Best of the week's arts and culture news, covering books, art, film, architecture and more.
To coincide with the release of 12 Years a Slave, this Culture Show special, presented by Mark Kermode, looks at the history and culture of slavery. The subject of slavery has inspired director Steve McQueen's film, which is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was sold into slavery in the 1840s. McQueen is known for his visceral, hard-hitting films, and even though this is his third feature, it's already creating awards season buzz for him and the movie's star Chiwetel Ejiofor. McQueen initially began his career as an artist, creating provocative work that won him the Turner Prize in 1999. In his relatively short film career, McQueen has already won a BAFTA and Cannes' Camera d'Or. Mark Kermode talks to McQueen about the making of 12 Years a Slave, his life, other works and unique artistic sensibility. With contributions from Charlotte Rampling and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Whenever Hanif Kureishi writes a new film or book, something is broken - a taboo, a confidence or new ground. The Buddha of Suburbia and My Beautiful Laundrette author, who first caused a stink turning his experiences of racism, Thatcherism and sexual transgression into corrosive comedy, has amused, provoked, annoyed and betrayed for over four decades now. It is with some relish, it seems, that the barbed and ruthless writer picks up a pen, and waits as friends, lovers and family take cover, fearing what bitter human frailty might get caught in his satirical gaze. In the year he turns 60, Kureishi is putting out a new book, publicising his latest film and committing his life's archive to the vaults of the British Library. Alan Yentob might have expected to find him in a reflective mood but Hanif Kureishi is not one for mellowing. He takes his duty as national literary nuisance very seriously indeed.
The Lego Movie (released 14 February) is the latest big-budget incarnation of one of the world's most popular toys. Yet Lego is more than a global brand. Tom Dyckhoff explores its fascinating relationship with architecture, and argues that it has changed the way we think about buildings. Lego's plastic yellow bricks were launched in the 50s, and resonated with new visions of rebuilding society - with ethical, imaginative children's play at its heart. Tom meets the artists and architects reared on Lego, who are using it to reimagine our cities today, from Bjarke Ingels, 39, the leading architect of his generation, to international artist Olafur Eliasson whose Collectivity project took three tonnes of Lego to the citizens of Tirana, Albania. But with Hollywood franchises and huge expansion, has Lego lost its original ethos of creativity and construction? Tom looks to Lego's successors and at how cult computer game Minecraft may be set to transform the cities of the future.
First he was the poster boy of 90s Britpop, then the music man behind electro-cartoon duo Gorillaz. More recently he's composed operas and helmed the world music juggernaut that is Africa Express... Now finally, after coming full circle with Blur's triumphant 20-year reunion tour, Damon Albarn goes it alone. Due in April 2014, Everyday Robots will be his first proper solo album and he's given The Culture Show exclusive and intimate access to his life as he prepares to present this new work to the world. It's a lyrical journey that takes him back to his childhood, to the places he holds dear and the memories that infuse his new collection of songs, many of which have never been heard by the public. The film follows Albarn as he looks behind his own masks of the past to give an honest account of himself and his work as a solo artist.
In 2009, art detective Dr Bendor Grosvenor caused a national scandal by proving that the Scottish National Portrait Gallery's iconic portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the rebel Stuart who almost seized power in 1745, was not in fact him. Keen to make amends, and suspecting that a long-lost portrait of the prince by one of Scotland's greatest artists, Allan Ramsay, might still survive, Bendor decides to retrace Charles' journey in the hope of unravelling one of the greatest mysteries in British art.
Now in their ninth year, the Kermode Awards are the ultimate antidote to the Oscars, a low-frills awards ceremony celebrating the very best of movie-making talent overlooked by the Academy. Even in what's considered a bumper Oscars year, film critic Mark Kermode has uncovers missing gems deserving of his coveted golden gong, including in the best actress, director and cinematography categories. Handing out the awards, Mark meets eminent film makers, behind-the-scenes talent and some of cinema's rising stars. But it's not all about the best this year. For the first time, Mark also picks his worst movie. So who will win the coveted Kermode statuette for best picture? And who will bag the turkey trophy?
Matisse was one of the most celebrated painters of the 20th century who, even in his own lifetime, enjoyed a level of popularity envied by other artists. But in 1941, after a near-fatal operation for cancer, he decided to give up painting and sought a new way of drawing in colour. Scissors replaced a paintbrush and with the unique skill of a tailor, he set about creating his now famous cut-outs, which have yet to be rivalled for their originality and daring. To coincide with a major Tate Modern exhibition in April, Alastair Sooke presents a moving and intimate portrait, with contributions from the Tate's Nicholas Serota, biographer Hilary Spurling and Jacqueline Duheme, who worked with Matisse in the late 1940s at this critical turning point in his career.
