Peter Aspden

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Full name: Peter Aspden

Area of interest: Contemporary culture and arts

Journals/Organisation: Financial Times


Personal website:




Networks:!/peteraspden |


About: Arts writer, has had a weekly column on contemporary culture in the FT since January 2004. In the past has also written on history, politics, religion, sport (covered the Atlanta Olympic Games, 1996 and the World Cup in France, 1998) and travel

Education: St Edmund Hall, Oxford: Philosophy, Politics and Economics

Career: Worked at The Times Higher Education Supplement from 1985, becoming deputy editor. Financial Times deputy books/arts editor from 1994, also a feature writer on FT Weekend

Current position/role: Arts writer

  • also writes/has written for:

Other roles/Main role:

Other activities:



Broadcast media:





Other: Spent most of his childhood in Greece

Books & Debate:

Latest work:



Financial Times:

Column name:

Remit/Info: Commentary on contemporary culture

Section: Life & Arts

Role: Arts writer




Commissioning editor:

Days published: Saturday

Regularity: Weekly

Column format: single topic

Average length: 900

Articles: 2015

Articles: 2014

Articles: 2013

Articles: 2012

  • When we say ‘culture’, what do we mean? - BBC Radio marks the New Year by pondering on the evolving expressions of that terrifying ebb and flow of human affairs - 29th December
  • That winning combination - Sport simplifies the human condition. Art is the opposite. It does everything it can to complicate the human condition - 22nd December
  • A century in sound - Southbank’s major festival will focus on the triumphs and tribulations of classical music in a radical era of modernity - 1st December
  • Culture and safe hands revisit the BBC - Lord Hall should bring an end to years of dumbing down at the broadcaster - 23rd November
  • The art of leadership - Cultural activities have the power to build social integration and point to a higher purpose for humanity - 17th November
  • Pro Bono: how rockers change the world - It was no longer enough to be concerned artists – they had to become properly political -10th November
  • What gaming can teach world leaders - Touchy-feely adventures are converging with robotic reality -10th November
  • I think, therefore I aim - A photographic exhibition shows that existential philosophers were apparently obsessed with shooting galleries - 3rd November
  • A Bond villain for our times - Events of 2008 have given today’s evil genius a hard act to follow - 27th October
  • Naples’ treasure kept at bay - It is equally important to display and appreciate historical masterpieces as close as possible to their own homes - 27th October
  • Keep calm and bunker down - Fifty years since the Cuban missile crisis, a York bunker-turned-museum carries poignancy for the youth of today - 13th October
  • In with the old, in with the new - Dialogues between the ages, both literal and metaphorical, are cropping up all over London, with this year’s Frieze Week - 6th October
  • Coming out of a screen near you - Although there is a backlash against contemporary 3D cinema, a line has been crossed. It is not going to go away - 29th September
  • Pop music’s heart of Glass - As the US composer celebrates his 75th birthday season with a new-found vigour, Philip Glass has never seemed more significant - 22nd September
  • Home isn’t always where the art is - As the drive to reclaim national treasures gathers pace, the restitution debate is growing ever more divisive - 15th September
  • In ‘Bad’ company - Spike Lee’s film gives us reasons why Michael Jackson was great. It concerns itself with art, not with a messy life - 8th September
  • Prepare for a (benign) assault - Instead of us needing to plan to engage with the best art, art has decided to come to us, when we least expect it - 1st September
  • China’s great wall of doubt - The prospect of leading a world into the torrid unknowns of the 21st century is a scary truism, unless you are an artist - 25th August
  • Cultural tourists - The FT’s arts writer visits China to see how British culture is portrayed to Chinese audiences - 4th August
  • Childish fun and games - Ringing bells to celebrate the Olympics makes for a pleasant enough community project. But must one dress it as art? - 28th July
  • Missing: that elusive truce - An art project reminds us of the Games’ founding ethos when much of the rhetoric of Olympic idealism has gone astray - 21st July
  • Will power - This summer’s emphasis on Shakespeare explores the continuing relevance of Britain’s most important cultural figure - 7th July
  • Art’s revenge on commerce - Hirst’s butterfly deckchairs would complement your ‘I believe in deeply ordered chaos’ beach towel - 23rd June
  • The walls of ignorance - Perhaps the most important lesson of western art history is that cultural and political freedoms must go hand in hand - 9th June
  • Why punk and the Queen go hand in hand - ‘Sixty Punk Singles’, a selling exhibition at the Vinyl Factory, is timed to coincide with the jubilee - 2nd June
  • Progress can be an illusion - The gay rights issue may no longer be at a cruel crossroads but ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ is worth reviving - 27th May
  • A view from Orbit - The dramatic, twisting tower of metal - designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond – is London’s new Olympic landmark - 12th May
  • First prize for eclecticism - The South Bank Sky Arts Awards were a telling snapshot of today’s ‘culture of the nation’ - 5th May
  • When industry gives way to art - Where we see decay and disorder, artists see inspiration - 28th April
  • When Cocteau came to Soho - The French writer and artist’s chapel mural in Leicester Square is, if not exactly one of London’s cultural secrets, one of its best jokes - 21st April
  • So, what does ‘The Scream’ mean? - Edvard Munch’s painting is one of the world’s most disturbing images. Peter Aspden examines this icon of modern art and talks to the man selling it at auction next month - 21st April
  • Sentiment and experiment - CORE, a contemporary art installation, connects the flights of creative thinking with its discernible results - 31st March
  • Paul Simon’s not so simple dilemma - The ‘Graceland’ album was rightly acclaimed on its release in 1986 ,but it was also dogged by political controversy - 24th March
  • Testament and truths - Two Greek filmmakers appeal to common sense in a documentary on their country’s debt crisis - 17th March
  • Greatness thrust upon us - The attempt to open up and share arts projects with the whole world is soft power at its most effective - 10th March
  • Exiled to the mainstream - Karl Jenkins is widely derided in serious musical circles for the overly tuneful and accessible nature of his work - 3rd March
  • Humour has the last laugh - Contemporary art’s reliance on the funny resonates comedy’s increased relevance in our times - 25th February
  • A space of waste - Chinese artist Song Dong is in London again, bringing a whole new batch of gnomic observations with him - 18th February
  • The majestic survivors - To admire the Queen or Paul McCartney is to indulge in an act of cultural nostalgia. Yet nobody better understands modern Britain than the two - 11th February
  • Pilgrims’ progress - The British Museum’s new exhibition about the Hajj shows that modernity and secularism do not always go hand in hand - 28th January
  • Arts: Culture will remain at the heart of work and play - why rich and poor alike take pleasure in beauty - 28th January
  • It’s too late to stop now - The music still pulsed as insistently within Van Morrison as he sang for the commemoration of ‘an incredible year’ for Northern Ireland - 21st January
  • Beyond wall power - Digital art is gaining value and popularity as it draws a different breed of collector - 14th January
  • The parts great artists cannot reach - Taking art into new places is going to be one of the most important cultural themes of the coming years - 7th January

