Coming Soon: Yoko Ono shines in her own right

By Charles Darwent
Sunday 16 November 2008 01:00

Moving eastward and backward from the Royal Academy's Byzantium show comes Babylon – or, perhaps, Babylon! – at the British Museum (020-7323 8181, 13 November-15 March). When Constantinople was a twinkle in antiquity's eye, Babylonia was already a wonder of the world; a place of ziggurats, legal codes and Hanging Gardens. If it peaked early – c. 600BC, in fact – the city-state remained dangerously attractive to invaders. The latest of these are George W Bush's troops, whose addition to Babylon's history has been to drive tanks through the remains of its 2,600-year-old Imperial Way – a woeful chapter shown alongside the tiled glories of Nebuchadnezzar. So much for progress.

A happier tale is told at the Royal Academy next spring, this being Andrea Palladio: His Life and Legacy (020-7300 8000, 31 January-13 April). Born 500 years ago, Palladio has so far been better treated by posterity than have Babylon's builders. Architects from Christopher Wren to William Kent drew inspiration from La Rotonda and the Redentore, and trendy ones such as Eric Parry still do: Parry designed the RA's show.

Picasso may not have been into cupolas, but, like Parry, he did turn to history for his inspiration – a truth made evident by Picasso: Challenging the Past at the National Gallery (020-7747 2885, 25 February-7 June). His many takes on Velázquez's Las Meninas may look more like a massacre than a homage, but there's no doubting the Great One's strength of feeling.

If there are no Picassos now, we do at least have Yoko Ono (pictured). Unfairly dismissed as Mrs John Lennon, Ono actually helped to found the Fluxus Group in 1961 and has been a fully paid-up member of the avant-garde ever since. Her art and career are the subject of a richly deserved (and doubtless suitably wacky) show, Between the Sky and My Head, at the Baltic in Gateshead (0191-478 1810, 14 December-15 March).

For my money, the main reason for surviving the winter is Tate Modern's Rodchenko & Popova: Defining Constructivism (020-7887 8888, 12 February-17 May). The pair comprised a two-person powerhouse, bringing the tenets of modernism to everything from painting to fashion to theatre design. Like Babylon, their flash of glory was soon lost in a dark night, in their case of Stalin's tyranny. But, while it shone, what a glory it was.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments