Some good things, May/June 2022


In the last couple months I read two of the best books I’ve read in a long time: The Dream Machine, on the very early history of Silicon Valley, and Regenesis, on the agricultural future we need to build. Both highly recommended. I also wrote a list of my five favourite books on Silicon Valley for The Economist, you can read that here.


I finally started For All Mankind and it’s as good as everyone says it is.


40 Maltby Street continues to fire on all cylinders. In Cornwall, I had an unbelievably good strawberry and honeycomb dessert at North Street Kitchen, great spider crab croquettes at Pintxo and a phenomenal tartine at Coombeshead Farm. But the highlight of the last month was my trip to Queens Night Market in New York, which somehow managed to exceed my very high expectations. Nansense‘s chapli kebab smash burger was revelatory.


The Father and the Assassin was very good, and revived my interest in India/Pakistan history. Ivo’s Age of Rage was also good, but the weakest of his “epic” trilogy. Hans Kesting was great, as ever, but it was very interesting to watch Édouard Louis play himself in Who Killed My Father — I think he probably did a better job than Kesting. The buzziest thing I saw was That Is Not Who I Am, which was very good, but didn’t deliver on the weird gimmick it’s framed as.


The Guggenheim’s Vasily Kandinsky exhibition is great; a rare example of an artist who got better with age. But the best thing I’ve seen in ages was Cornelia Parker at Tate Britain: the art is great by itself, but her intellectual curiosity means it’s even better when you read the accompanying descriptions. Highly recommended.

Best exhibitions of 2021

Yayoi Kusama, Bronx Botanical Gardens

The rare kind of exhibition where the way the art was displayed made a big (positive) difference to how you perceive it and how you perceive your surroundings.

Albion Farm

The initial display at this new sculpture park was excellent — it’s a really lovely venue and was a good selection of artists (David Adjaye’s pavilion was the highlight.)

Rachel Whiteread, Gagosian

Some of the most technically impressive art I’ve seen in a long time: the “cardboard” box above is made of metal.

Honourable mentions: Jasper Johns (Whitney), Surrealism Beyond Borders (Met), Idris Khan (Victoria Miro)

Waste of time and money: Louise Bourgeouis (Jewish Museum)

Jasper Johns at The Whitney

An enjoyable retrospective which made me appreciate Johns more than I did before. The exhibition shows just how versatile he is, though putting all the works together highlights both his strengths (conceptual flag/map art) and weaknesses (‘traditional’ painting).

The map/flag room is particularly good, both in terms of the works chosen and the way they’re displayed. It’s quite impressive to see just how different an effect his maps have, depending on the colours/styles chosen (see two examples below). I also enjoyed seeing his surrealist works, which were new to me and pretty good.

The only criticisms I have is that the exhibition is too long (go when you are neither hungry nor tired!), and in general The Whitney isn’t very good at creating defined pathways through exhibitions, which annoys completionists like me.

(Sidenote: I wonder how many visitors to the NYC exhibition will also go to the Philadelphia exhibition? I assume it’ll be significantly fewer than Philly-to-NYC visitors.)

Book tickets here.