Find the cream of culture with our guide to the best books, films, music, festivals and exhibitions this season.
Egremont’s Forgotten Land is an evocative history of East Prussia, formerly a proud centre of German nationhood which exists now only in the memory of its refugees. Through a combination of historical analysis and personal reportage, Egremont tells the story of the land and its dispossessed population whose homeland was excised from the map after the Soviet invasion of 1945.
Jean Dubuffet (1901-85) was one of the major artists of the last century but his work in the field of architecture has neve attracted the same attention as his painting. Famous as the creator of the Hourloupe cycle and as the man who coined the term “Art Brut”, he also undertook the construction of the Villa and Closerie Falbala, a groundbreaking work in experimental architecture. Daniel Abadie sheds a deserved light on his achievements.
Hanif proved himself to be one of Pakistan’s most vital voices with his darkly comic debut, A Case of Exploding Mangoes. He builds on this reputation with Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, deftly bringing to life the chaotic milieu of Pakistan’s largest city as he charts the extraordinary results of a gifted nurse’s arrival at a Karachi hospital.
The Iron Curtain may have been torn open more than 20 years ago but much of the world behind its rusting remnants remains a mystery. The Polish writer Stasiuk captures this “other Europe” with clarity and eloquence as he charts his journeys through Albania, Moldova, Slovenia and elsewhere.
The long-anticipated successor to 2004’s The Line of Beauty and the exceptional The Folding Star before that, London-based Alan Hollinghurst’s latest novel tells the story of two families as their lineages twist and turn with each other over the course of the 20th century. We have a hunch that The Stranger’s Child was Hollinghurst’s attempt to shake off the “gay novelist” moniker, but the result is a strangely anodyne book that appears a tad dreary when compared to its wonderful predecessors.
Paying homage to one of the most celebrated post-war Britons and founding partner of design consultancy Pentagram, this volume is a nice selection of Kenneth Grange’s best works. Product and industrial designer for over 50 years, Grange is the man responsible for the emblematic design of Kodak cameras, Parker pens, 1998’s London black cab and the Anglepoise lamp, to name a few. See Monocle Issue 41.
Retro-flavoured fashion, old bands reuniting, remakes and sequels of classic pics, reissues of albums – nowadays it’s more about a blast from the past than starting anew. Reynolds, who’s written for Rolling Stone, The Wire, Mojo, and the New York Times looks into the current retro obsession of pop culture, questioning its originality and the lack of inspiration in the present.
Damned is a novel about an 11-year-old girl, mystified to suddenly find herself damned to hell but determined to make the best of it. Chuck Palahniuk critiques modern society through his well-worn themes of social alienation and dissatisfaction by creating an allegorical world in which the only career choice is an eternity in telesales.
Manhattan’s sound of the summer feels as if it were conceived to fill a corner of a foreign field with bliss and good moves at sunset. The New Yorker’s fifth album is the sunny side of experimental; by turns euphoric, jazzy, intimate and expansively dancey. It’s an addictive thing that should be the toast of headphones and windows-down hire-cars the world over.
JuJu provide the proof of the pudding for African rock. Tinariwen and Amadou & Mariam whetted our appetites; now come Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara and their see-what-we-did-there band name. The riff-riot approach of Camara – “Gambia’s Hendrix” – meets irresistible rhythms and a hypnotic approach to vocals on a suite of desert jams that becomes a riveting rock record that probably creates its own heat haze.
Untamed beats throb from traditional band instruments and escort Edson Velandia’s quirky lyrics (the singer frequently wears a gigantic papier-mâché mule head in concerts) on the fourth album produced by this feral Colombian band. Already popular in their natural habitat (last year Velandia gave 34 successful concerts in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina), the band is set to roam greater stages.
The revered Lebanese sax player is back with his fifth album. Recorded in Paris with his orchestral ensemble, the album is a nod to the city he has left behind. Partly inspired by the musical scores he composed in the last few years for Lebanese films, the album has a strong narrative feel to it. And as with Tootya and DrabZeen, his previous albums, Beyrouth Cinema is an elegant work.
Last year, we wrote about Syriana’s brilliant Road to Damascus record and this time Nick Page is back with his Dub Colossus hat on (at a jaunty angle, too) in Ethiopia working with smoke-voiced seduction and yearning beauty in Tsedenia Gebremarkos and Mimi Zenebe as well as the two dozen virtuosi instrumentalists that kick around Addis Ababa of a winter. The heat-baked beauty of this record is totally alluring. It’s the summer.
In the early 1970s Berry Gordy Jr took his Motown label to the West Coast to pick up on the talents of locals the Commodores and the sultry soul of Syreeta and Sisters Love. The talent cut some excellent tracks: Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons in rare form, Suzee Ikeda, the first Asian-American on Motown, and the fiery Thelma Houston – all make the most of Gordy’s ears flying to the Pacific.
