View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Diary
13 March 2024

The perils of artists’ posthumous fame

Also this week: Philip Larkin’s “ecclesiastical journeys”, and general election date intel.

By Rosie Millard

At heart, I am analogue. I know podcasts are the thing, but they must be downloaded by the converted, not listened to by chance. I much preferred the sense of thrilling possibility when my arts series Dead Famous kicked off on BBC Radio 4, as hopefully it would connect with anyone who had the radio on – such as a friend in Brooklyn, New York, who wakes up to the radio at 11.30am GMT and thus was lulled into the day via my dulcet tones.

The idea behind the series is to tell the story of how some artists went from obscurity to posthumous global fame. It started on 5 March with Johannes Vermeer, who died bankrupt and whose work lay forgotten for 200 years. Via a sequence of serendipitous events, his paintings now command sell-out retrospectives, advertise cheese, car rentals and snacks, and even decorate ironing boards. I take the listener to the recent blockbuster exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, talk to a forgery expert who tells the scandalous tale of how pretend “Vermeers” made the news in the 1940s, and interview Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring. Chevalier has a corner in her study devoted to Girl merchandise – including “Girl with a Pearl Onion”-flavoured crisps.

Last week I analysed the unstoppable rise of Van Gogh, whose bandwagon is promoting an “immersive experience”. In east London one can pay £15.90 to sit on a deckchair and be surrounded by ten-metre-high Sunflowers on a wraparound screen. This has become more popular than going to the National Gallery and seeing the original for nothing. Forget the philosophy of Walter Benjamin, who suggested that a masterpiece might lose its authenticity by becoming too familiar. Benjamin would shudder to hear that next week’s subject, Frida Kahlo, is in the throes of fridge magnet-dom. They can’t make an immersive Rembrandt show, apparently, as his palette is too muddy for digital immortality. If you want to get into Rembrandt, stand in front of a canvas. If you want to get into Frida, tune in at 11.30am on 19 March. Or go to BBC Sounds, if you prefer.

Election date scoop

To the Royal Television Society Awards, where I was on the jury for Best Current Affairs Documentary. The prize went to Hardcash Productions’ Russell Brand: In Plain Sight for Channel 4, which stitched together archive footage of Brand’s “comedy” against hideous and painful testimonies from the women he is accused of abusing. “We have failed for too long to confront people because they were too famous or too powerful,” said Esella Hawkey, Hardcash’s creative director.

At the BBC News table were a clutch of my old friends from the newsroom. Unsurprisingly, there the chat was all about the general election, which I learned will definitely be on 28 November. This is the Thursday three weeks after the US election on 5 November, and news teams need this long to reset. You read it here first.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Churchgoing with Larkin

On Saturday, I went on a trip to Chichester Cathedral in my role as president of the Philip Larkin Society, to stand before the Arundel Tomb and contemplate the poem about the memorialised pair who lie “side by side, their faces blurred”. It was overwhelming to see them as Larkin writes, holding hands. After a tour, we were given a lecture from our founding chairman, the academic Philip Pullen, about Larkin’s “ecclesiastical journeys”. They were not uncomplicated, it seems. Larkin’s view on reading the Bible? “Really, it’s absolute balls. Beautiful, of course. But balls.” He once visited the tomb and was amused to be told by a guide that it had provoked a wonderful poem by “Philip Spender”. Some people think Larkin a dreadful old curmudgeon. Who knows?

Tall story

My husband Alexander is very tall. When on a Tube, he is obliged to stand in the middle, as any closer to the door the ceiling is just too low. En route to the English National Opera recently, he took a commanding position in the carriage. Shortly afterwards, a man approached him and said: “I hope you don’t mind, but I have taken a photograph of you. I am a Turner Prize-winning photographer. I am Wolfgang Tillmans.” Shortly after, Tillmans hopped off to hang out with Keir Starmer (I later found out from a friend). Thrilling!

Lampard joins the team

This week we are welcoming a house guest, Dwight Lampard. Dwight is four years old, but will possibly live for another 140. He is my son’s marginated tortoise. We hope he’ll be satisfied with an arrangement of a tortoise table, heat lamp and supply of bok choy, his leaf of choice. And that he’ll last longer with us than his namesake did under the heat lamp of Chelsea FC.

The Arts Stack by Rosie Millard is on Substack

[See also: An audience with the King, London’s pest problem, and why the English are afraid of the Scots]

Content from our partners
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International
Time for Labour to turn the tide on children’s health
How can we deliver better rail journeys for customers?

Topics in this article : ,

This article appears in the 13 Mar 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The battle for Keir Starmer’s soul

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU