better

20 February 2014 7:00

Art is under attack. Another week, another expensive poke in the eye. Last Sunday, Miami artist Maximo Caminero destroyed a $1 million vase by Ai Weiwei in protest at the… Continue reading

Turner Prize Exhibition Leaves England For The First Time

The Turner Prize lives the myth of constant renewal

3 December 2013 13:29

Let’s imagine for a minute that the Turner Prize is cancelled next year. Would anyone care? A few members of the artistic elite and a handful of artists perhaps, but… Continue reading

Hull docks circa 1829. It doesn't look like that now.

What is the point of having a ‘city of culture’?

20 November 2013 17:10

‘Hull has been named the 2017 city of culture. Better luck next year, Luton.’ So wrote the Telegraph’s Tim Stanley on Twitter. Nadine Dorries said: ‘Hull? City of culture? As… Continue reading


Enter The Spectator’s Cartoon Competition and make £££s

25 October 2013 12:40

What does it take to be a cartoonist? Do you even care? You should, because you are about to enter the Spectator’s inaugural Cartoon Competition. Yes, you are. Don’t throw… Continue reading


Spectator Play: The highs and the lows of what’s going on in arts this week

20 September 2013 17:16

Yorkshire, says William Cook, is the sculpture capital of Britain. It was the birthplace of ‘Britain’s greatest sculptors, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore’ – but is this just coincidence, or… Continue reading


What might link Cleopatra, Augustus, Constantine, Barbarossa, Tamerlane and the Farnese?

22 August 2013 10:30

The stone called sardonyx looks a lot more fragile than it actually is. It’s luminous like glass, but hard like steel, which explains why so much of it has survived… Continue reading

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Two men examining British Ministry of Health wartime posters aimed at reducing absenteeism from war work, circa 1942. 'Coughs and sneezes spread diseases. Trap them in your handkerchief!'.

Final call for Propaganda: Power and Persuasion at the British Library

21 August 2013 11:57

For the first time in years, I thought of Tony Hancock. In the ‘Blood Donor’ episode of Hancock’s Half Hour, Hancock exits a doctors’ surgery singing the words ‘coughs and… Continue reading

One of Finn Dean’s winning illustrations for the Folio Society’s Brave New World

Some brilliant book reviews

26 July 2013 15:06

As ever, the Spectator carries some splendid and erudite book reviews this week. There are contributions from stellar writers and thinkers such as Margaret MacMillan, Susan Hill, Alexander Chancellor and… Continue reading


The week in books

19 July 2013 13:31

The best way to weather the heat wave is to head for the shade with a copy of the new issue of the Spectator, in which you will you find… Continue reading

Clive James has translated The Divine Comedy by Dante (pictured).

Clive James – laughing and loving

8 July 2013 17:19

Clive James was a recurring presence in last weekend’s literary press. There was, I regret to say, a valedictory feel to the coverage. Robert McCrum, of the Guardian, was not… Continue reading

play 20th

Spectator Play: The highs and the lows of what’s going on in arts this week

21 June 2013 17:33

In this week’s lead feature in the Arts section, Tom Rosenthal explains just why he thinks the Lowry retrospective at Tate Britain is so long overdue. Lowry is one of… Continue reading

Leonardo di Caprio pictured in Cannes last month. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Hollywood and oligarchs descend on Art Basel

14 June 2013 10:30

The art world has descended on the almost attractive city of Basel in Switzerland this week, for the annual art fair. And where the art world goes, glamorous collectors follow.… Continue reading

A giant fresco of Charlie Chaplin. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Seriously eccentric – Chaplin & Company by Mave Fellowes

16 May 2013 14:19

Chaplin & Company is an alarming proposition for anyone with a low threshold for the cute and quirky. Its main character, Odeline Milk, is a mime artist. She is serious… Continue reading

The crowned heads of Europe attend the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. It is extraordinary that so many royal families survived the 20th century. (OFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Dreams and Nightmares: Europe in the twentieth century

10 May 2013 17:11

So much abuse has been heaped on the European Union in recent years that it is easy to forget that Europe and the EU are not the same thing. Geert… Continue reading

Ian McEwan pictured in 1979. His generation of English writers generally worship at the altar of realism. (Photo by Mike Moore/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

What is the point of fiction if not to expand horizons?

8 April 2013 9:00

While Ian McEwan’s recent piece in the Guardian is not expressly termed a treatise on the value of art, it is hard to see it otherwise. What is the use… Continue reading

Van Dyck's first self-portrait (C.1615), which forms the cover of 'The Young Van Dyck' edited Alejandro Vergara and Friso Lammertse. (Courtesy of Thames and Hudson)

The Young Van Dyck edited by Alejandro Vergara and Friso Lammertse – review

4 April 2013 10:00

Precocious genius will never fail to impress. But it is also very hard to relate to. Aged 14, Anthony Van Dyck painted a Portrait of a Seventy-Year-Old man that looked… Continue reading

Roy Lichtenstein, ‘The red horseman’, 1974.

Roy Lichtenstein: comic genius?

26 February 2013 10:24

Tate Modern promises that its forthcoming retrospective will showcase ‘the full scope of Roy Lichtenstein’s artistic explorations’, to which Spectator art critic Andrew Lambirth responded acidly: ‘I look forward to… Continue reading

Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift pose in an old still from the film 'A Place In The Sun' (1951). Image: Getty

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor: beyond chemistry

6 February 2013 17:00

Regularly voted one of the greatest American novels of the last century, Theodore Dreiser’s moralising epic An American Tragedy (1925) hasn’t aged well. Adapted for the cinema as A Place… Continue reading