Noel Halifax

Mr Turner

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Mike Leigh’s new film has Timothy Spall as artist William Turner. It recreates the artist’s life and early 19th century England in meticulous detail with warts, bad teeth and all.

The acting is of the highest level, the film looks great and is as accurate in the facts it tells as the costumes and landscapes it recreates.

The son of a barber and wig maker of Covent Garden, Turner sold directly to his clients, mostly the gentry, and did so as an equal. He was a difficult and taciturn man who lived for his art and was never part of a movement.

Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement

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Magnus Hirschfeld was central to the German gay rights movement at the turn of the 20th century. From the 1890s to the 1930s he was a member of numerous committees, societies, campaigns and institutes that together can be said to be the first major gay rights movement that involved thousands of people, and usually with him as the spokesperson and leader.

How to be Gay

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David M Halperin, Belkap Press, £14.95

This is three books in one, or rather two and a half. The half is a magazine-style essay on what happened when the author David Halperin, who is professor of the history and theory of sexuality at the University of Michigan, announced that he was running a course with the title of the book.

A hoo-ha followed with the religious right and others accusing him of trying to "convert naive innocent students" to becoming gay. It is an interesting piece of gay history in Chicago, and in the end good triumphs over bad.

Art and the market: creativity for sale

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Modern art has always had a troubled relationship under capitalism, writes Noel Halifax. Art movements that express the urges of rebellion, find themselves consumed by capital.

Throughout his life the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky had an interest in art. He took part in heated debates after the 1917 Revolution in Russia over the nature of art, poetry, cinema and literature. Trotsky debated with the "Prolecult" movement about the meaning and use of art in the revolution.

Lou Reed 1942-2013

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The media have been full of praise for Lou Reed now that he is dead, as is the norm for the hypocritical press. He would have hated it. Lou Reed hated the press in general but especially loathed the British press.

He was loudly and openly scornful of celebrity culture and fame. He saw himself as a rebel poet who sang rather than as a pop singer. One of his last public gigs was at Occupy in New York reciting a poem against Wall Street.

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life

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If you are brought up in the North like me, you tend to be force-fed Lowry as a symbol of Northern grit and working class art in contract to the fancy art of the London establishment.

His work is seen as straight talking stuff and "much loved" - no art school rubbish here. I naturally grew up loathing him.

This exhibition shows him in a wider context. In fact, nearly all I thought about him was wrong. He was not working class but brought up very upper middle class and only fell into the lower middle when he was in his 20s. He was not self taught and based his art on late French impressionism - until the 1940s he was shown more in Paris than in Britain.

Flog it

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Looting, robbery and pillage are the norm not just in the sea off Somalia, but in the refined world of art, and this has always been the case. The great museums of the world are largely deposits of loot.

Lord Elgin - infamous for stealing sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens - was neither the first, last nor greatest of the looters. Page two of this month's issue shows one of the crudest recent examples of art looting, the taking of some Banksy's pictures from Palestine to be sold to wealthy collectors. But the current crisis in public finance has led to a new wave of transfers of public art into private hands and a reversal of New Labour's attempts to limit the privatisation of the art scene.

Obituary: Hans Werner Henze (1928 - 2012)

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It is not often that a classical music concert triggers a riot and ends with the theatre being invaded by riot police.

But that's what happened on the opening night of Henze's oratorio Das Floss der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) in Hamburg on 9 December 1968. The event, which he was at, confirmed Henze's dim view of his country and cemented his political radicalisation. His recent death at the age of 86 is a sad loss.

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