The Easel

7th June 2022

Why Britain should want to return the Parthenon Marbles, argued by a professor of Aegean archaeology

Greece has long argued that Lord Elgin was a serial looter who took the Parthenon sculptures illegally. Britain has steadfastly maintained that the works were obtained fairly. British public attitudes have been shifting toward restitution and recently UNESCO announced that the two nations will hold formal talks. A breakthrough? Perhaps not – a British Museum official has suddenly announced a new justification for how the works were acquired. A case of two steps forward, one step back.

31st May 2022

Why we’re all still screaming for Edvard Munch

Munch had woes – anxiety, alcoholism, unsuccessful romances. They appear in his work via a vocabulary of symbols, such as staring eyes, sunken cheeks and pallid skin, collectively expressing his view of the self as “a battleground”. A show of his overlooked early work reveals a more nuanced Munch, one more obviously connected into European art of his time. For a change, the omnipresent The Scream is absent. That, says one critic, is “very welcome”.

Damien Hirst’s Natural History at Gagosian

When Hirst first exhibited a shark in a tank of formaldehyde, it shocked. A similar work of cow and calf soon won him the Turner Prize. Does a show featuring 30 years of such works bring another round of applause?  Not exactly. Some criticize him for “wasting” animal lives, though he is surely not alone in this. The bigger criticism is a clear lack of inspiration. Says this writer “most of the works seem lazy or forced [and] points to a lack of worthy ideas”. Another is more acerbic – “art for oligarchs”.