TAITMAIL The 1170 election rerun

So, the swords are out, rhetoric is already echoing and the familiar chorus seems to be in every corner of our lives, the cries echoing across Europe. And it all kicks off on Monday, I can’t wait.

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TAITMAIL Come to Dada

What do you think this is, a swastika or two noodle strands arranged in a visual pun? And how seriously should you take it?

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TAITMAIL Arnolfini: a marriage of convenience

There’s nothing new in universities getting together with community arts organisations. The Ashmolean, the first public museum, has always been part of Oxford University after all.

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TAITMAIL How Le Brun made the RA relevant again

For years, decades, the Royal Academy was an anachronism that many thought should never have been allowed to reach its 250thbirthday, as it did last year. In the 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s artists would turn down election, not wanting to be associated with such a fossil, its standing as a slavish part of the establishment or the out-moded professional practices of its Victorian membership. 

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TAITMAIL Africa Centre: ‘the embassy of optimism’

As part of the London Design Festival, the Africa Centre laid open the dilemmas it faces as it tackles its future at a public discussion this week. Its director, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, and Jonathan Hagos of the architectural practice commissioned to design its new face spread it all out. 

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TAITMAIL Saving the De Morgans

Evelyn Pickering could have been the leading Pre-Raphaelite painter, at least up there with her uncle R S Stanhope. In 1887 she married the then uber-fashionable ceramicist William De Morgan, and in the Arts and Crafts milieu they were Posh ‘n’ Becks, Harry and Megan, George and Amal rolled together.

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TAITMAIL Border blues

By Patrick Kelly

Last week the newspapers in Cork were delighted to report that local heroes Pat Kinevane and Gina Moxley had just carried off a trio of awards at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for their separate theatre shows. But what was also significant was that there at the podium, beaming and congratulatory, was Ireland’s Minister for the Arts, Josepha Madigan.

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TAITMAIL Putting slavery in its place

Almost exactly five years ago there was a mighty street party around Windrush Square in Brixton for the opening, at long last, of the Black Cultural Archives in a former Liberal club close by. It was the culmination of 33 years of research, conservation, administration, fundraising and campaigning not to mention a visceral determination to get black culture taught in schools.

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TAITMAIL Fringe benefits

In his Edinburgh Fringe mime show, The Letter, Paolo Nani was trying to open a bottle and pour a glass of wine from it without using his arms. 

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TAITMAIL Art and Johnson’s kitchen cabinet

The art world is tying itself in knots over Johnson’s elevation, viz Anish Kapoor’s rather nasty visual response I show here - just to get your attention even if it’s not what this piece if mostly about - which, he says, was inspired by a Peter Sellers song: “Oh to be in England now my Johnson’s in a Twist”. “Johnson” being ribald slang.

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TAITMAIL Drawing out the real we

At this existential moment for us as a nation, there’s an interesting exhibition opening in Hull soon that tries to pin down who we are.

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TAITMAIL ‘If you don’t want a robot to steal your job, study art and design’

We’re going back to Victorian times, and it might be the saving of us – from ourselves.

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TAITMAIL Time for the arts to stop cheating the poor

One shouldn’t be surprised, in this retro world of ours, but young people from poorer families are still being excluded from arts careers by the old boys’ network, the “affinity bias”, and those that do make it are paid an average of £6,800 a year less than their more affluent colleagues.

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TAITMAIL Rylance may be right, but how do we square ethics and economics?

Mark Rylance’s announcement that he was parting with the RSC because of the company’s association with BP makes him the latest in a growing list of artists getting involved in the increasingly fraught quest for arts funding. 

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TAITMAIL No business like being a curator

The new director of the Royal Museums Greenwich is to be Paddy Rodgers, a man with no professional museums experience at all.

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TAITMAIL Art schools need subsidy to feed creative boom

Good news in Philip Augar’s review of post-18 education in that it calls for £1bn more to be allocated to fix further education and allow tuition fees to be cut from £9,000 a year to £7,500. 

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TAITMAIL You couldn’t sing an aria about it

Someone HAS to write an opera about opera. Better, a soap opera. Sex, death, plot lurches, vast personalities and gorgeous costumes, it's all there.

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TAITMAIL 2022, a year of two Roses

It was a coincidence of fate. At the moment the survival of the oldest Elizabethan theatre against the odds and its bright future were being celebrated, the probable closure of the modern one modelled on it was announced.

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TAITMAIL Forget farming, it’s the arts that counts in a modern economy

By Patrick Kelly

Since the referendum, there’s been a lot of talk about cars. As in “the German car manufacturers will force the EU to come to a deal” or “the UK’s car industry will flee the country if there’s No Deal”.

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TAITMAIL Derry, Irish cultural enterprise and Heaney

I was in Derry a few days before Lyra McKee was killed, a place I’ve grown an affection for over the years.