With a broader (odder?) sound and half an eye on risk-taking, the shy Gothenburgers make the most of collaborating with Damon Albarn and Raphael Saadiq by adding a bit of Africa to the rhythms and a bit of synth-warmth to a growing, showing, sing-a-longa-sound-of-the-summer record. See them live around the place, too. They dress up. They’re not that shy.
With Ramadan starting early this year, on 1 August, Lebanon’s Byblos Festival (just like Baalbeck and Beiteddine festivals) is packing its programme into July. Its eclectic selection spans the musical spectrum, from Malian world music (Amadou et Mariam) to French pop (Florent Pagny). Of note for rock nostalgics, the Scorpions will be making it to this antique city with its stage on the Mediterranean shore. Other performers include Moby and Thirty Seconds to Mars. 28 June-22 July.
This beautiful big-field event, hedged in by snow-capped Alps on one side and Lac Léman on the other, has a 30-year history – like Dylan, it started folk and went electric – but you'd be a fool to complain. PJ Harvey, Robert Plant and the Chemical Brothers show main-stage breadth, but the smaller stages (including “French Chanson”) are interesting: Yael Naim, The Creole Choir of Cuba and Calle 13 fight it out for the quieter crowds. 19-24 July.
This is a stunner. You’re in a glade between fjords, the Ekeberg Hills and sandy beaches (dip if you have the balls) and it’s as exquisite as the line-up is quixotic: Lykke Li, Pulp, Fleet Foxes, Janelle Monáe, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are the obvious; Twin Shadow, Hakan Hellstrom, Fjorden Baby are there if you look. Give me solskinn! 9-13 August.
When the Simon Bolivar Park lawn cushioned Rock al Parque for the first time in 1995, 80,000 head-bangers attended the four-day festival. Since then, the number of visitors has soared to 350,000, making it the biggest free rock festival in Latin America. Those who can’t soak up Bogotá’s sun this year will be able to watch more than 30 hours of live music broadcast online. 2-4 July.
Farhadi offers an intimate look into married couple’s separation in this social drama set in present-day Tehran. After 14 years of marriage Simin is anxious to move her family out of Iran and make a better life for her daughter but her husband Nader is determined to stay in the country. With excellent performances all round, A Separation deservedly won The Golden Bear at the 2011 Berlin Film festival.
Italian film maestro Gianni Di Gregorio directs and stars in this bittersweet tale of late-flowering lust and love. Bossed about by wife, daughter and mother, the besieged Gianni is lured away from his role as househusband by his best friend, Alfonso, who encourages him to embrace a life of vicarious pleasure – with results that veer between the painful and the hilarious.
Korean writer/director Lee Chang-dong’s haunting new film features a quietly brilliant performance by Yun Jung-hee as a sixty-something who discovers poetry at the same time as a shocking crime committed by her grandson is exposed. As her world threatens to implode, the power of words to see the world anew becomes both a source of courage and escape.
Danish director Susanne Bier, whose 1990’s debut Freud Leaving Home won international acclaim and crowds of loyal followers, explores, in her own words, “the limitations we encounter in trying to control our society as well as our personal lives”. Winner of this year’s Oscar and Golden Globe for best foreign film language, In a Better World is an effortlessly told story about revenge, empathy and forgiveness.
YouTube turned filmmaker when it asked its members to capture fragments of their lives on one day, 24 July 2010. Eighty thousand clips from across the globe were submitted and the resulting 4,500 hours of footage has been distilled into 95-minute film produced by Ridley Scott: an extraordinary portrait of one day in the life of our planet.
This arthouse feel-good flick by writer/director Mike Mills gives a lesson or two on how to deal with new beginnings – as the film puts it, “when it comes to relationships, we’re all beginners”. Mills, who’s also renowned for his music videos and album covers for Moby and Sonic Youth, to name a glorious few, brings together a brilliantly casted team with Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and the up-and-coming Mélanie Laurent from Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
Almodóvar drifts away from his comfort zone of telling beautiful yet sad tales about women and goes eerie and darker, casting his old lead man of choice Antonio Banderas as Dr Ledgard, a plastic surgeo trying to create a skin with which he could have saved his wife who died in a car crash. Itchy thriller or bizarre topic choice – Almodóvar is among the chosen few who can get away with anything.
Terrence Malick won the Palme d’Or for the film that re-stated his reputation as a genius and a sod and as a maker of elegy and of obstinate control-freakery and excess. Mostly the good stuff, though. A film that swoops from small-town Americana to the outer reaches of swirling galaxies and the age of the dinosaurs has a right to ask the big questions: love, loss, the nature of existence, that sort of thing. It’s a Sistine Chapel of a film: epic, beautiful, memorable, slightly silly but made to last.
