The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, May 5th 2015

    Beautiful liturgies and an atmosphere of real belief don’t always go hand in hand. But last Wednesday evening, at a service of thanksgiving for the life and work of P.D. James, they were perfectly interwoven. The Temple Church in London felt like a 12th-century stone ship riding on waves of April blossom; the choir was celestial, the readings profoundly moving. And at the heart of it all was a sense of collective gratitude for what Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, described during the service as “a long life lived in tumultuous times”—a life sustained by what P.D. James herself called “the magnificent irrationality of faith”.

    read more » BookscultureMaggie FergussonRELIGION

    ~ Posted by Julia Lovell, May 2nd 2015

    The invention of photography coincided with the mortification of modern China. In 1839, the year Henry Fox Talbot presented his early photographic experiments to the Royal Society, China’s “Century of Humiliation” at the hands of imperialist powers began with the first opium war. Through the second half of the 19th century, foreign photographers joined the armies of soldiers, diplomats, traders and missionaries swarming over China. In the late summer of 1860, the Italian photographer Felix Beato captured the carnage of the second opium war, and four decades later the “punitive picnic” of the Boxer war was photographed on new Kodak Reloadables. Compositions designed to shame a defeated China were staged and sent around the world in newspapers, periodicals, photobooks and picture postcards: images of privates playing hockey around sacred temples; officers lolling on imperial thrones and picking over the emperor’s apartments; grisly public executions of suspected Chinese Boxer rebels.

    read more » ChinacultureExhibitionsJulia LovellPhotography

    ~ Posted by Kassia St Clair, May 1st 2015

    In the final years of the 1960s Patricia Underwood, a British woman living in New York, came to the conclusion that she desperately needed a career. She had already tried several jobs: first as a typist at Buckingham Palace, then an assistant car mechanic in America, specialising in classic Jaguar XKEs, later a salesgirl and a secretary, but none had really suited her. Until, that is, she turned her hand to millinery. It wasn’t the choice of a practical woman—few would hit upon making berets as the most efficient way to bring home the bacon—but as the best hats are seldom purely practical either, it was the perfect match.

    Forty years on her name is as synonymous with headgear as those of Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones, and she has worked with several revered designers, from Oscar de la Renta to Ralph Lauren. A new book, "Patricia Underwood: The Way You Wear Your Hat", celebrates her work with lush images and playful details about her, her collaborators and, of course, the hats themselves.

    read more » FASHIONKassia St ClairPhotographystyle

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, April 30th 2015

    What’s the point? Why are we alive? Does God exist, and does He care about us? The biggest questions of them all are posed repeatedly in the original “Everyman”, a medieval parable of a man trying to dodge death and account for his deeds. In the poet Carol Ann Duffy’s new adaptation, which opened last night at the National Theatre in London, at least one of those questions is turned upside down: as the show begins, God, a weary but patient Mrs Mop (Kate Duchêne), takes a break from the eternal job of cleaning up after humanity to ask why it is that man seems to care so little for Her.

    read more » cultureIsabel LloydTheatre

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, April 28th 2015 

    Up on stage at the Beacon Theatre in Tribeca last weekend, Ray Liotta (above, left) basked in the love for Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”, which had just screened in a new print as part of the film’s 25th-anniversary celebration. Afterwards, the author Nicholas Pileggi (on whose book the movie was based), Liotta, Robert De Niro and other cast members took to the stage to swap anecdotes, some well known, others not—such as the time Liotta got a call to meet Henry Hill, the mobster he was playing, at a bowling alley in Los Angeles. A somewhat scared Liotta came to the appointed place, only to have Hill walk up to him and say, “Thanks for not making me look like a scumbag.” Liotta couldn’t believe his ears. The film had shown Hill bludgeoning a neighbour with the butt of his gun, sinking into cocaine addiction and ratting on his friends. “Did you see the movie?” he asked incredulously.

