I am getting increasingly baffled by the suggestion that herd immunity was not the declared policy of the government in March. I thought I would check what I half remembered. A friend in Paris wrote me an email on 17 March, ‘Dear Charles, I hope you are well and safe, and not taken into the UK herd immunity policy’. I knew what he meant as did he: that the UK government was going its own way, independently of the rest of Europe, because it thought it knew better, whatever the consequences in terms of the numbers of deaths. It was maybe a defensible policy at the time. But it’s surely not defensible to now deny it.
I’m so pleased to read of the determination of small museums in Paris to re-open. I had a conversation with András Szántó this afternoon (he is speaking in the Art Newspaper debate), who pointed out that hardware stores are open in the United States and that the logistics of opening hardware stores are not so very different from those of opening museums. Social distancing isn’t necessarily a problem. Numbers can be regulated. Masks can be worn. It’s bad to assume that museums can work just as well online.
I have been boning up for the discussion on the Future of Museums, which the Art Newspaper and Factum Arte have organised for this Friday afternoon (see attached). I’m looking forward to discussing the issue as to whether this prolonged period of seeing works of art online, on television, on twitter, will have made us more or less tolerant of reproductive technologies, only providing Zoom works, which seems to me to be an inadequate substitute for a Viennese café:-
I’ve just been watching Simon Schama talking about The Young Rembrandt, the Ashmolean’s exhibition which has had to be closed because of Covid-19 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000hqpj). It wasn’t quite clear whether it was filmed before or after the closure, but either way it was a brilliant way of showing and experiencing the exhibition in absentia, with Schama as a profoundly knowledgeable guide looking not just at paintings, but drawings and etchings as well and giving a deep sense of Rembrandt’s humanity. A wonderful thing for the BBC to have enabled.
We were incredibly pleased by the attached good news that a cottage somewhere in North Wales has won the Architects’ Journal small projects award for the skill and sensitivity with which which Martin Edwards has added a bedroom extension to the existing nineteenth-century cottage, using the materials of an agricultural building to disguise it. I am particularly pleased that the judges could see the quality in something so low key, so carefully unostentatious, doing everything in its power to sit harmoniously in the landscape, but with it’s own integrity, independently of the existing cottage:-
Apart from the recent interview in the Financial Times with Emmanuel Macron which I did not repost because it’s behind a paywall, this is the single most thoughtful and reflective – and damning – piece that I have read so far about the political response to Covid-19 in this country:-
Over the last couple of years, we have been hypnotised by Víkingur Ólafsson’s playing of Bach, which I have found it very hard to analyse: very light, oddly otherworldly, as if it is being played from another planet, not early eighteenth-century Leipzig. More recently, we have been listening to his new recording of Debussy and Rameau. But I haven’t dared write about it, because I’m not confident of my musical judgment, so was pleased to read the attached piece in the New Yorker, which describes the quality of his playing authoritatively:-
I realise that by now we’ve probably all read more than enough about Covid-19, how to avoid it and what it’s likely effects are, but I was still struck by the extreme lucidity of the attached presentation and the quality of its graphics, demonstrating just how bad it can be and why ventilators make the difference between life and death.
As readers of my blog will know I have a more than passing, although still amateur, interest in photography, which has been much encouraged by Richard Bram, a professional street photographer. This week he was due to talk at the Italian Street Photo Festival which, not surprisingly, hasn’t been possible, but they have posted a talk by him in which he reflects interestingly about his attitude to Street Photography and his career.
I have written previously of the work being undertaken by Bella Gonshorovitz and a group of friends in Hackney to make gowns for hospitals. But it is far from straightforward because of problems in the supply of the appropriate material. So, she is now starting to make them from material called tyvek, which has been approved by the Royal Brompton Hospital. It is apparently much used for purposes of art storage, so she is putting out a call in case anyone knows of stocks of it. If so, please contact her at email@example.com. It’s the only way of knowing how to help her, other than giving money, which many of you already have done.