Articles by Ben Street

Thomas Struth, 'San Zaccaria', 1995. Image courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 1996 (1996.297) © Thomas Struth

Letter from London

Letter from London | Rarely Pure, and Never Simple

Letter from London

Letter from London | Rarely Pure, and Never Simple

  Maybe Thomas Struth’s 1995 photograph of the interior of the church of San Zaccaria in Venice is too obvious a way to epitomise the relationship between contemporary art and …

Albrecht Durer, 'Pictures for Geometry' (2), 1525

Letter from London

Letter from London | World on a String

Letter from London

Letter from London | World on a String

Language draws an imaginary line around objects. That demarcation follows through in all the lines in our lives: the Morse code of a Risk board’s borders, anticipatory lines dragged across …

'Cy (Twombly) + Relics - Rome #5', 1952, photo by Robert Rauschenberg

Letter from London

Letter from London | Classic Rock

Letter from London

Letter from London | Classic Rock

The pairing of Cy Twombly and Nicolas Poussin in the current exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery reveals an embarrassment of shared interests that make it surprising they hadn’t been …

Jacopo Comin, aka Tintoretto, 'The Stealing of the Body of St Mark' (1562-66) and 'The Last Supper' (1592-94) at the Venice Biennale (image courtesy Phaidon)

Letter from London

Letter from London | The Secret History

Letter from London

Letter from London | The Secret History

Academic specialization is bad for art, and has led to a situation in which contemporary art seems more unmoored from its past than at any other moment in history. This …

Tony Tasset, "Judy," 1998. 35mm six second film loop, dimensions variable. Courtesy Leo Koenig Projekte Inc.

Letter from London

Letter from London | The Look of Love

Letter from London

Letter from London | The Look of Love

For one week only, this Letter from London is from New York — B.S. Tony Tasset’s Judy, currently on show at the Leo Koenig Projekte Space in Chelsea, New York, …

Vera Lutter, 'Chephren and Cheops Pyramids, Giza: April 12, 2010', 2010. Image courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Letter from London

Letter from London | Pyramid Scheme

Letter from London

Letter from London | Pyramid Scheme

A camera is a room and a room is a head, and the head is constantly being filled with images it has to process and make sense of. A person …

Ai Weiwei, 'Study in Perspective: Forbidden City', 1995

Letter from London

Letter from London | Seeds of Discord

Letter from London

Letter from London | Seeds of Discord

When an artist dies, their work changes forever. Whatever it was they were doing at the time of their demise becomes loaded with retroactive meaning and spurious clairvoyance. With the …

"I am so sorry": Tiger Woods with his wife, children, and two mistresses, Rusty and Mr Snuffles

Letter from London

Letter from London | Eye of the Tiger

Letter from London

Letter from London | Eye of the Tiger

Tiger Woods is a profoundly uninteresting man, elevated to role model status in America by his unwavering commitment to brand promotion and the eradication of personal charisma, so when the …

Will Corwin, 'The Last Judgement' (2011). Image courtesy the artist and George and Jorgen gallery

Letter from London

Letter from London | Grave Architecture

Letter from London

Letter from London | Grave Architecture

There’s a long history of painters becoming architects and carrying their pictorial imaginations with them. Bramante’s Tempietto in Rome and Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence are examples of the painter’s …

Picasso's 'Nude, Green Leaves and Bust' (1932) at Tate Modern. Image Andy Paradise/PA

Letter from London

Letter from London: The Price is Right

Letter from London

Letter from London: The Price is Right

Funny how very expensive paintings become metaphors of themselves. The 45-million-dollar Duccio bought by the Met in 2005 shows the incarnate deity supported with infinite care by his reverentially gazing …

Marcus Coates 'The Trip', 2010. Documentary photograph. Courtesy of the artist

Letter from London

Letter from London: Trip Advisor

Letter from London

Letter from London: Trip Advisor

All travel is retrospective. We don’t travel for the experience – most traveling time is spent waiting, after all – but in order to have something to remember. The easy …

Image of a boy playing a video game from Robbie Cooper's 'The Immersion Project'