    read more » cultureFilmTom Shone

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, April 24th 2015

    “Everything you’re going to hear about in this film, you already know.” So says Russell Brand at the start of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, the excitable anti-banker agitprop documentary he has made with the director Michael Winterbottom. It’s a clever disclaimer. Brand immediately establishes that he hasn’t uncovered anything new about the Grand Canyon-like divide between rich and poor: he just wants to remind us that it’s okay to be angry about it. The problem for me, though, is that I’m a lot more ignorant about global financial shenanigans than Brand imagines. Like many people, I don’t know everything about off-shore tax havens and quantitative easing, and I was frustrated that “The Emperor’s New Clothes” didn’t enlighten me.

    read more » cinemacultureDocumentaryFilmNicholas BarberPOLITICS

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, April 24th 2015

    Summer footwear has an easier design brief than its winter counterpart: it doesn't aim to be warm or waterproof. A sandal need be little more than a sole with a rudimentary means of attaching it to the foot. Witness the strappy, leather "Jesus sandals" favoured by Seventies hippies, or the spectacularly un-waterproof espadrilles, both of which are traditional peasant shoes from southern Europe.

    read more » FASHIONRebecca WillisSHOPPINGspainstyle

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, April 23rd 2015

    The theatre company 1927 is unlike many others. They barely ever use any set—just a flat backdrop with a window and a door cut into it—and the actors spend much of their time standing still, or walking on the spot. The stage pictures they create with lighting and animation have the flickering, tableau vivant quality of early cinema: their actors wear the dark, hollowed eye make-up of silent-film stars, and even their name is a reference to screens, as 1927 is the year the talkies began. But despite the element of two-dimensionality, the performance poet Suzanne Andrade and the designer Paul Barritt make plays that encapsulate a complete world. Since 2007, when their debut show “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” was a standout hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, it’s a world that has gathered a young, growing and devoted following.

    read more » cultureIsabel LloydTheatre

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, April 22nd 2015

    Encylopedias regularly hem and haw over whether the piano is a string instrument or a percussion instrument. In the hands of the German classical pianist Nils Frahm (above), it is both. In 2011 Frahm made an important discovery. Recording late at night and trying to do his neighbours a favour, he damped the sound of his piano with a thick layer of felt and placed his microphones so deep inside as to be almost touching the strings. The results were quite literally breathtaking: on the subsequent recordings, released on his 2011 album "Felt", you can hear not only Frahm’s breathing but the creak of floorboards beneath his feet, together with the delicate rustle and scrape of ivory against wood, wood against felt, felt against steel—the secret sonic life of the piano revealed.

    read more » classicalcultureMusicTom Shone

    ~ Posted by George Pendle, April 21st 2015

    Last year, in a scene akin to a heavyweight boxer facing off against a tiddlywinks champion, the Museum of Modern Art knocked down its neighbour, the American Folk Art Museum. The symbolism was striking. The American Folk Art Museum, whose building was sold to MoMA in 2011 amid much financial upheaval, had been designed as a “house for art” to highlight the work of artists outside the mainstream art world—the art of peasant communities, or that of children, or those with psychiatric disorders, which is often termed “outsider art”. MoMA, on the other hand, is in the midst of a never-ending expansion replete with high-rise apartment blocks and Michelin-starred restaurants, and has recently been featuring blockbuster shows of well-known artists (Henri Matisse) and celebrities (the film-maker Tim Burton, and a much-derided show by the singer Bjork). Entry to the Folk Art Museum is free; entry to MoMA is $25 a head. Yet despite this difference in scale, the Folk Art Museum’s latest show—in their much-diminished new digs 30 blocks north—is a master class in curatorial intelligence and emotional wallop, and displays a gender and racial diversity that MoMA would give a substantial chunk of its nearly $1 billion endowment to have.

    read more » Artcontemporary artgeorge pendleNew YorkPerformance Art