Articles: 2011

  • Baggage to be carried lightly - To admit to doubt, and open yourself to visions other than your own – there is no nobler mission for art - 31st December
  • Why we smart with ignorance - Culture provides havens from the complex material world and attempts to explain to us that world. Can it offer more? - 24th December
  • How to build a better Britain, circa 1954 - A new book on the Barbican estate shows the extent to which its architects were fired by idealism and noble intentions - 10th December
  • Explore the undiscovered country - Art that examines our finite status may be a good thing, in that it encourages a more rational discussion of death - 3rd December
  • All about the art of compromise - In the rhythm of political affairs, there are but rare moments when true leaders are able to influence matters - 26th November
  • Natural habitat – the world’s workshop - The way we live now is indubitably richer but it is also over-materialistic, glib, and unsustainable - 19th November
  • Enriched by poor art - In sharp contrast to Pop Art, its ostentatious contemporary, Arte Povera sought to restore poetry and simplicity - 12th November
  • When the medium beats the message - Pete Townshend fires a broadside against iTunes during his BBC Radio 6 Music John Peel lecture, and a peculiar affair it was too - 5th November
  • Twin peaks of maths and art - Filmmaker David Lynch talks to Peter Aspden about his latest project: designing part of an exhibition that brings together mathematicians and artists - 29th October
  • When growing old gets cool - Pop’s mature practitioners and their wrinkly know-how are helping an art form reach maturity and making it more accessible - 22nd October
  • Return to form? You’d better not believe it - As Peter Aspden watches Woody Allen’s latest movie, he again longs for the magic his old hero used to make - 15th October
  • The Marriage Plot - Life is messier than literature in Jeffrey Eugenides’s campus love story at the beginning of the 1980s, a confusing time for young hearts - 8th October
  • A tour of the contradictions of culture’s First City - Beijing is a melting pot metropolis, where you will find traces of just about every kind of artistic expression - 8th October
  • Western union - Peter Aspden examines contemporary art’s debt to Los Angeles’ pop culture pioneers as a series of shows involving West Coast artists begins - 1st October
  • Everyman, Superman, comedian, spy - To combat the al-Qaeda threat, our security services need to be supple, alert – and have a priceless sense of humour - 24th September
  • Thrills and spills and infrastructure - The British Film Institute captures the Soviet experiment of skilfully wringing drama out of economic development plans - 17th September
  • Refuge for the quietest Beatle - As Martin Scorsese’s long and loving new film documentary shows, George Harrison’s entry into legend was casual - 10th September
  • You can’t be serious - Postmodernism became a byword for kitsch and empty irony. Can the V&A’s blockbuster rescue postmodernism’s reputation - 3rd September
  • Way, way beyond the multiplex - In a pluralised and digitised world, the curation and distribution of films have become ever more important - 27th August
  • The Zorba syndrome - Enough with the devil-may-care attitude please, because some troubles like the budget deficit can’t just be danced away - 20th August
  • One-man civilisation - The British Museum is to give artist Grayson Perry free access to its collection to put together a show of his choosing - 30th July
  • Better, angrier and truer - Peter Aspden hopes performers maintain their engagement with social affairs, because they put things with more fury and truth than the rest of us - 16th July
  • Person in the news: J.K. Rowling - Peter Aspen on the author who created Harry Potter - 9th July
  • A forecast of the Arab spring - A festival in London shows a vibrant and eclectic art scene, some coming from countries revolting against repression - 9th July
  • Macabre in Manchester - In her latest work, Marina Abramovic lies in a coffin while fellow artists plan her funeral - 2nd July
  • Superheroes taken seriously - A splendid new show at the Barbican Art Gallery gives animation the proper cultural attention it has long deserved - 17th June
  • We’re all easy riders now - Feelings of nostalgia don’t go away. As you grow older, you seek solace in the company of those who share your youthful passions - 11th June
  • The school of Gaganomics - Lady Gaga has a supreme sense of how to do 21st-century business. A true innovator, she has an instinctive understanding of social media and digital platforms - 28th May
  • Planet Dylan - As he turns 70, the singer-songwriter – who indulged in the art of playful deceit early on – is still confounding the expectations of his fans and scholars - 21st May
  • Of punk and postmodernity - An exhibition chronicling SoHo’s 1970s underground scene is a bold attempt to place one of the 20th century’s most confusing movements in a historical context - 14th May
  • Seeds of change - As Somerset House unveils Ai Weiwei’s ‘Circle of Animals’, Peter Aspden looks into how culture has become a forum for the west to express its misgivings over the resurgent east - 7th May
  • Festivals beat squeeze with foreign help - Britain’s two leading arts gatherings are weathering the financial cutbacks by turning to overseas governments and cultural bodies for support - 16th April
  • Vive le boboisme - ‘Bourgeois bohemians’ fill the air with exotic ramblings and yet enjoy all the material comforts of a gilded life. They have worked out how to be replete and reckless - 9th April
  • A revolution and its lessons in heritage - Western cinema, led astray by the commercial rewards attached to light entertainment, has always been star-struck by the gravitas of early Soviet cinema - 2nd April
  • Golden era for arts buildings draws to a close - Arts building projects, which have played a key role in regenerating some of the least prosperous parts of the UK, are set to dry up - 31st March
  • Some puzzling decisions but a surprisingly bloodless affair - Unveiling of Arts Council England’s cuts, in which more than 200 bodies lost their grants, was a surprisingly bloodless affair - 31st March
  • Does China need Puccini? - The west may be beginning its political and economic decline, but its glib exportation of culture looks an awful lot like a subtle form of imperialism - 26th March
  • Covered in glory - There was no act of cultural consumption more rewarding than the buying of a new record and the relentless study of its artwork and sleeve notes - 19th March
  • Poverty and a wealth of creativity - Laurie Anderson, the avant-garde figure, is best known in wider British cultural circles for a hit single dedicated to an hero in underpants - 5th March
  • State of the art - Abu Dhabi’s flamboyant new museum district is set to draw millions to the Middle East. So what can it tell us about the power of culture - 19th February
  • Business investment in arts falls 11 per cent - Arts and Business, which acts as a broker between private investors and cultural institutions, also recorded a drop in philanthropic giving - 29th January
  • Passionate outsiders - The cycle of artistic fashion has come round to that generation of serious painters and sculptors forced to engage with the horrific events of world war - 22nd January
  • Monument to a worthy Italian job - Lingotto, which used to be a Fiat factory, is a template for the 21st-century cultural centre where shops and movie theatres coexist with an art gallery - 15th January
  • Entertaining unions of darkness and light - Today, with political divisions almost non-existent, British entertainment is lighter than ever. But the biggest difference from the old days lies in the rewards on offer - 8th January

