Jewish communities have suffered a spate of horrifying anti-Semitic attacks on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet survival has always been the story of the Jewish people. Remembering how previous generations responded to persecution shows how light can still be found amid darkness. Consider the life of Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005), an Austrian Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals. Before … Continue reading Wall Street Journal: In a Concentration Camp, Dreams of a Café
On a recent visit to the Royal Academy, I noticed a tall, elegantly dressed man who spent quite some time admiring a square object attached to the wall. I wondered whether to tell him that far from being Russian avant-garde art, which was the theme of the exhibition, it was in fact the temperature and humidity control box. Many visitors to Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Ironies of Ideology
“Austria comes alive on my divan,” said Berta Zuckerkandl, and this was an understatement. An influential journalist and art critic, Zuckerkandl welcomed everybody from Auguste Rodin and Gustav Klimt to Arthur Schnitzler at her home. There, she promoted their work, found them buyers and introduced them to the luminaries of the day. “Hail to the most marvellous and witty woman in Vienna,” Johann Strauss is … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Viennese rooms with a point of view
“Street art—you mean vandalism? No, thank you.” That was the response of a friend when I invited him to join me at the Museum of the City of New York for their recent exhibit, “City as Canvas.” His scruple was understandable but a little out-of-date. Graffiti was once something so furtive and illicit that the city of New York spent over three hundred million dollars … Continue reading First Things Magazine: Taking Art Off the Street – Museums are giving street art a home, but at what cost?
What makes a genius? Since at least the 19th century, some have said it is down to genetics, while others have argued that upbringing is decisive. More recently, the idea that genius rests on sheer hard work — the “10,000 hours” thesis popularised by the writer Malcolm Gladwell — has gained currency. The latest contribution to the debate comes from the journalist and travel writer … Continue reading Financial Times: How to create a golden age
Tucked away between office buildings by Euston station is where I found the Camden People’s Theatre. It’s a little place with colourful bunting, a cheerful selection of chairs and flowery plastic tablecloths. It’s the kind of theatre where you can buy a packet of crisps in the interval, rather than wasabi peas. I went to see a talk and two plays that were part of Whose … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Whose London is it anyway?
I recently went to a public lecture at LSE hosted by the Forum for European Philosophy. The discussion was entitled “Does philosophy have to be obscure?” It struck me as a bit odd that both possible responses presume that philosophy is indeed obscure. If we understand “obscure” as “unclearly expressed” or “not easily understood”, so many things seem more obscure – Facebook’s terms of agreement, say, or … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Does philosophy have to be obscure?
One of the 20th century’s main advocates of high-rise tower blocks was the architect Ernő Goldfinger. To address the acute housing shortage following the Second World War, he designed concrete monsters including the Trellick Tower in Kensington, which was completed in 1972, and Balfron Tower in Poplar, completed in 1967. Living with Buildings, at the Wellcome Collection, London, until March 3, 2019, explores how buildings … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Wholesome homes
History books have long explored the lives of great individuals, families or countries. Today, the choice of subjects is wider. In Behold, America, for example, Sarah Churchwell addressed two familiar expressions: “the American dream” and “America first”. And now, Norman Eisen has made a grand, neo-classicist building in Prague the protagonist of his book, The Last Palace. It begins — as many a Jewish man’s … Continue reading Jewish Chronicle: Book review of The Last Palace
In his previous book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr argued that the Internet diminishes our power to concentrate and contemplate. Now he turns his eye to automation: “If you want to understand the human consequences of automation”, he writes, “the first place to look is up”. Air travel has been at the vanguard of automation, and it has become safer on the whole. By the same … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Engage neutral