The Easel

11th August 2020

Artist Cao Fei on Why We’re “Drifting in the Virtual World Without an Exit”

Cao’s first solo show in a British public museum highlights the diversity of her output. Partly it reflects her curiosity, partly it comes from how rapidly the world is changing. Digitization has transformed jobs and fueled urbanization. People wonder what reality is, and where they belong. Says Cao “villages have transferred into skyscrapers. [We are in] an era full of crises. Panic and chaos may become our new normal”.

George IV: Art and Spectacle an exhibition at the Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace

King George IV gets awful press – “a bad husband, a bad father, a bad subject, a bad monarch”. Limited redemption comes from his “great, discerning” patronage of the arts. Whether in painting (Gainsborough, Stubbs), architecture (Soane), music or literature (Jane Austen), he facilitated “an astonishingly fecund moment in English cultural history … the last English monarch to leave London more handsome than he found it”.

Activist curators are sharpening the debate on restitution

A topic that refuses to go away. The British Museum holds 900 (!) of the acclaimed bronze sculptures from Benin (now Nigeria). New scholarship casts further doubt on whether they were purchased legally. ‘Legal purchase’ has been the usual defense for holding onto colonial acquisitions. A fallback idea is the “world” museum, one place where everything is together, a concept characterised as “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine.”