Letter from London

Letter from London: Gutter Rug

Letter from London

Letter from London: Gutter Rug

Whether or not computer games are actually any good for us – some argue they cause children to become withdrawn and asocial, and others suggest that they provide valuable life …

19th century sculpture in the Musee d'Orsay: sexy but boring

Letter from London

Letter from London: Being Boring

Letter from London

Letter from London: Being Boring

“Why is sculpture so boring?” So said Charles Baudelaire in 1848. Sculpture in Baudelaire’s time was boring. In actual fact, with some notable exceptions, sculpture was, for a very long …

The Heads of the Kings of Judah and Rudolph Stingel 'Untitled' at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris

Letter from London

Letter from London: Hell Is Other People

Letter from London

Letter from London: Hell Is Other People

It is a truth universally acknowledged that artists make the best curators. Mark Wallinger’s exhibition, The Russian Linesman at the Hayward Gallery last March, was a proposal about what creative …

The London protests heat up (image courtesy Antony Bennison)

Letter from London

Letter from London: Tuition and Hopin’

Letter from London

Letter from London: Tuition and Hopin’

This week, Britain’s coalition government (narrowly) passed a proposal to dramatically hike university tuition fees, the results of which were a number of occasionally violent protests in central London. The …

Susan Philipsz. Photograph: Karen Robinson for the Observer

Letter from London

Letter from London: Turner Blind Eye

Letter from London

Letter from London: Turner Blind Eye

The Otolith Group ought to win this year’s Turner Prize, if their installation at Tate Britain is anything to go by, which it isn’t. Tate Britain’s press department must really …

Steve Martin and John Candy in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", which you need to see again.

Letter from London

Letter from London: The Time of Your Life

Letter from London

Letter from London: The Time of Your Life

Christian Marclay’s The Clock (now on show at White Cube, Mason’s Yard) is a twenty-four hour long film which, unlike other very long art films like Douglas Gordon’s Twenty-Four Hour …

Annika Strom's 'Ten Embarrassed Men' at Frieze 2010. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Letter from London

Letter from London: Frieze of Access

Letter from London

Letter from London: Frieze of Access

As part of this year’s Frieze Art Fair, Simon Fujiwara, the winner of the 2010 Cartier award, has conjured up a faux-archaeological Roman site, bits of which are sometimes exposed …

Rene Daniels, De Slag om de Twintigste Eeuw (Battle for the Twentieth Century), 1984, Courtesy of ABN AMRO Collection

Letter from London

Letter from London: Dutch Treat

Letter from London

Letter from London: Dutch Treat

René Daniëls is a really, really good painter, maybe even a great painter, who stopped painting twenty-three years ago and has only resumed in the last two years. In 1987, he …

Jeremy Deller's '5 March 2007' on display in the Imperial War Museum, London. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Letter from London

Letter from London: Spoils of War

Letter from London

Letter from London: Spoils of War

There’s a new display at the Imperial War Museum, London, orchestrated by the artist Jeremy Deller, which consists of a burnt-out, red-brown car, mangled in an an explosion in Baghdad …

Brian Griffiths, 'Battenberg' [maquette], 2010

Letter from London

Letter from London: Public Enemy

Letter from London

Letter from London: Public Enemy

Public art is rubbish. Starting from that premise is the best possible pre-emptive strike against disappointment. Don’t expect public art to be any good and you’ll be surprised when it …

"Philip IV" and "Mariana of Austria" shoot the breeze in the Prado

Letter from London

Letter from London: Masterpiece Theatre

Letter from London

Letter from London: Masterpiece Theatre

On a single day this week I saw a clutch of paintings that would, by most reckonings, be referred to as “masterpieces”: Velazquez’ Las Meninas (1656), Goya’s Third of May …

Siena's Campo dei Miracoli at Mini-Europe, Brussels

Letter from London

Letter from London: In the Loop

Letter from London

Letter from London: In the Loop

My favorite things in Pallant House, the excellent gallery of modern British art in Chichester on the south coast of England, are a couple of small models made before its …

