The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.


Arcola Theatre: The Painter by Rebecca Lenkiewicz (until 12th February 2011)

The Arcola may have moved to new, grander premises in Dalston now but its commitment to new writing remains strong. Rebecca Lenkiewicz's play, based upon the life of J W Turner, is served admirably by Mehmet Ergen's subtle production, which contains a reportedly riveting performance from Tony Jones as Turner.


The Portuguese Nun (ICA)

The American born, Paris based director Eugène Green's new film has garnered near universal five star reviews in the press. The complex drama, based upon the 17th century French novel The Letters of a Portuguese Nun, unfolds against the stunning backdrop of haute baroque Lisbon, with frequent diversions into superb musical set pieces of fado. In his review, the NS film critic Ryan Gilbey praised "the fairy-tale rhythm of the narrative" and judged the film to be "spellbinding."


The Design Museum: John Pawson Plain Space (until 30th January 2011)

Last chance to get to this beautifully put together retrospective on the magisterial Minimalist architect. From the Cistercian Monastery of Our Lady of Nový Dvůr in the Czech Republic to the designs for the Calvin Klein store on Madison Avenue, most of the intruguing plans are here for your viewing pleasure.


Royal Academy: Modern British Sculpture (22nd January until 7th April 2011)

Excitement has grown around this major exhibition of British sculpture from the late 19th century up to the present day. Bringing together influential works from Barbara Hepworth, Anthony Caro and Richard Long, this is probably one to get to early on.


Royal Festival Hall: 2011 T S Eliot Prize Readings (7 PM, 23rd January 2011)

This is the Cannes of poetry, and whilst Southbank may not exactly be la Croisette, this year's line up is a deeply impressive one, with two Nobel laureates (Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney) amongst the nominees. This series of readings, which takes place a day before the award ceremony for the Prize, is not to be missed.

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The Met Gala 2016: the dull, the terrifying and the brilliantly odd

The Met Ball is, to paraphrase Mean Girls, the one night a year when celebs can dress like total freaks and no one can say anything about it.

For those unfamiliar with the Met Gala, it’s basically a cross between a glossy red carpet affair and a fancy dress party: the themed prom of your dreams. Hosted by Vogue at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it is, to paraphrase Mean Girls, the one night a year when celebs can dress like total freaks and no one can say anything about it. Each year there is a theme to match the The Costume Institute’s spring exhibition – the only rules are stick with it, be bizarre, outlandish and remember that there’s no such thing as over the top.

This year’s theme was Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology. A man-meets-machine theme surely offers a world of endless possibilities: suits that move by themselves! Colour-changing gowns! Holographic ties! Levitating shoes! Floppy disk trains!

Or everybody could just come in silver, I guess.

The cardinal offence of the Met Ball is to be boring, and this year, almost nobody was free from sin. As Miranda Priestly would say: “Metallics for a technology theme? Groundbreaking.” Cindy Crawford, Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian (both in Balmain, like always), Rita Ora and Taylor Momsen (wait, I mean Swift) all need to take along hard look at themselves.

The only thing worse than “I’ll just shove something shiny on” is “Mmmmm guess I’ll ignore the theme altogether and make sure I look nice”. Flagrant disobedience never looked so miserably bland. In this category: Amber Heard, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Uma Thurman, everyone in Topshop, and literally ALL THE MEN. I mean, Tom Hiddleston could be any human male at a posh event from 1858-now.

In contrast, plus points for arbitrary weirdness go to Sarah Jessica Parker for coming as some sort of virginial pirate, Lorde for her directional arm cast, Zayn for his directional arm plates, Katy Perry for her noble ensemble reminding us all of the importance of tech security (keep it under lock and key, folks!), Lady Gaga for coming as a sexy microchip, and for… whatever that is.

The best theme interpretations in my mind go to Allison Williams for her actually beautiful 3D-printed gown, Emma Watson for her outfit made entirely out of recycled bottles, Claire Danes for coming as a Disney light-up princess doll, FKA Twigs for dressing as a dystopian leader from the future, and Orlando Bloom for coming in a boring normal suit and just pinning an actual tamagotchi on his lapel. Baller move.

The  best outfits of all were even weirder. Beyoncé couldn’t be outdone in this dress, seemingly made out of the skin of her husband’s mistress: as she warned us she would do on Lemonade, with the lyric “If it’s what you truly want, I can wear her skin over mine.” Of course this peach PVC number is also studded with pearls reportedly worth around $8,000 each.

Solange shone like the sun in this bright yellow structural creature (paired with some slick yellow leggings that nod to her sister’s outfit) proving yet again that she is the only woman on earth who can pull off looking like a cubist painting.

Kanye was possibly the only person to have ever worn ripped jeans to a fashion event hosted by Anna Wintour and the Met, studding a jean jacket to oblivion, and wearing pale blue contacts to boot - he and FKA Twigs could lead the dystopian future together. When asked about his icy eyes, Kanye simply replied, “Vibes.”

But my personal favourite of the night has to be Lupita Nyong’o, who, radiant as ever, wins points for being on theme in her afrofuturistic look and the technology behind her outfit (her dress is sustainably made by Calvin Klein for The Green Carpet Challenge). She looks absolutely stunning, and is as far from boring as it’s possible to be with two-foot-tall hair. Perfection.

All photos via Getty.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.