Articles: 2010

  • When Abba met Wagner - Some art tries to convey the simplest things in life in a complicated way, and misses their point. Others are brilliant in their sunny simplicity, but they too can fail - 24th December
  • Freedom on the front line - As long as the US remains a cultural hegemon, it will continue to make art that will be attractive to the world. How to harness that power? Well, you can’t - 18th December
  • Man in the News: Simon Cowell - Few would bet against the pop impresario’s new push for world domination - 18th December
  • Pop music has lost its nerve - Is the genre in such a state of degeneration – stifled by overdubs, re-edits and lip-syncs – that it is impossible to take any display of virtuosity at face value - 4th December
  • What would Shakespeare do? - We are about to be engulfed by new theatrical traditions from overseas and new audiences that require lucid expositions on the complicated world around us - 27th November
  • Arts projects try to net ‘crowd funding’ - A website is trying to use the fundraising model that swept Barack Obama to power – collecting multiple small donations over the internet – to help finance arts projects - 20th November
  • Out of the darkness - ‘The Promise’, which chronicles the making of one of Bruce Springsteen’s finest albums, captures the frustrations of a man who had been stopped from working in his prime - 13th November
  • Out of the darkness - ‘The Promise’, which chronicles the making of one of Bruce Springsteen’s finest albums, captures the frustrations of a man who had been stopped from working in his prime - 6th November
  • Chilling truth of the vajazzle - ‘The Only Way Is Essex’, ITV’s new reality soap, is one of those hybrids that is destined to become era-defining - 30th October
  • Popular for the right reasons - In the art world, the conceits of the avant-garde appear ridiculous when they become the established way of doing things - 23rd October
  • Cultural bodies count their blessings - Museums and galleries face funding cuts of 15 per cent in the next four years but for other organisations, the cuts go deeper - 21st October
  • Seeds of technology - A movie about Facebook’s founder and Ai Weiwei’s Tate Modern installation celebrate the speed and reach of new technologies. It is these that will change the world - 16th October
  • Yoyo Maeght talks about spreading the word -T he granddaughter of Aimé Maeght, one of the era’s most astute and forward-thinking art dealers, tells Peter Aspden how the family’s foundation is continuing in his spirit - 9th October
  • When the wheels twitch - Art and sport need to re-find their ability to test human capacities to the limit, and money needs to be treated in a more secure – not to say boring – way - 2nd October
  • Blame the country for poor cinema - There is a sense of dissatisfaction with contemporary British films and it is frustrating to observe their inability to engage with ordinary concerns - 25th September
  • Why I’m not mad about ‘Mad Men’ - Even though the TV drama has high production values, is beautifully acted and has a stately, hypnotic rhythm, Peter Aspden thinks it is a cultural bore - 18th September
  • Man in the News: Jonathan Franzen - The launch of a ‘Great American Novel’ has revived the world of books - 11th September
  • The voice of experience - It is not only the music featured in the BBC Proms that should move us; it is the fact that it is heard and relished by so many people - 11th September
  • Artists vie for Trafalgar Square showcase - Six projects have been shortlisted for a prestigious site in Trafalgar Square, central London, including a musical cash machine, a Battenberg cake made out of bricks and an ultramarine cockerel - 21st August
  • Aviators - a stylish alternative to 3D cinema glasses - Peter Aspden tries out his new pair of trendy Aviator-styled 3D glasses at a screening of ‘Toy Story 3’ - 14th August
  • Conference of cool - The TED conferences – the cosy acronym stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design – are billed as a talking shop for the world’s most dynamic thinkers - 24th July
  • Anyone for dormouse tortellini? - A Sotheby’s auction on a collection of historic cookbooks includes notes on feasts at the court of Charles V and precursors to molecular cuisine - 10th July
  • Insurrection and the other i-word - Peter Aspden finds the startling simplicity of the famous still of two French actors from the opening scenes of Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘A bout de souffle’ truly iconic - 3rd July
  • Saatchi gifts art works to the nation - The pre-eminent contemporary art collector of his generation is giving more than 200 art works from his collection – as well as the Saatchi Gallery – to the nation - 3rd July
