Museums

Wooden head from southern Nigeria, collected by Northcote W. Thomas in 1910

Lucian Freud insisted a forgery could be as great as the real thing. Was he right?

10 August 2019 9:00 am

Perhaps we should blame Vasari. Ever since the publication of his Lives of the Artists, and to an ever-increasing extent,…

Northern soul: Whitby Abbey was built on the site where the date of Easter was decided

Whitby Abbey is at the heart of Britain’s spiritual and literary history

20 April 2019 9:00 am

The 199 steps up to the ruins of Whitby Abbey are a pilgrimage; they always have been. And any good…

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…

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…

A new exhibition gives us the real Tolkien – not his awful legacy

7 July 2018 9:00 am

To no one’s surprise, the Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition at the Bodleian in Oxford, where J.R.R. spent so much…

‘The Battle of the Pyramids’, 1798–9, by François-Louis-Joseph Watteau

The best and most extensive exhibition on Napoleon in three decades

16 June 2018 9:00 am

The Musée de l’Armée at Les Invalides in Paris has a new exhibition that I believe to be the best…

Panel from the bedroom of Louis Henri I, Prince de Condé, by Christophe Huet

The greatest French museum you’ve never heard of

19 May 2018 9:00 am

Imagine a French museum that’s second only to the Louvre when it comes to paintings, with an eye-watering collection of…

The Factory (image: OMA/Factory)

The Bilbao effect

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Twenty years ago I wrote of the otherwise slaveringly praised Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao: I’m in a minority of, apparently,…

War horse: horse headdress made of felt, leather and wood, late 4th–early 3rd century BC

The icemen cometh

23 September 2017 9:00 am

You wouldn’t want to stumble upon the Scythians. Armed with battle-axes, bows and daggers, and covered in fearsome tattoos, the…

Hope, the blue whale, replaces Dippy, the diplodocus, in the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall

Cathedral of creation

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Sometimes, it pays to rediscover what’s already under your nose. I’ve been umpteen times to the Natural History Museum but…

Buried treasure: an archaeologist diver brushes clear a bovid jaw discovered in Aboukir Bay

The treasures of Alexandria revealed: British Museum’s Sunken cities reviewed

4 June 2016 9:00 am

It was not so unusual for someone to turn into a god in Egypt. It happened to the Emperor Hadrian’s…

‘Undressed’ is too much boob, not enough woman: ‘Tamila’ lingerie set from the Agent Provocateur Soirée collection

Too much boob – not enough woman: Undressed at the V&A reviewed

16 April 2016 9:00 am

The V&A is selling £35 Agent Provocateur pants. This is, of course, a business deal because Agent Provocateur — along…

Detail of mosaic depicting the martyrdom of Saints Castus and Cassius, 12th century, at the Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily

Norman Sicily was a multicultural paradise – but it didn’t last long

9 April 2016 9:00 am

A few weeks ago, I looked out on the Cathedral of Monreale from the platform on which once stood the…

‘Macbeth, Banquo and Witches on the Heath’, 1794, by Henry Fuseli

Why do some museums insist on playing piped music into exhibitions?

9 April 2016 9:00 am

There was a genteel brouhaha last year — leaders in the Times, letters to the Telegraph, tutting in the galleries…

Wooden model of a brewing and baking workshop, Egypt, c.2000 bc, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Ancient Egypt’s obsession with death was in fact a preoccupation with life

2 April 2016 9:00 am

The Fitzwilliam Museum is marking its bicentenary with an exhibition that takes its title from Agatha Christie: Death on the…

Tug of war over the world’s heritage

12 March 2016 9:00 am

Isis’s blowing up of the Roman theatre at Palmyra should concentrate our minds: our world heritage is vulnerable. Not that…

Export queen: Sirikit wears Thai silk in Paris, 1960

A silky, air-conditioned introduction to Bangkok

27 February 2016 9:00 am

Last time I went to Thailand, there’d been something of a misunderstanding about accommodation, and my friend and I ended…

Britain is absent from the V&A’s new Europe galleries. Are they trying to tell us something?

9 January 2016 9:00 am

Before cheap flights, trains were the economical way to discover Europe and its foibles. Personally, I enjoyed the old fuss…

Detail from Gundestrup cauldron, 100 BC–AD 1

The British Museum's Celtic masterpieces aren't Celtic - but they are fabulous

26 September 2015 8:00 am

‘Celtic’ is a word heavily charged with meanings. It refers, among other phenomena, to a football club, a group of…

Look homeward, angel: Glasgow Necropolis

The graveyard where old Glasgow lives on

1 August 2015 9:00 am

A wet walk in a Glaswegian graveyard might not be your idea of fun, but then you might not have…

Renzo Piano’s new Whitney Museum is very good news - for the Met

23 May 2015 9:00 am

About six years ago the first section of the now celebrated High Line was opened in New York and made…

Let there be light: Saint Peter’s at dawn

Rise early to see the Vatican at its best

28 March 2015 9:00 am

The sun has only just risen in Rome and we are standing bleary-eyed in a short queue outside the Vatican.…

Conservator Johanna Puisto dusts the cast of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ post-conservation, November 2014

The reopened V&A Cast Courts are a fabulous spectacle of Victorian theft and reverence

22 November 2014 9:00 am

The great municipal museums are products of the 19th-century imagination, evidence of lofty ambitions and cringe-making limitations. They are exact…

The boom in private museums

28 September 2013 9:00 am

In the past ten years museums of modern and contemporary art have proliferated around the world. New institutions have appeared…