20 from 2020

However badly this year has treated us – and in the UK, it has treated those working in the arts very badly indeed – we have still been lucky enough to hear an astonishing amount of great music. Before joining ArtMuseLondon, I would normally assemble a couple of ‘round-up’ posts for my own blog ‘Specs’…

Over the Top with Everything They’d Got: British Baroque at Tate Britain

The new show at Tate Britain, British Baroque: Power and Illusion starts in another epoch when our relationship with Europe was a tad strained, let us say, and ends at the point when a German prince who spoke not a word of English was invited – if not begged – to take over the English throne. You’d almost think Tate Britain had timed this show deliberately.

Leonardo da Vinci. A Life in Notebooks

Study of Fetus in the Womb circa 1511   Part artist, part scientist, Da Vinci embodies the Renaissance man par excellence. Luckily for us, the workings of his inner mind in painting, sculpture, anatomy, military engineering and cartography have all been recorded in the notebooks he kept throughout his life. One of these notebooks made…

Dior and the Story of the Perfect Dress

  In his autobiography Christian Dior tells the story of a fortune teller he met at a 1919 charity event for veterans of the Great War. He was an impressionable, imaginative young man. The fortune teller told him that he would suffer poverty earlier on in his life but that his luck would change and…

Fortune’s Favours: ‘Sir Richard Wallace the Collector’ at the Wallace Collection, London

How to typify the Wallace? Can you, indeed? In spirit it’s maybe close to the passion of a collector such as Sir John Soane, who also founded his own public museum (there is something very English about this kind of obsession – think of the Ashmolean in Oxford, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge). It’s something like the Frick in New York, only bigger, better, wider-ranging. There’s not an item in it that doesn’t have some claim to be exceptional – rare beyond belief if not unique, superlatively made, exquisitely beautiful.