  • Across the great divide - An exhibition of images linked to the crucifixion of Christ testifies to the common language shared by art and religion - 26th June
  • The vuvuzela? It’s music to my ears - The plastic instrument’s defiant monotone is a reminder that music does not need to go anywhere to make a statement. It is a life-affirming sound of a nation entranced in pride and celebration - 19th June
  • Sex and drugs and tax avoidance - At best the art of the 1970s was profound, reflective, radical; at worst, pretentious, slow-moving, self-absorbed - 12th June
  • London auction set to break record - A water-lily painting by the Impressionist Claude Monet is set to fetch up to £40m at a Christie’s sale in London later this month - 5th June
  • Shirin Neshat’s filmmaking debut - ‘Women Without Men’, the award-winning movie by Iran’s most successful contemporary artist, is a political film like no other - 22nd May
  • Art makes its presence felt - The MoMA has thrillingly turned the clock back to the 1970s with a retrospective exhibition of the pioneering performance artist Marina Abramovic - 15th May
  • Getting elected is the easy bit - Peter Aspden on how a leader becomes someone who is recognised as having made a difference - 8th May
  • Satire blunted by blandness - It is a 300-year-old tradition that has mercilessly mocked Britain’s leaders and raised the wrath of its ruling classes – but the art of political satire is losing its bite - 1st May
  • Who won the battle of the bands? - 1st May
  • Old Spanish customs, old English ways - Sometimes it takes an outsider such as Tamara Rojo to look at something unloved such as the Arts Council, and persuade its detractors to cherish it - 24th April
  • Outside Edge: It’s all Greek to the bond markets - What is the word for ‘debt’ - 24th April
  • A new dawn for British culture - Within just 10 years, the temple of high art has turned old provocations into new orthodoxies. And as a result, British cultural life is more vivacious than ever before - 16th April
  • Audacious Las Vegas - Beyond the poker and the pastiche, Peter Aspden discovers that the city – with its entertainment spectacle, Michelin-starred restaurants and modern art and architecture – has found its cultural self-confidence - 10th April
  • Modern cultural maverick - As the Victoria and Albert Museum prepares for an exhibition on the ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, Peter Aspden reflects on his life - 3rd April
  • Political correctness? It’s so over - ‘Glee’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ are the yin and yang of the post-politically correct age. They are comedies for grown-ups - 27th March
  • Money for old rock - We may not be living in a golden age of rock, but we are in a remarkable period of rock archaeology - 20th March
  • Music and art to die for - Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were blessed with good timing. During the wild decade of the 1970s, they found their perfect (un)spiritual home in New York’s riven polity - 13th March
  • High cultural anachronism - There are not many performers these days who can cast a spell with the spoken word, but George Steiner is among them - 6th March
  • Exit Miss Arty, in a sulk - ‘Designing Women’, a 1948 film newly available on DVD, presents the debate between art and design in an amusing and pointed way - 27th February
  • How the Met and ENO work in tandem - Peter Aspden says the latest joint venture of the two powerhouse institutions is proof that opera is changing - 13th February
  • The best of times, the worst of times - There is unprecedented cultural success: galleries and museums are fuller than ever, theatres are packed and art forms are looking relentlessly forward - 6th February
  • It doesn’t make sense any more - Popular music has undergone a quiet revolution in recent years – not just its lyrics, which have always flirted with nonsense, but its integrity as an art form - 30th January
  • Simply out of this world - There are certain works of art that achieve all that they set out to do; and others that change the direction of their very art form. Peter Aspden thinks ‘Avatar’ does both - 23rd January
  • Things are what they used to be - The BBC and the British Museum collaborate on a project to tell the history of the world through the scrutiny of 100 objects from the museum’s collection - 16th january
  • A Klimt painting comes home - A month before the Austrian painter’s ‘Church in Cassone’ goes under the hammer, Peter Aspden examines how restitution cases are transforming the art market - 9th January

