Contemporary art

Why has British art had such a fascination with fire?

15 June 2019 9:00 am

‘Playing God is indeed playing with fire,’ observed Ronald Dworkin. ‘But that is what we mortals have done since Prometheus,…

Plastic fantastic: British Industried Fair, 1948

How plastic saved the elephant and tortoise

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Plastics — even venerable, historically eloquent plastics — hardly draw the eye. As this show’s insightful accompanying publication (a snip…

‘Scenes from the Passion: The Hawthorne Tree’, 2001, by George Shaw

The joy of George Shaw’s miserable paintings of a Coventry council estate

30 March 2019 9:00 am

All good narrative painting contains an element of allegory, but most artists don’t go looking for it on a Coventry…

Soft cell: ‘Hôtel du Pavot, Chambre 202’, 1970–73, by Dorothea Tanning

Wicked, humorous and high-spirited: Dorothea Tanning at Tate Modern reviewed

16 March 2019 9:00 am

Art movements come and go but surrealism, in one form or another, has always been with us. Centuries before Freud’s…

Art or propaganda? Wolfgang Tillmans’ pro-EU poster for the 2016 referendum

For many artists being propagandists has become their raison d’être

9 March 2019 9:00 am

If you want to lose friends and alienate people in the art world, try telling them you support Britain leaving…

Careful, Phyllida: the artist posing by her rickety sculptural wonderland at the RACareful, Phyllida: the artist posing by her rickety sculptural wonderland at the RA

Phyllida Barlow’s sculptural wonderland reigns supreme at the Royal Academy

2 March 2019 9:00 am

‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’ If there’s an exception to prove Shaw’s rule, it’s Phyllida Barlow. The…

The people have not forgotten me: the exiled Empress of Iran interviewed

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Somewhere in the bowels of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art is a portrait from a lost world. Its subject…

‘One World’ by Mark Wallinger

The winner of the 2018 What’s That Thing? Award for bad public art is…

8 December 2018 9:00 am

Not a bad year for the award. Honourable mentions must go to the landfill abstractions of Oxford’s new Westgate Centre,…

Read The Spectator article that gave birth to musical minimalism 50 years ago

8 December 2018 9:00 am

The Spectator is responsible for many coinages. One of the most significant came in 1968, when an article by our…

Stuffed doll in Edwardian-style black dress with stiletto through face, south Devon, England , 1909–13

The objects that sound witchiest on paper just look sad: Spellbound reviewed

27 October 2018 9:00 am

Just in front of me, visiting Spellbound at the Ashmolean last week, was a very rational boy of about seven…

Antony Gormley’s art works better in theory than in practice

30 June 2018 9:00 am

Antony Gormley has replicated again. Every year or so a new army of his other selves — cast, or these…

Here’s why not to go to the Hamptons

16 June 2018 9:00 am

New York The summertime exodus is upon us. The Hamptons are overflowing with mouth-frothing groupies looking for celebrities, and the…

The glums: Marisol Montiel and Ana Luisa Montiel in Taryn Simon’s ‘An Occupation of Loss’

Grief-conjurors, space-mincers and earth-shovellers: performance roundup

19 May 2018 9:00 am

They enter two by two. Grannies, mainly. Headscarved, mainly. Some locking arms. A bit glum. Like rejects from Noah’s ark.…

‘Horizons II, (Allhallows towards London Gateway Port), England’, 2015, by Nadav Kander

The glorious history of Chatham Dockyard, as told through the eyes of artists

31 March 2018 9:00 am

‘Ding, Clash, Dong, BANG, Boom, Rattle, Clash, BANG, Clink, BANG, Dong, BANG, Clatter, BANG BANG BANG!’ is how Charles Dickens…

Games without frontiers: Ian Cheng’s ‘Emissaries Guide – Narrative Agents and Wildlife’ (2017)

The artist who creates digital life forms that bite & self-harm. Sam Leith meets him (and them)

24 March 2018 9:00 am

Digital art is a crowded field. It’s also now older than I am. Yet despite a 50-year courtship, art galleries…

‘Majesty’, 2006, by Tacita Dean

Intelligent, poetic and profound: Tacita Dean at the National and National Portrait galleries

24 March 2018 9:00 am

Andy Warhol would probably have been surprised to learn that his 1964 film ‘Empire’ had given rise to an entire…

‘The Appearance’, 2018, by Eric Fischl

Surreal jokes and juicy strokes: Martin Gayford on the power of paint

17 March 2018 9:00 am

René Magritte was fond of jokes. There are several in René Magritte (Or: The Rule of Metaphor), a small but…

Choppy waters: installation view of Tracey Emin ‘My Bed’/JMW Turner

Emotional rescue

28 October 2017 9:00 am

In the 1880s the young Max Klinger made a series of etchings detailing the surreal adventures of a woman’s glove…

‘The Japanese’ by Hans Makart, 1870–75

Fickle fortune

23 September 2017 9:00 am

Here’s an intriguing thought experiment: could Damien Hirst disappear? By that I mean not the 52-year-old artist himself — that…

‘Untitled (Clear Torso)’, 1993, by Rachel Whiteread

Space odyssey

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Rachel Whiteread is an indefatigable explorer of internal space. By turning humble items such as hot-water bottles and sinks inside…

‘Spray’, by Harold Williamson (1939)

Nothing is quite what it seems

19 August 2017 9:00 am

One day, somebody will stage an exhibition of artists taught at the Slade by the formidable Henry Tonks, who considered…

‘Oh god, ma tutto occupato’ (Ach herrje, ma tutto occupato), 2016, by Georg Baselitz

As he approaches 80, the German master Georg Baselitz contemplates the end

21 May 2016 9:00 am

‘In many ways,’ Georg Baselitz muses, ‘I behaved against the grain of the times I grew up in.’ The era…

Pharmacy 2 makes me like Damien Hirst

5 March 2016 9:00 am

Pharmacy 2 is the reanimated child of Damien Hirst; it lives inside the Newport Street Gallery in a forsaken patch of…

James Turrell interview: ‘I sell blue sky and coloured air’

13 June 2015 9:00 am

James Turrell gave me extremely precise instructions. After dinner, I was to walk out through the grounds at Houghton Hall…

Welcome to Japan’s best kept cultural secret: an art island with an underground museum

23 May 2015 9:00 am

In his introductory remarks to the Afro–Eurasian Eclipse, one of his later suites for jazz orchestra, Duke Ellington remarked —…