Talking about art matters a lot, according to Alastair Sooke, who was a judge in last year's ARTiculation - a little-known, but fast-growing speaking competition, in which teenagers compete to talk eloquently and passionately about art. Alastair has been following the journeys of nine competitors as they have battled their way through nine regional heats, against tough competition, to win a coveted place in the final. And he has been finding out why they took part and what art has inspired them, uncovering the moving, funny and often surprising stories behind their choices. He also catches up with them at the finals in Cambridge, where this year's judge, artist and writer Edmund De Waal, will pick the winner of ARTiculation 2014.
The Vikings are famous for their violent raids on Anglo-Saxon monasteries, incredible shipbuilding skills and general brutality. They are less famous, perhaps, for their artistic talents. Yet the precious fragments of art that survive from the Viking Age portray a far more mysterious side to Viking culture. From the so-called 'gripping beast' motif of the Oseberg wood carvings to the abstract animal ornamentation that adorns Viking jewellery, Viking art is defined by beautiful intricate artistic styles that are distinctly Scandinavian yet also show the Vikings' interaction with other cultures, culminating in their conversion from paganism to Christianity. To coincide with the first major exhibition on Vikings at the British Museum for over 30 years, Andrew Graham-Dixon invites viewers to explore and admire the splendours of Viking art.
For author and columnist Tony Parsons, boxing matters. He spars every week. Full-contact, no-holds-barred, in a searching examination of skill, courage and fear. On a journey through the cultural landscape of the 20th and now 21st century, Tony Parsons discovers a cast of cultural giants from Hemingway to TS Elliot and Joyce Carol Oates, to Picasso, Braque and Manet who shared a passion for this ancient art - both in their work and in their life. The sport was nearly knocked out in the sixties by a potent combination of peace and love but in the digital age, boxing is getting up off the canvas. A new generation of men and women are discovering that boxing has little to do with violence and everything to do with the search for self-knowledge.
Tony award-winning African-American artist Savion Glover is not your average tap dancer. From Broadway prodigy to global star, Glover's journey has been a remarkable one, fighting lazy cultural stereotypes and striving to make tap dance relevant to new generations. Often compared to basketball legend Michael Jordan, Glover is an explosive creative force of the hip-hop generation who has fundamentally reimagined what tap dance can be. However, schooled by the likes of Sammy Davis Junior, Glover is also a passionate torchbearer for the great tap trailblazers of the past. Presenter Morgan Quaintance visits Glover in his native Newark, a notoriously tough inner city in New Jersey, to discover more about his life, work and art. He also delves deeper into the history of a unique African-American tap dance style that Glover is the leading contemporary exponent of.
Lynn Barber has been interviewing famous people for more than three decades. Renowned for her audacious, brilliantly honest and often caustic profiles, Barber asks the questions no one else dares ask. The 'Demon Barber of Fleet Street' they call her. In this irreverent half-hour programme, Lynn Barber talks to Alan Yentob about her job interviewing and writing about celebrities. She recounts her combustible clashes with Rafa Nadal and Marianne Faithful, she explains why actors are so difficult to interview and why she relishes shouty men. 'I'm embarrassment proof,' she says, 'if somebody loses their temper and starts shouting at me I feel quite cosy with that'.
Sir Kenneth Clark was arguably the most influential figure in 20th-century British art. Born into a world of privilege, his achievements were staggering. He keeper of the King's Pictures, director of the National Gallery, founder of the Arts Council and independent television, and best remembered as the presenter of the most ambitious arts series ever made - Civilisation. A staunch defender of Reithian values, Clark was attacked for being an elitist 'posh man in tweeds'. But he held a passionate belief that art was for everyone and made it his mission, through television, to share his love of art with the masses. To coincide with Tate Britain's exhibition on Clark opening in May, this Culture Show special presents an intimate portrait of a contradictory and elusive character who transformed our cultural landscape.
When Edward St Aubyn summoned the courage to write the fictionalized version of his unbearable childhood and describe the horrific abuse he suffered at the hands of cruel and neglectful aristocratic parents, he not only broke a taboo, but he also pulled off a rare act of literary alchemy. He turned the grim material of his life - rape, drug addiction and the ever-present pull of suicide - into a series of exquisitely crafted books (The Melrose novels) that critics rate amongst the finest achievements of contemporary British fiction. The surprise is that they are wickedly funny too. Through his alter ego Patrick Melrose he slays the monsters of his past with witty, elegant rage. However, this is not therapy; in over 20 years of writing, St Aubyn has taken little comfort from the process, calling it a 'grim obligation' rather than a pleasure - writing under the terms of a psychological contract to prevent him killing himself. St Aubyn has a new book out - Lost for Words. This time he has ditched the anguished alter ego, and the monsters are the less pernicious demons of the literary world. His writing may still be funny, savage and true, but this time it may even bring him peace - at last.