Articles: 2009

  • Sex & Violence, Death & Silence - Peter Aspden surveys a collection of writing on contemporary art by the late critic and novelist Gordon Burn and wonders if he is simply too close to his subjects - 19th December
  • Hollywood’s Holmes truths - Guy Ritchie has been employed to give Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero some of his soul back and to reclaim that side of the detective that most of us had forgotten - 19th December
  • The greatest movies never made - Stanley Kubrick’s extensive pre-production work for ‘Napoleon’ tells us much about the director’s fantasy life - 12th December
  • New climate of opinion - Thirty-five artists have been invited or freshly commissioned to produce work inspired by the climate change debate for the exhibition ‘Earth: Art of a Changing World’ - 5th December
  • Band-aid for seasonal spirit - Touched by a compilation of 1950s Christmas songs, Peter Aspden returns to holiday chart-toppers from past decades and ponders how they have served as markers of the times - 21st November
  • Intangible notes of cool - Whatever cool was, Miles Davis captured it: those taut, elegant musical lines that expressed effortlessness, freedom and melancholy all at the same time - 14th November
  • Rocking all over the world - As the Berlin wall fell in 1989, households in parts of eastern Europe tuned in to MTV and found themselves part of a brash new world - 7th November
  • The girl’s got gall - Martha Wainwright, a singer who defies categorisation, tackles Edith Piaf in a ‘chanson’ CD that sounds to Peter Aspden like the opposite of today’s cynically-crafted pop music - 1st November
  • This year’s Prix Pictet winner - Commercial photographer Nadav Kander’s attention to the ‘smallness of the individual’ powered his award-winning series - 24th October
  • Because the night belonged to her - Patti Smith performed at a new exhibition of Mapplethorpe photographs and Peter Aspden says she has mastered the delicate dilemma of how a posturing rock star should handle the autumnal years - 17th October
  • Past masters beckon for the followers of modernity - Brit art’s big week may foreshadow a return to pre-modern art. What better sums up the 21st century than the lust for celebrity and the rapid dissemination of triviality? - 17th October
  • Frieze art fair: Mix of worldly and weird - Despite the talk of crisis in the air, dealers are reporting brisk trade and collectors are turning out in large numbers to take advantage of reduced prices - 16th October
  • A bad boy and the Good Book - Robert Crumb’s illustrated Biblical account of the creation of mankind will surprise aficionados accustomed to his grotesque and sexually charged fables - 3rd October
  • Citizens in the realm of stars - Now effortlessly assimilated as part of a cultural heritage story, Marion Davies’ love affair with William Randolph Hearst resounds through the ages - 26th September
  • Exhibition’s look at art and money - Tate Modern’s display on how contemporary art superstars have used marketing and publicity promises to be provocative - 19th September
  • Art’s right to do the right thing - Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is 20 years old, and Peter Aspden cites some of the film’s notable cinematic antecedents - 5th September
  • One more trip to Penny Lane - The digitally remastered form of the Beatles’ entire back catalogue is a requiem for an art form. To listen to them is to rediscover a canon of work that will also find fresh disciples - 29th August
  • Woman in the News: Anna Wintour - Fashion after the fall: Despite being described as the most powerful player in the business, new economic realities could undermine the famously aloof Vogue editor - 29th August
  • Tweet nothings from on high - A message from the US president sends Peter Aspden contemplating how the politics of Twitter and the art of the vacant plinth affirm that we all count - 22nd August
  • A Ukrainian play in Stratford - The theatrical performance about the 1930s famine that killed millions is part of ‘Revolutions’, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new season of post-Soviet theatre - 15th August
  • And God created Brigitte Bardot - As the film star’s 75th birthday approaches, Peter Aspden reflects on how the world was a joyless place until she arrived - 15th August
  • Dance to a different tune - Peter Aspden is entranced by a young female Russian ballet star, whose controversial style of dancing and 21st-century personality is challenging the steely status quo - 8th August
  • From free love to free market - It is common to talk of Woodstock as the end of an era, but it was equally the beginning of one - 1st August
  • Postcards from the id - As if the usual pressures of a summer holiday were not enough, now you have to put aside the norms of your meticulously assembled life so that you can find your real self - 25th July
  • Learn how to shave – properly - For the modern gentleman unsure of his morning trim, a Mayfair barber offers lessons to put him right on tonsorial matters - 27th June
  • When pop trumps poetry in the language of love - Elvis Presley’s ‘Trying to Get to You’ is hardly profound, but it is tough, honest and direct, the polar opposite of of all those effete ‘if onlys’ in ‘Cäcilie’ - 20th June