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TAITMAIL The pit and the panjandrums

Both our national opera houses are in trouble this week, in quite different ways. One of the issues might have huge repercussions, the other smaller ones.

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TAITMAIL 14-18 THEN

Can the arts recover from austerity, and if so what is the medicine? More, can the arts heal our fractured country?

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TAITMAIL Can Manchester’s sticky solutions stick?

As Mrs May’s Brexit becomes more and more Mrs May Breaks It, the country is pulling itself together despite national politics, with its cities planning for their own cultural revivals. First London, now Manchester, next – where?

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TAITMAIL Twinkling under the Stratford gloss

Post-Olympic Stratford is booming. The V&A, Sadler’s Wells, University College London and even the London College of Fashion are all settling in at the Olympic Park, or what Boris Johnson called Olympicopolis. It’s getting a £2.3bn international quarter for global corporations, the 34-storey Sky View Tower and the 14-storey City West Tower. Even the multi-storey car park by the station is to turn its top level over to a roof garden.

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TAITMAIL Leicester supports its culture by sacking its curators

It is not so much ironic as poignant, that the point at which a charity, the John Ellerman Foundation, recognises the growing crisis among museum curators and intervenes is swiftly followed by a local authority getting rid of all its curators. 

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TAITMAIL Charity at the core

With no fanfare at all and hardly noticed, an important brick might just have been added to the wall of the new structure of funding for our arts and culture.

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TAITMAIL Prizes for the pride and the passion

By Patrick Kelly

It’s a guess, but the chances are that most readers of this column will not have heard of Emily Hope. Which is a shame, because Emily is a visitor team leader at the Beamish Museum in Durham. And she is in the running to become a Tourism Superstar.

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TAITMAIL Don't forget to count a gift horse's teeth

This week the Royal Academy announced its biggest ever single gift of £10m as a result of which the RA Schools will be named the Julia and Hans Rausing campus. At the announcement in the RA’s life drawing room, where we sat on the same benches that Turner and Constable once rested their young haunches, my colleague whispered, “Is that the good Rausing or the bad Rausing?”.

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TAITMAIL Wimbledon’s acting lesson

Wimbledon College of Arts is turfing out its fine arts operation so that it can teach acting. In three years or so, if things go according to plan, half of the thousand students in the leafiest corner of the University of the Arts London (UAL) empire will be performers; the other half will be costume or set designers.

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TAITMAIL A shaft of light in the city gloom

Not to get too carried away by convenient cliché, there’s a new dawn breaking over our cities.

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TAITMAIL Age should not weary us

Next month the Arts Council publishes its annual diversity report, offering a series of webinars on how to do diversity. 

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TAITMAIL Cliff edge or launching point?

We’re on the brink. The political arrogance, diplomatic blundering, economic obfuscating and cultural ignorance have led the cultural industries to the top of Beachy Head and about to step off. Or are we?

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TAITMAIL OK, give me VR Shakespeare, but leave me the sniff factor

A research programme has just been announced that sends the imagination into paroxysms and at the same time makes you despair for theatre as we love it. It’s called Audience of the Future.

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TAITMAIL Let’s have the High Street of Culture for Every Year

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s home affairs select committee chair, has written to the culture secretary to complain that the UK City of Culture scheme unfairly excludes towns. 

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TAITMAIL Think Brexit, think small

 

Earlier this week the director of a major arts charity, referring to Brexit, told me “We can only do what we CAN do”, with the heavy emphasis on the CAN and the implication being that we can do a lot more than we think we can.

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TAITMAIL Singing to the stars

It was like a Sunday afternoon at a Southern Gospel Chapel. Massed choirs on the stage jigging around and waving their arms about, the audience responding by standing and clapping their hands above their heads as they hooted their approval, impassioned young conductors urging both choir and audience on to still more frenzy. 

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TAITMAIL Art, Larry, and how another Christmas saved the world

By Simon Tait

I’ll spare you another Brexit sermon, that can wait at least a week. Instead I can take advantage of the fact that today is December 7, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, and make a connection with the extraordinary polymath Larry Holofcener, who died last year aged 91, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. 

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TAITMAIL Keeping the arts ahead of Ofsted’s robots

Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, has been one of the quieter incumbents of that office, a post which has attracted its fair share of controversialists. Some of her predecessors considered they weren’t doing a proper job unless they were making headlines with their latest musings.

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TAITMAIL Spit the truth

This image is from a play. Both are quite literally “in yer face”.  So are the issues they confront: alienated youth, drugs, knife and gun violence.

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TAITMAIL What NOW?

Halfway through her brief tenure as culture secretary, Maria Miller did the only thing she will probably be remembered for, apart from standing down in the face of an expenses complaint. The expectation was for some kind of Westminster Abbey affair with a full set of royals and military on parade, but Mrs Miller had something else in mind.