Miranda Sawyer enters the wild imagination of celebrated British conceptual artist Ryan Gander. A cultural magpie renowned for his playful, cryptic and complex creations, Gander is one of the world's most exciting young talents whose creations can sell for up to £500,000. It is a big summer for this Chester-born innovator with works appearing at the Royal Academy and Hayward Gallery, exhibitions all over the world, as well as a massive solo show opening in Manchester in July. Sawyer explores the extraordinary diversity of Gander's art, spanning sculptures that tinker with art history, chess sets made from car parts, fantastical cocktails and even designer trainers. A charming and witty raconteur, Gander challenges our preconceptions about conceptual art while imparting an infectious enthusiasm and curiosity for the world around him.
For centuries, folk art has been ignored by the art establishment, but in June 2014 the first national exhibition to look back at the tradition of folk art in this country opens at Tate Britain. Artists Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane get a preview of the show and give their own take on what folk art is. They go on an illuminating tour of British folk art. From Blackpool promenade to customised motorbikes, from shop signs to street parades, they show that, if you look closely, we live in a folk art culture and that folk art is all around us.
All architecture begins with the tent. Tents are what humans lived in before we put down roots and began our love affair with bricks and mortar. And no-one is more obsessed with solid, heavy, permanent buildings than the British. To us, the tent is something flimsy and temporary that we will only endure bedding down in on rare occasions. But has civilisation - and architects in particular - unfairly overlooked the brilliant, efficient design of the tent? In an overcrowded world faced with a housing crisis and dwindling natural resources, could the tent be the answer? Tom Dyckhoff thinks it could well be. As festival season begins, Tom's freewheeling journey into the secret life of the tent takes him back to the origins of human habitat: the yurts and tipis of our nomadic past, to the German mecca of high-tech, cutting-edge tensile architecture and to the spiritual home of the modern peace camp where the tent became a symbol of political resistance. Along the way he discovers that our acceptance of the tent and our openness to alternatives to traditional stone and brick buildings is all a state of mind. The homes of the future could be fabric for all of us.
At the height of the punk explosion almost 40 years ago, a handful of women completely redefined what a woman in music could do. Through sheer talent and fearlessness they pushed themselves on to a male dominated music scene and became part of a movement that radically changed the cultural landscape. Along with Siouxsie Sioux, Poly Styrene and Chrissie Hynde, the Slits were among punk's most important figures and Viv Albertine, their guitarist, has just brought out her memoir 'Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys' which chronicles her life as part of this revolutionary vanguard. Miranda Sawyer meets up with Viv Albertine and some of the other key female figures of the era including Chrissie Hynde, The Raincoats, and punk anti-heroine Jordan to look at how they inspired a generation of young women with the notion that anyone could do anything if they wanted to. Plus she explores whether the punk spirit still survives today.
Hilary Mantel is one of our most assured and successful novelists. She writes blackly comic novels set in the present and confronts our Tudor past in her Thomas Cromwell novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She reimagines famous figures from our history, or imagines for herself the life of a psychic medium in the suburbs of Surrey and Berkshire. In fact, everything she writes is historical fiction, because everyone she writes about must deal with their own past. James Runcie meets a writer who has conjured the ghosts of Henry VIII and Lady Diana, and whose latest collection of short stories contemplates the possibility that Margaret Thatcher was assassinated in 1983.
World-renowned photographer Rankin takes on the challenge of interpreting Rembrandt's portraits of old age, adapting the Dutch master's techniques for his camera. Rembrandt's portraits are some of the most arresting images of old age in western art. He captured the vitality and vulnerability of his subjects, highlighting the effects of time in a candid way that still resonates today. Rankin collaborates with Terry Gilliam, Ken Loach, Zandra Rhodes and Una Stubbs to create his own contemporary versions of four Rembrandt portraits. He explores Rembrandt's use of light, his technique with paint and his ability to capture the ambiguities of facial expression and subtleties of personality with startling effect. Drawing on all these elements, Rankin attempts to produce photographs that capture the essence of these 17th-century images, created by one of the world's greatest portrait painters.