  • Alive and tweeting - Dissemination is the keynote of culture in the 21st century and British theatres have been quick to seize on the spread of a new medium - 13th June
  • Outside Edge: A magical mystery tour of UK plc - This week, America’s first family found out all they need to know about the history and character of modern Britain on a whistle-stop tour - 13th June
  • Crimes and congratulations - ‘Medals of Dishonour’ is a show at the British Museum by 12 artists whose tokens on display shame, instead of glorify, human conduct - 6th June
  • A bold new season at Sadler’s Wells - Britain’s foremost contemporary dance venue will feature a season devoted to the ‘spirit’ of Sergei Diaghilev and a two-week festival of Indian music and dance - 16th May
  • Of classicists and carbuncles - Prince Charles’s critique of modern architecture is disappointing, culture must also have momentum and anticipate what is to come - 16th May
  • The art of branding in a material world - Tate Modern’s exhibition examines the way British and US artists have used commercialism and the mass media to stimulate interest in their work and market themselves - 15th May (see: Pop Life: Art in a Material World)
  • Pop’s ring cycle - The four-decade journey from Freda Payne’s ‘Band of Gold’ to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ tells of feminism’s flowering. But Peter Aspden wonders if the movement is progressing or declining - 9th May
  • A garden fit for a queen - Amid concerns of authenticity, Peter Aspden wonders about the secrets behind the newly reconstructed Elizabethan garden of Kenilworth Castle, designed by a courtier to woo the Queen - 2nd May
  • Angels and Ages - Darwin and Lincoln, founding fathers of modern morality and liberal civilisation, were born on the same day - 28th April
  • There’s been a change of key - Amid profound shifts in classical music, the pieces being played still demand concentration from the audience and high levels of skill from the artists - 25th April
  • UK arts perform well with help from foreigners - Institutions fearing a drop in private sponsorship from British sources are turning to overseas governments and companies to help them stage prestigious events - 25th April
  • Japan takes lead role in Kabuki Shakespeare - The support of overseas sponsors was crucial to the success of Yukio Ninagawa’s extravagant production of ‘Twelfth Night’ for the Barbican Centre’s Bite season of foreign theatre - 25th April
  • First love is the deepest - Out of nostalgia and curiosity, Peter Aspden goes to see Jackson Browne, the man whom he says put difficult emotions into words and minor chords - 18th April
  • The man with oil in his veins - Russian artist Andrei Molodkin works with a new medium to create work that has social and political resonance and fires the imagination at several different levels - 11th April
  • Bowled over, Beethoven - The composer, arguably the greatest, wanted his music to stand apart from his own half-lived life - 4th April
  • Preaching to the afflicted - The success of web serials means a whole tier of cultural brokers is about to be confined to the margins of the creative industries - 28th March
  • Other people’s memories - Turkish filmmaker Kutlug Ataman‘s latest installation offers seemingly deceptive images and dwells on dual themes of national self-definition and of an England that has been lost - 21st March
  • A Terrible Splendor - An account of an historic Davis Cup match between Germany and the US provides a snapshot of a society riven with judgmentalism and hypocrisy - 17th March
  • Joshing with Jonathan is not enough - The age of the straightforward talking head interview may be over but ‘Monitor’ reminds us how compelling, almost hypnotic, the very best examples of that genre can be - 14th March
  • A dramatic act of rehabilitation - Peter Aspden is moved by Wandsworth inmates’ performance of ‘West Side Story’, its theme of redemption passing for much more than mere romantic conceit - 7th March
  • What a museum can do - As the British Museum prepares an exhibition on Iran’s Shah Abbas, its director tells Peter Aspden how art can be used for diplomacy and as a way to bring people closer together - 6th February 2009
  • Iceberg warning for the BBC - The British broadcaster finds itself frustrated still to be subjected to accusations of ‘dumbing down’ when so much of its cultural output is demonstrably of the highest quality - 31st January
  • iPod therefore I am - Peter Aspden listens to a philosophy podcast on his way to work and likens the experience to picking up a Socratic quip in ancient Athens - 24th January
  • Indian jollity and French froideur - In the course of a normal cultural week in London, Peter Aspden finds himself caught somewhere between the extremes of wonderment and worldliness - 17th January
  • Outside Edge: Families can’t win the video game - This generational bonding fad will not last - 10th January
  • Things to look forward to in pop culture - The voices that lament the dumbing down of our artistic life have never been heard louder, yet there are, as always, grounds for optimism ahead - 2nd January

