Agenda: 'American Psycho: the Musical'; dog beards; The Eden Sessions; sport drought


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The Independent Culture

Middle-class problems: Provenance

Can it really be the case that fewer than 25 years have passed since the average middle-class person still thought of provenance as a place in France you might retire to for a year in order to write a bestselling memoir?

How times have changed. These days, we seem to be mildly obsessed with the subject. From antiques programmes on TV to the tat we buy on eBay to the food we eat, provenance is apparently the magic word, with the power to make us blow serious money on, say, a handkerchief that someone who once knew the Beatles once blew his nose on.

Which is not to say that there aren't certain times when provenance can play a part in attesting to the authenticity of something – a famous person has written stuff in the margins of a book, for instance. But it is equally true that provenance is often just a smart word used to part fools from their money.

And fair enough, we demand to know where the food on our plates has come from. But is the appearance of a name such as "Small Farm Near Here" really enough to assure us? It frequently seems so, even though, as a recent episode of The Apprentice reminded us, there is no way of knowing that that "organic, farm fresh" fruit drink doesn't actually contain apple juice locally sourced from the shelves of the nearest Londis.

So by all means feel free to question the origins of whatever it is you are spending your hard-earnt cash on; but perhaps we could all do with focusing a little more on the first five letters of that much-bandied word.