Right: portrait of Samuel Pepys (detail) (1689), Godfrey Kneller, National Maritime Museum, London. Wikimedia Commons (public domain); right: portrait of John Evelyn (detail) (n.d.), studio of Godfrey Kneller. Private collection. Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

‘Whole streets in the City were shuttered’ – London during the devastating plague of 1665

That we know so much about the day-to-day reality of the Great Plague of London is down to the diaries of John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys

24 Mar 2020
Fiona MacCarthy. Courtesy Faber & Faber

‘She refused to allow moral disgust to cancel admiration’ – a tribute to Fiona MacCarthy

The biographer’s revelations about Eric Gill were delivered with calm objectivity – a quality that made her a superb observer of extraordinary lives, her own included

24 Mar 2020
Sol LeWitt’s Four-Sided Pyramid in the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden, photographed in 1999.

Guidance and gratitude – on cultural leadership in uncertain times

The director of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., on the challenges of steering the institution and looking after its staff during the Covid-19 crisis

20 Mar 2020
A Lady Writing (detail; c. 1665), Johannes Vermeer. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Staying the distance – on museums and the art world in a time of crisis

We’ll need to find ways to be together while alone during the coming weeks and months

19 Mar 2020
The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) Athens.

The brief end to the long wait for the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens

After two decades of delays, the museum finally opened its doors at the end of February. Now, like so many others, it has had to shut again

19 Mar 2020
A police officer standing guard in St Peter’s Square.

‘Rome without people isn’t really Rome at all’ – notes from a city under quarantine

With the whole of Italy in lockdown, the streets of Rome are empty – and the city without visitors has a strange and confusing atmosphere

11 Mar 2020

‘Now is the time to be smart’ – the Pinacoteca di Brera in a time of lockdown

Its doors may be closed, but Milan’s greatest gallery will find ways to keep working for the quarantined city, says director James Bradburne

8 Mar 2020
Mudras (detail; 1974), Ulay.

‘His work was his life, and vice versa’ – a tribute to Ulay (1943–2020)

The German-born artist never stopped reinventing himself – from his gender-bending self-portraits to a film about living with cancer

4 Mar 2020
Russian artist and activist Pyotr Pavlensky during a press interview in Paris on February 22, 2020. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

What is Pyotr Pavlensky playing at?

There is no shortage of theories about why the Russian artist leaked a sex tape that made a French politician drop out of the mayoral race in Paris

Illustration: David Biskup

Have art prizes had their day?

The decision to split the Turner Prize caused quite a stir – do such gestures undermine art prizes or open up new ways of judging contemporary art?

24 Feb 2020
Red-on-buff plate with a bird holding a fish in its beak, c. 900–1150, Sacaton, Arizona. Arizona State Museum

The ancient heritage at risk from Trump’s border wall

With ‘controlled blasting’ underway in a national monument area in Arizona, cultural sites and their attendant artefacts may be lost forever

20 Feb 2020
Kirk Douglas (1916–2020) as Van Gogh in Vincente Minnelli’s Lust for Life (1956).

When Kirk Douglas played Van Gogh

A celebration of the late actor’s star turn as the tormented artist in Vincente Minnelli’s biopic of 1956

10 Feb 2020
Manuscript page with a drawing of Venice (detail; 1346–50), Fra Niccolò da Poggibonsi.

What did Venice look like to a medieval pilgrim from Tuscany?

A 14th-century sketch by a travelling friar is now thought to be the earliest known drawing of the city

29 Jan 2020
The Grill Room (1876–81), John R.E. Watkins.

Food for thought – the art of the museum restaurant

From casual cafes to fine dining – the eating options at a museum can tell us a great deal about how it sees itself

27 Jan 2020
Illustration: David Biskup

Could contemporary art be less wasteful?

What effect do contemporary artists have on the environment – and should this affect what we think about their work?

27 Jan 2020
A copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, coming to auction at Christie’s, New York, on 24 April.

Shakespeare’s First Folio will set you back millions – but its cultural value is immeasurable

A complete version of the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays is up for sale. What is it that makes this book so desirable?

22 Jan 2020
John Baldessari photographed in 2015.

‘He taught by example’ – a tribute to John Baldessari (1931–2020)

One of the inventors of conceptual art, and a towering figure on the West Coast scene, he was also a dedicated mentor to his students

21 Jan 2020
Alasdair Gray (2004), Norman McBeath.

‘He invented modern Glasgow’ – a tribute to Alasdair Gray (1934–2019)

The painter-novelist was one of a kind – but his influence will continue to shape the imagination of Scotland

17 Jan 2020

Why the National Trust is trading in its Maori meeting house for a newer model

The decision to exchange the historic carvings of Hinemihi at Clandon Park for new examples is admirable – and creative

10 Jan 2020
Mosaic of the Enthroned Christ and the Donor, Theodore Metochites above the entrance to the naos of the Kariye (Chora) Museum, Istanbul.

The Kariye Museum in Istanbul – a Byzantine masterpiece under threat

A court recently ruled that the ancient site be reconverted into a mosque, casting the fate of its well-preserved mosaics and wall paintings into question

The Sarr-Savoy report one year on. Illustration: David Biskup

Has the Sarr-Savoy report had any effect since it was first published?

It’s been a year since the publication of a groundbreaking report calling for the restitution of African cultural heritage in French museums. How has it been received?

6 Jan 2020
The collective winners of the Turner Prize 2019.

And the winner of this year’s Turner Prize is… the Turner Prize itself

Despite the mutterings of most critics, the decision to award the prize to all four nominees makes a lot of sense – and is good for contemporary art

5 Dec 2019
Charles Jencks outside the Maggie’s Centre at Charing Cross Hospital, designed by Rogers Stirk + Harbour.

‘His writing was always alive to the deep pleasures of great buildings’

Remembering the critical insights and generous instincts of the writer and architect Charles Jencks (1939–2019)

25 Nov 2019
Illustration: David Biskup

Could national museums in the UK do more to be truly national?

Are the largely London-based institutions funded by central government doing enough to share their collections and expertise with the rest of the country?

25 Nov 2019