Articles: 2008

  • Outside Edge: Screw the crunch, I’m off to the opera - Now is the perfect time to engage with some culture. Whether high or low, it is ideal for banishing thoughts of economic meltdown - 27th December 2008
  • West End audiences ignore credit crunch - Peter Aspden finds Oliver! and other productions beating the downturn as advance bookings remain strong at £55m-£70m and box office receipts still close to the 2007 level - 23rd December 2008
  • The artful nudger and the New Deal - In Miami Beach, Peter Aspden goes from joking about art that twittered on the margins of society to reflecting on an exhibition that had the highest possible social purpose - 20th December 2008
  • In various shades of Che - Steven Soderbergh’s epic and eponymous new biopic strips down Che Guevara’s profile to that of a charismatic, hard-working soldier with the strongest possible belief in his view of social justice - 13th December 2008
  • Lost masterpiece likely to fetch £1m - A lost painting by the Italian master Giambattista Tiepolo, which was discovered in the attic of a French chateau, will be auctioned at Christie’s in London - 29th November 2008
  • Art loves everyone. Love it back... - Miami Basel brings the cash and the culture together in a few flamboyant days, but there is bound to be a ‘correction’ this year due to the grizzled economic conditions - 29th November 2008
  • A manifesto for the Parthenon Marbles - The newly built Acropolis Museum, fresh home to the artistic legacy of ancient Athens, buttresses Greece’s demands for the return of the contested frieze - 29th November 2008
  • Cultural snapshot of India - A bold and ambitious panorama of the subcontinent’s contemporary art scene is showcased at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens - 22nd November 2008
  • From ‘Guernica’ to Beryl Cook - The re-opening of the Whitechapel art gallery at a time when there is no civil war in Europe nor rampaging fascists on London’s streets is a genuine cause for celebration - 22nd November 2008
  • Bankers are latest pantomime villains - Never mind wicked stepmothers, ugly sisters and evil witches. As London’s pantomime season gets under way for the Christmas season, there is a new villain in town – the banker - 21st Movember 2008
  • Talkin’ to Mister De Niro? ’Fraid not - ‘Why don’t you make great movies any more,’ Peter Aspden wanted to ask one of the most important actors of our time. But that risked a cutting answer that will make anyone regret bringing up the subject - 15th November 2008
  • Seven Days in the Art World - This ‘ethnographic project’ looks into seven different aspects of the contemporary art scene, providing a lucid account of the hottest cultural form around - 10th November 2008
  • Art shows paint over diplomatic cracks - Exhibitions in Moscow, Damascus and London seek to link countries with awkward relations with the UK through ‘cultural diplomacy’ between British institutions and their counterparts - 8th November 2008
  • Comedy is not just for laughs - Edgy humour was once free speech rubbing against social convention, forcing us to look at the world anew - 8th November 2008
  • Spirituality and the City - Peter Aspden suggests two havens from the financial meltdown: denial, by spending your way out of discomfort and escape, by placing your faith in the immaterial - 18th October 2008
  • Art as balm in a class of its own - A postwar education programme brought Britain’s best artists into classrooms – only rural Utopias were shown - 11th October 2008
  • Fixed by the Adams family - HBO’s very wholesome mini-series about the second president of the United States is something of a radical departure for the cable channel - 27th September 2008
  • The cold war’s grooviest relic - The Jested telecommunications tower stands proud and lonely on top of a tree-strewn mountain just over an hour’s drive from Prague - 13th September 2008
  • Larger than life - Sculptor Marc Quinn says the scale of his seven-tonne effigy of a naked infant, currently being installed, is capable of transforming its substantive meaning - 6th September 2008
  • Time to ditch the wallies and the brollies - The good-natured ineptitude depicted in London’s eight-minute number to symbolise the handover of the next Olympics is a worrying preview of what is to come - 30th August 2008
  • The British: cool, ironic and painfully honest - Two ambassadors for culture, artists Steve McQueen and Tracey Emin, celebrate another strand of the national temperament by being anything but restrained - 23rd August 2008
  • A tour de force of subtlety - Architecting’ has allusive and elusive themes, with a narrative fragmented into pieces that do not cohere easily. And yet what a joy it is to see new writing - 16th August 2008
  • Tate runners are a limp concept - The yawning gap between vainglorious artists and their tricksy ideas is the curse of contemporary art which never resists the urge to draw a cheap laugh - 9th August 2008
  • Outside Edge: Unveiled by Time, covered by Silvio - Berlusconi’s message to his country is: time to grow up, boys. Time to fend for yourselves - 9th August 2008
  • Carla's breath of summer - Thanks to an inexplicable design incompatibility between an iPod, a hire car’s cigarette lighter (has anyone used one of these since the 1950s?) and a gearstick, I found myself motoring through southern Italy in the last weeks with no music at hand - 2nd August 2008
  • French film, global culture - At first sight, Summer Hours, the new film from French director Olivier Assayas, conforms to all the stereotypes of that country’s cinematic tradition - 12th July 2008
  • Heroes without glory - There are two ways of regarding the choice of Antony Gormley’s “One and Other” to be the next art commission for Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth - 28th June 2008
  • Thatcher's children meet the flower generation - With the dark waters of the Thames swirling symbolically beneath his feet, the broadcaster Andrew Marr, in the most compelling episode of his history of modern Britain, now showing again on BBC2, described the final days of the Thatcher years - 21st June 2008
  • Slow death of the axeman - There was a time when no self-respecting piece of rock music would be without one. If you were a boy, you would studiously recreate them in your bedroom, with or without the aid of a tennis racquet - 14th June 2008
  • When sport mimics art - At the Italian Cultural Institute in London’s Belgravia, an exhilarating exhibition of photography adorns the walls - 7th June 2008
  • The rebel’s in the retail - The busy shop floor of Uniqlo in Oxford Street, flagship of the cheap-and-cheerful chain store is full, on this rainy afternoon, of skinny Scandinavian teenagers, and a new range of T-shirts is flying off the shelves - 1st June 2008
  • Hendrix, Callas and the bank - On a huge advertising board that stands high in the departure hall of Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 2, Jimi Hendrix is having a conversation with Maria Callas. We can only guess what the subject is - 24th May 2008