With stunts more reminiscent of Tamahori’s Die Another Day than your usual based-on-a-true-story historical drama, The Devil's Double may also pass for a gangster flick. It portrays Latif Yahia, the man forced to become the double of Uday, Saddam Hussein's eldest son. Sex, violence and doppelgangers (both decently pulled off by Alan Bennett’s ‘History Boy’, Dominic Cooper) in Saddam’s Iraq to the tunes of Depeche Mode – what’s not to like (apart from the poster)?
Elegant small-scale film based on the novel by Eric Holder, Mademoiselle Chambon is a character study of Jean, a happily married mason who lives a life of simplicity until he falls in love with his son’s schoolteacher. Beautifully acted, this film is a delicate exploration of the inner turmoil brought on by an inconvenient love.
Based on Judy Pascoe’s bestselling novel Our Father who Art in the Tree, the latest by French director Julie Bertuccelli is a story about overcoming death, told with lots of imagination and tender humour. The Tree might not live up to the standards of Bertuccelli’s acclaimed feature debut Since Otar Left but it’s definitely worth seeing if only for the perfect Charlotte Gainsbourg and the breathtaking Australian landscapes.
13 August – 6 November
When it comes to contemporary art from Asia, it’s usually Chinese artists that grab the headlines and most of the commissions. Australia’s National Portrait Gallery will seek to alter that with portraits and self-portraits by Indian, Malaysian, Filipino, Indonesian and Thai contemporary artists.
8 July – 9 October
Curated by New York-based Joan Young, this summer the Guggenheim’s Berlin outpost will become a sanctuary of storytelling as it plays host to a show devoted to fables, myths and fairytales. The exhibition is video-heavy, with evocative contributions from Francis Alÿs, Mika Rottenberg and Pierre Huyghe.
22 June – 23 October
The pathologically popular Surrealism movement will be subject to yet another chewing over this summer. The exhibition focuses mainly on the output of Salvador Dalí, and will pit his works against more contemporary pieces from Louise Bourgeois, Glenn Brown and Francesco Vezzoli.
12 July – 17 September
This year, works by Michelangelo Pistoletto – one of Italy’s leading figures in conceptual art, as well as a founding father of Arte Povera - will take up residence in the Hyde Park space.
Until 29 August
In 1993, a young Tracey Emin held a show at White Cube gallery sarcastically entitled “My Major Retrospective”. Who would have thought it would take almost 20 years for a proper one to come about? This summer, the Hayward is hosting a multi-media survey of her entire career, including neons, drawings, blanket wall-hangings, installations and videos. Despite there being missing pieces – many of her early (and best) neons, and the inevitable “My Bed” – this show will remind Britain that there’s more to one of its greatest living artists than just booze and aborted babies.
4 June – 27 November
The Biennale is still the thing for anyone with an eye on the aesthetic. This year Bice Curiger curates the central art exhibition, calling it “Illuminazioni” which is all this floating city and the art on its walls is. Monocle will have its eye on Mike Nelson’s wry and contemplative installations in the British pavilion, Steven Shearer making the normally meek Canadian space into a shed-like monolith and Allora and Calzadilla running laps around the US pavilion with help from the American track and field team. As ever, the best of the rest might be better still – Pinault’s new show, Axel Vervoordt’s Palazzo Fortuny and Dasha Zhukova’s jumbo-screen that pokes a stick at commerce and culture. Monocle will be making a film which you’ll be able to watch on monocle.com by the time you read this.
3 July – 25 September
With over 200 photographs taken from three of Newton’s first books in the late 1970s and early ’80s, this show is arguably the first large-scale US retrospective of the Germany-born photographer that fully demonstrates his talents. Some of the works are well beyond life-size and include awe-inspiring black and white images of powerhouse women in street scenes, bondage gear or just in their birthday suit.
6 August – 6 November
Held at two spaces in Japan’s second most populous city, the Museum of Art and the NYK Waterfront Warehouse, this Triennale is entitled “Our Magic Hour: How Much of the World Can We Know?” after a work by Ugo Rondinone which will feature in the show, alongside work from over 60 contemporary artists.
4 June – 2 October
This show brings together two of the greatest voices in contemporary American culture: Beat generation dynamo Jack Kerouac and once-upon-a-time Pop art pioneer Ed Ruscha. This exhibition will include works from Ed Ruscha’s own interpretation of Kerouac’s novel On The Road (executed for the Gagosian Gallery in 2009), as well as six large canvases and 10 drawings. The Californian collision of Kerouac’s words with Ruscha’s all-caps trademark is a must-see for art lovers this summer.
Until 11 September
Moderna Museet is making the most of its enviable collection of works by Dada daddy Marcel Duchamp with a summer-long display of 14 works in Malmö. Most of them are replicas of Duchamp's original ready- mades, which art critic Ulf Linde produced for an exhibition in Stockholm in 1963. Undoubtedly giggling at the concept of a readymade of a readymade, Duchamp signed most of them throughout the 1960s.