Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
n SO farewell then The Late Show, not that you ever made much sense to me. By 11.15 in the evening I am always in one of two states of mind - fast asleep or drunk. Neither is conducive to intelligent appreciation of the arts, let alone of funny presenters who apply emphases to all the wrong words and wear daft earrings. Still, the farewell show did re- run some of the choicer moments that the programme has given us over the years. Like David Hare posing the asinine question: Who was greater: Bob Dylan or John Keats? (Keats was the better poet, Dylan the better rock singer. OK?) And Jonathan Miller reducing Victoria Gillick to shreds of outraged vanity. Then there was an item in which I hope my ears deceived me. Waldemar Januszczak was trying to demolish one of Howard Jacobson's arguments by calling it (I hope I have this right, it was very late) "a load of pork crackling". This is not a good thing for a Pole to say to a Jew.

STROLLING unconcernedly down Chiltern Street, W1, the other day, as is my wont (my tailor happens to have his premises there - as fine a man as ever measured an inside leg), I happened upon an empty shop-front with a forlorn little sign saying that it was "In Limbo, the Alternative Art Gallery." Now while the word "Alternative" makes me duck for cover, the word "Art" tends to make me sit up. Pinned to the door was this manifesto. It began: "The concept of this piece of work emerges from a personal need to question and challenge specific ideologies of western culture." Already I could feel my head swimming and eyes glazing over. I gritted my teeth and read on, but there was just more of this stuff about "ologies", only worse. The windows were bare of anything that could possibly be art. Then I caught sight of it. A notice pinned to the door said "Mylene, I'll be back around 3pm." In fact it was already 3.15 and there was no sign of the "gallery" being open, nor of "Mylene". What anarchy! That's what I call challenging western culture.

n TO Apsley House, to see the home of the Duke of Wellington, which the V&A have spent huge amounts of time and money refurbishing. It was my colleague, Tim Hilton, who last week recommended the excursion, with a caveat about the poor lighting. This is sad, but true. The Iron Duke had collected an interesting rag-bag of paintings by the age-old method of plundering the countries he conquered - so much cheaper than nipping down to Sotheby's. The jewel in the collection is Velasquez's The Waterseller of Seville, a beautiful study of a boy buying a glass of water, with a low, sidelong light in it just like a Caravaggio. I know this only because I bought the postcard. The way the painting is hung, with light from a vast window, an overhead skylight and a chandelier all bouncing off it, you can only see about a quarter of it at any one time, and that from a very oblique angle. Don't think Wellie would have been pleased.

Jack Hughes

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