  • Solidarity with fishermen - Now here is one of those neat stories about changing times. If you fall in love with the splendid collection of posters from the Paris street rebellions of May 1968 on show at the Hayward Gallery, you will be pleased to hear that you can buy facsimile versions of them for your safe European homes - 10th May 2008
  • A contemporary marriage - The Milan headquarters of Prada, one of the world’s most revered fashion houses, is spread around a courtyard that is the embodiment of restrained good taste - 26th April 2008
  • Kitchen-sink diplomacy - “Vicious,” said Lou Reed laconically in his cherished 1970s hit of that name. “You hit me with a flower.” Something of that bathetic air of high camp came across this week when the Victoria and Albert museum announced its big autumn show, Cold War Modern - 26th April 2008
  • The times of my life - I write this column on my birthday – a big birthday – so you will allow me some self-indulgence. Let’s not talk figures. Let us evoke some images from the year of my birth instead: Elvis drafted into the US Army, the burning up of Sputnik One, the 17-year-old Pelé weeping into his shirt, overwhelmed by his own genius, perhaps fearful of where it would take him. (Answer: a global ambassadorship for Mastercard.) - 7th April 2008
  • The body from inside out - Fifteen months into his appointment as the Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer, Wayne McGregor is settling in nicely - 7th April 2008
  • The naked truth about freedom - It was a moment that was as pregnant with significance as it was fleeting. I was chairing a discussion at Art Dubai, the second edition of the city’s art fair, when one of my guests, Beatrix Ruf, director of Zürich’s Kunsthalle, showed a slide of a number of images, one of which appeared to be blank. She made a brief allusion to a work she had “meant to show”, and moved on - 29th March 2008
  • Luton takes arts path to boost self-esteem - For years it was the town that appeared in the punchlines of comedians’ jokes, its grimness immortalised in the classic Campari advertisement from the 1970s: “Were you truly wafted here from paradise?” “Nah, Luton airport!” - 22nd March 2008
  • Design for a superpower - By its own admission, the Victoria & Albert museum’s survey of new Chinese design cannot be anything other than a snapshot - 15th March 2008
  • London confirmed as global cultural leader - It has long been a boast of pundits and politicians but now it has been backed up by hard evidence – London has emerged as the world’s most culturally vibrant city - 12th March 2008
  • Wider still and wider, shall thy bounds be set - Here are some musical highlights from last year that Londoners were able to enjoy and that had something in common - 8th March 2008
  • 'I saw a side of life I had never seen' - One Arcadian summer in Cambridgeshire’s idyllic Grantchester Meadows, about 25 years ago - (on Jeffrey Archer) - 8th March 2008
  • To beard or not to beard - 1st March 2008
  • Flash, clever, funny: how art has taken off - Peter tours Terminal 5 - When I was a boy visiting my relatives in Greece, I remember being constantly struck by the faces of the male members of the clan, which seemed to be in a permanent state of identity crisis - 1st March 2008
  • Airport screening: Art takes off - It contains signature pieces by some of the British art world’s best known figures – Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Marc Quinn – along with freshly commissioned contemporary works that will mystify onlookers as well as enrapture them - 27th February 2008
  • Adventures into alien territory - The arts of China are gradually being absorbed into London’s bloodstream this winter, thanks to the “China Now” and “China in London” festivals, which aim to act as a marker for the next world superpower’s cultural prowess - 23rd February 2008
  • Things that percolate upwards - Wealthy foreigners who live in London, and who legitimately choose to take advantage of Britain’s absurdly generous tax regime – the so-called “non-doms” who are much in the news at present – have made an extravagant contribution to the culture of the UK. - 16th February 2008
  • Art market shrugs off economic gloom - Records tumbled, bidding was frantic and a series of masterpieces found new homes: the London art auction season confounded expectations again this week, performing strongly against a background of nervousness over the world economy - 9th February 2008
  • Seeing red: a way to affect the world - There is an eerie quiet in Sir Howard Hodgkin’s studio, considering that it is just yards from the hordes that queue to enter the British Museum and not so far from the clamour of Tottenham Court Road - 9th February 2008
  • A debate that can make you lose your marbles - “It makes sense,” says Stelios Haji-Ioannou, purveyor of all things easy and orange, and showing a fine predisposition for Socratic irony, “for easyCruise to be associated with an academic debate of the highest standard - 2nd February 2008
  • Funding cuts close business arts scheme - A scheme that has helped pump £1bn ($1.9bn) of private sector investment into the arts over the past 20 years is to be axed as a result of Arts Council England cuts, due to be announced on Friday - 1st February 2008
  • 'Angel of the south' artists shortlisted - Five artists have been chosen to compete for a £2m ($3.9m) sculpture commission that is set to become the south of England’s version of Antony Gormley’s “Angel of the North” - 29th January 2008
  • Acquiring minds - The embarrassment of riches that constitutes the Royal Academy’s From Russia exhibition, opening today and reviewed by my colleague Jackie Wullschlager overleaf, teaches us an awful lot about history - 26th January 2008
  • As great as he thinks he is - Julian Schnabel, painter, film director and man of the moment, is wrestling with his stiff, ursine frame, leaning on one elbow on a plumped-up, king-size bed in a West End hotel, a little like a Roman emperor settling down for a racy session of grapes and philosophy - 26th January 2008
  • Bold steps into the arena of art - When the likeable Texan athlete Michael Johnson ran his two finals, in the 200m and 400m, in the Olympic Games of 1996 in Atlanta, he wore a custom-made pair of lurid gold running shoes. The colour of the shoes was no coincidence - 19th January 2008
  • Wire, oh Wire - Some works of art can be so precious and intimate in their appeal that you just have to own them. That impulse is what fuels the art market - 12th January 2008
  • A heady dose of desolation - “No flash! NO FLASH! Which of those words don’t you understand? NO FLASH!” The drawl was unmistakable, as was the sheer stroppiness of the instruction. In these bland and platitudinous times, it takes a bona fide rock star of the old school to be quite so rude to his own fans - 5th January 2008

Articles: 2007

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