Pablo Picasso walking the dog

Letter from London

Letter from London: Young Americans

Letter from London

Letter from London: Young Americans

The “must-see show of the summer” is not, despite what the adverts on the buses might have you believe, the John Richardson-curated Picasso show at Gagosian Gallery. Not nearly as …

Richard Wilson, '20:50' at the Saatchi Gallery

Letter from London

Letter from London: Tense Present

Letter from London

Letter from London: Tense Present

Let us assume there are two boxes on a table. In one box, there is a relatively normal turtle; in the other, Adolf Hitler’s skull. You have to select one …

Aaron_by_Lars_Borges

Letter from London

Letter from London: Interview with Aaron Moulton (Feinkost, Berlin)

Letter from London

Letter from London: Interview with Aaron Moulton (Feinkost, Berlin)

This Letter from London is, for one time only, from Berlin. — B.S. Aaron Moulton is a curator of contemporary art and, with his wife Mette Ravnkilde Nielsen, founder of …

Giant Spider Sculpture "Maman" by  Louise Bourgeois at Tate Modern Art Gallery, London by Steve Greaves

Letter from London

Letter from London: Tate at Ten

Letter from London

Letter from London: Tate at Ten

There’s a display outside one of the shops in Tate Modern, showing visitors’ comments written on little cards. That visitors’ comments are encouraged at all, let alone actually displayed in …

ohn Gerrard, 'Oil Stick Work', 2008. Courtesy the artist and Art on the Underground

Letter from London

Letter from London: Barnstormer

Letter from London

Letter from London: Barnstormer

“Time-based art” is a great new contemporary art phrase to drop into conversations, with the redoubtable Orwellian tautology of “movement-based dancing” or “sound-based music.” It’s one of those phrases that …

Angela de la Cruz, 'Nothing 1' (1998), oil on canvas, Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery, London

Letter from London

Letter from London: Paint, Misbehaving

Letter from London

Letter from London: Paint, Misbehaving

Writing about painting isn’t easy, simply because painting isn’t built to be written about. So writers writing about painting tend to rely on a checklist of clichés: the one about …

Alfred Molina as Mark Rothko in 'Red'

Letter from London

Letter from London: Everything Must Go

Letter from London

Letter from London: Everything Must Go

John Logan’s play Red, currently playing at the Golden Theater, New York, centers around a perennial ethical conundrum many successful artists face: whether or not to “sell out” to corporate …

London Mayor Boris Johnson, Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, Lakshmi Mittal and Anish Kapoor

Letter from London

Letter from London: Battlin’ Tatlin

Letter from London

Letter from London: Battlin’ Tatlin

Poor old Vladimir Tatlin. Having been ruthlessly picked-apart in numberless modernist critiques, his thwarted architectural ambitions have yet again provided the basis for a work of contemporary art. Anish Kapoor’s design …

'Their relationship was based on preparing absurdly complicated recipes using overpriced ingredients' from unhappyhipsters.com

Letter from London

Letter from London: Ethic Minority (2)

Letter from London

Letter from London: Ethic Minority (2)

There’s a lot of discussion and almost no consensus about the difference between ethics and morals, so let’s be broad about it: both are proposals about how to live. Those …

Matthew Broderick in 'Election'

Letter from London

Letter from London: Ethic Minority

Letter from London

Letter from London: Ethic Minority

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.” — Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray …

Bronzino: Random!

Letter from London

Letter from London: To The Manner Born

Letter from London

Letter from London: To The Manner Born

It’s good, useless fun to pre-emptively define the times you live in. Nicholas Bourriaud’s confusingly limned term “Altermodern,” used to define works in last year’s Tate Triennial and, by extension, …

Hip_Hop_Mixtapes

Letter from London

Letter from London: Chris Ofili, A Mixtape

Letter from London

Letter from London: Chris Ofili, A Mixtape

Making mixtapes is one of life’s great non-transferable skills; its lack of import in a pragmatic sense is inversely proportional to the amount of time and effort it requires (rewinding, …

Paul Gauguin, 'Pandora" (1892)

Letter from London

Letter from London: Avatarnation!

Letter from London

Letter from London: Avatarnation!

What was it like before the internet was invented? Can you remember? Where did all that pent-up aggression go before you were able to express your rage with the world …