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The guts of the matter

It takes a soothsayer to pick over the entrails of the budget every year and find the relevance to the arts and culture, and this year’s no different. Even the DCMS’s own post-budget blog ignores the subject to concentrate on cyber security. But as BOP Consulting’s estimable Jonathan Todd remarks, “Culture is everywhere and largely missing in this budget”.

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The big bite of minnows

The Arts & Business Awards used to be the high point of the cultural season, if there is such a thing: a champagne dinner, black tie, silver service, in an exhalted venue like the V&A’s Raphael Cartoon Court. Forgotten now.

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Goodbye to all that

By Patrick Kelly

In recent years the European Capital of Culture award seems to have gone to cities that most Brits would find hard to place.  It’s as if the EU was playing a Continental version of the game where you have to name the more obscure London Underground stations.

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TAITMAIL Time for artists to stop speaking for themselves

Next week is Tessa Jowell’s memorial service, and I hope there will be space in the tributes for mention of her greatest achievement, the most democratising event in Britain since the war: the 2012 Olympics.

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Nationalism is cultural, not political

They could hardly have been less striking, just a couple of dozen middle-aged men, dentists, fishermen, tomato growers, bank clerks - no sashes, no three-quarter length trousers or red berets, just white shirts and black trousers.

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TAITMAIL Sci-art: a thing of the future, or the past?

Can art and science really serve each other well, or is the current enthusiasm for mixing and matching the opposites of the educational spectrum just an exercise in denerding perceptions of the boffins?

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Is free museums admission doomed?

At the beginning of September the Natural History Museum will open a new suite of rooms in a hitherto forgotten wing of Waterhouse’s South Ken palace, something AI will report on fully later in accordance with an embargo. 

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TAITMAIL The trouble with national museums – too scary

National museums seem to have entered an existential hiatus with the Science Museum director Ian Blatchford saying other institutions should be lending stuff to regional museums, and the museum directors themselves - presumably including Blatchford – in a huddle about why their visitor numbers are plummeting.

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Museums, Design Museum

TaitMail Hope? Nope

The Design Museum staff will turn up for work on Monday with a spring in their steps, knowing that the most troublesome exhibition in its short Kensington High Street history, Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18, has ended.

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Dance, Wellcome Trust, Digital

Art going viral

It has been overshadowed in history by the other thing that happened in 1918, and with reason. It might have killed already sinking morale among survivors as a wearisome war ended.

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Festivals, Brexit, Edinburgh, Fringe Festival

Will Brexit kill the Fringe?

We leave Europe next March and all the visa exceptions and reciprocal arrangements that keep our cultural wheels oiled will go too, with the hard Brexit that looks more and more likely.

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Politics, Arts Jobs

What, me worry, when Mr Wright has come along?

Who is Jeremy Wright, the headlines on Tuesday were asking.  For me, he bears an unnerving likeness to Mad Magazine’s Alfred E Neuman (a kind of 1960s Forrest Gump who only ever said “What, me worry?”), but he was the Attorney General and is now the seventh Secretary State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport since 2010.

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TAITMAIL Creativity museums

 

The rather messy headline is because there are two topics to address, Darren Henley’s little book Creativity – why it matters, and the Museum of the Year. But are they separate?

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TAITMAIL Development blight on Dankworths’ gift to youth and music

The priorities of some local authorities leave me baffled. Take Milton Keynes Council, where planning and culture clearly don’t share the same office.

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TAITMAIL Splitting Christo

It’s Christotime in London with two important exhibitions opening one day after the other this week, one of which you will certainly be aware of, the other probably not.

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TaitMail Bilbao’s King Gugg

It’s almost 21 years since the Guggenheim Bilbao opened, controversially and changing museum aspiration for ever. It was paid for by the Basque government, looked like nothing anyone had ever seen before, and after it opened every city wanted one.

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Where is culture's champion?

By Patrick Kelly

European news isn’t of much interest to our media, unless it contains the word Brexit. So you could have measured the coverage of the EU’s plans for its budget, (which we will still be contributing to, regardless of what happens on March 2019) with a microscope. Inevitably there was little or no reference to the culture element of that budget.

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TAITMAIL Royal minstrels

With all the faff about which of Meghan Markle’s kin were going to be at the wedding, which celebs were in and which were out, who was designing what for whom, would the Spice Girls/Ed Sheeran/Elton John be performing on the Chapel, the only ones who really got it right were the royals themselves, mostly the young ones.

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TaitMail The local enterprise partnership that isn’t an LEP

The John Hansard Gallery opens on Saturday in its splendid new city centre premises, just over a year late. 

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Why diversity is not black and white

Diversity, the accepted euphemism for racial neutrality, has had a bumper week with claims, counter claims, pledges and projects.

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