Alma Mahler

Alma Mahler Werfel celebrated her 70th birthday at home in Beverly Hills on the last day of August 1949. A brass band played as guests chose from a Mitteleuropean selection of drinks: champagne, black coffee or Alma’s favourite, Bénédictine (by the end of her life, she was drinking a bottle a day). In the dining room, an abundant buffet was laid out. Luminaries from the ‘German California’ scene came to pay homage to the widow of the composer Gustav Mahler and the writer Franz Werfel, Walter Gropius’s divorced wife and Oscar Kokoshka’s former lover. Thomas Mann, who was one of the guests, offered ‘cordial felicitations on your special day’…..

London Review of Books

Why we shouldn’t let neuroscience banish mystery from human life

Humanism was the particular glory of the Renaissance. The recovery, translation, and dissemination of the literatures of antiquity created a new excitement, displaying so vividly the accomplishments and therefore the capacities of humankind, with consequences for civilization that are great beyond reckoning.

The Nation

Milan Kundera

His new novel, “The Festival of Insignificance,” divided into seven short ­sections, was, like his other recent work, first written in French. Well translated by Linda Asher, it suggests he has not quite finished with the Soviet era. Slight, almost terse at barely over 100 pages, it resumes his earlier preoccupations and personal history, here set in contemporary Paris.

Laughter, practical jokes, private despair, eroticism and death – these themes are all embodied by a group of five friends: Ramon, Charles, Alain, D’Ardelo and a man who goes by the nickname Caliban…..

New York Times

Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons: Paris Pompidou Centre retrospective exposes artist’s shallowness and narcissism

Jeff Koons’ retrospective has arrived in Paris after a critical and box-office success at the Whitney Museum in New York. Popeye, Michael Jackson and Bubbles, and the Incredible Hulk have taken up residency in the lofty galleries atop the Centre Pompidou where Bacon’s screaming Popes previously lived.

The Pompidou has unashamedly placed him next to a retrospective of Marcel Duchamp, arguably the most influential figure of the 20th century, a juxtaposition that allows the viewer to see the entire arc of Duchamp’s oeuvre – including his painting and most importantly in this context the trajectory of the ready-made, the cornerstone of Koons’ career…..

The Independent

Is satire dead?

There’s no shortage of big fat targets for satirists to take aim at, but most of them are protected by a praetorian guard of professional offence-takers, ready to take to the airwaves at the slightest sign of disrespect and demand the arrest of the miscreant in question. Or if that doesn’t work, they come round to your place of work and shoot you…..

The Spectator

Does classical music need to change?

Everyone keeps talking about classical music’s image problem, and proposals on the table designed to rescue the music from apparent extinction have included the suggestion that conductors ought to face audiences rather than orchestras, and the cunning plan, mooted by Julian Lloyd Webber, that we stop calling it ‘classical music’….

The Spectator

English: montage of great classical music comp...

English: montage of great classical music composers – from left to right: first row – Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Händel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven; second row – Gioachino Rossini, Felix Mendelssohn, Frédéric Chopin, Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi; third row – Johann Strauss II, Johannes Brahms, Georges Bizet, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Antonín Dvořák; forth row – Edvard Grieg, Edward Elgar, Sergei Rachmaninoff, George Gershwin, Aram Khachaturian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The James Simon Gallery, Berlin

NefertitiA wealthy  patron who funded the excavation of the priceless Nefertiti bust was airbrushed from history. Now, a hundred years after the find, his story is finally being told.

She is regarded as the ancient world’s equivalent to the Mona Lisa and this weekend the 3,400–year old bust of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti will be the centrepiece of a grand exhibition in Berlin’s Neues Museum, celebrating her discovery by German archaeologists exactly a century ago.

The delicately featured and priceless bust of the wife of the ancient Egyptian Sun King Akhenaten has been one of the highlights of Berlin’s museum collection since it was first put on display in the city in 1923…..

The Independent

Alice at 150

One of the strangest creatures Alice meets in Wonderland is the Caterpillar, who languidly asks her “Who are you?” and receives the uncertain reply: “I – I hardly know, sir, at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.” Alice’s confusion is understandable – over the course of her adventures she is variously mistaken for a housemaid, a serpent, a volcano, a flower and a monster. Today the Caterpillar’s question would be even harder to answer. Who is Alice?….


The Guardian

Montaigne, our contemporary

At first glance, the musings from a man of leisure didn’t seem the most promising material for a best-seller. Instead of penning an epic poem, a historical narrative, or an imposing treatise on government, a project for which he was eminently qualified, Montaigne decided to simply follow his thoughts wherever they led…..

When Montaigne changed his mind about a subject, instead of revising his views seamlessly, he’d often just tack an addendum on his previous statement, leaving the original one intact. One can easily imagine a contemporary literary agent surveying this merry mess, then pitching it into the trash can…..


Music and time

How Music Hijacks Our Perception of Time

One evening, some 40 years ago, I got lost in time. I was at a performance of Schubert’s String Quintet in C major. During the second movement I had the unnerving feeling that time was literally grinding to a halt. The sensation was powerful, visceral, overwhelming. It was a life-changing moment, or, as it felt at the time, a life-changing eon…..

Günter Grass

Günter Grass, the German novelist, social critic and Nobel Prize winner whom many called his country’s moral conscience but who stunned Europe when he revealed in 2006 that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS during World War II, died on Monday in the northern German city of Lübeck, which had been his home for decades. He was 87…..

New York Times

Youth art propaganda for Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin’s biggest fan club: Media-savvy youth group Set is churning out propaganda and clothing to promote Russia’s leader.

In the early years of Putin’s rule, artists felt comfortable satirising him. No longer. And his most eager fans can see nothing to joke about in the president’s demeanour or personality. Like Zakharova, they are earnest and serious….

Many of Network’s members, who are mostly aged from 17 to 27, have been brought up by single mothers, missing out on a powerful male role model in their lives. “To us, Putin is our father,” Network’s 30-year-old leader, Makar Vikhliantsev, tells me…

The Independent



10 famous paintings with hidden meanings

Et In Arcadia Ego, PoussinPoussin’s enigmatic image of ancient Greek shepherds gathered around a tomb inscribed with the words Et In Arcadia Ego – “Even in Arcadia I exist” – has given rise to more preposterous hypotheses than any other work of art…..

The Telegraph

Juliette Binoche in Antigone

Oscar-winning actor Juliette Binoche is set to return to the London stage in a new adaptation of Antigone.

Binoche, known for her on-screen roles in The English Patient and Chocolat, will take a starring role in the new translation of Sophocles’s Greek tragedy at London’s Barbican centre in March 2015…..

The Guardian

Jacques Rancière

By most accounts, the life of the reader has become vita passiva. These days the reader is projected as a sufferer, of markets and technology, of the image and its future. At best willing only to consume, to rifle through trash on her Kindle, ready to relinquish her final moments of quietude to the noise of visual culture, the reader is whispered about as an aphasic oldster awaiting euthanasia. If only she were willing to die, her avatar might be freed to roam the galleries and actually do something relational, participatory, communicative…..

The American Reader

‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Gets First New Trailer in 40 Years

A new trailer unveiled ahead of film’s special re-release as part of British Film Institute’s sci-fi season.

Almost half a century after it first hit cinema screens, Stanley Kubrick’s iconic masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey has been given a brand-new trailer.

Ahead of the digitally restored film’s special limited U.K. release on Nov. 28 as part of the British Film Institute’s “Sci-Fi: Days of Fears and Wonder” season, a new trailer commission by the BFI and Warner Bros. has now been unveiled…..

The Hollywood Reporter