On my radar: Edmund de Waal’s cultural highlights | Edmund de Waal

Born in Nottingham in 1964, Edmund de Waal is an artist, master potter and the author of The hare with amber eyes, who won the Costa Prize for Biography in 2010. At a young age he became very interested in ceramics and his second book, the white road, follows his journey through the history of porcelain, back to its origins in China. The latest book by De Waal, Letters to Camondo, is a sequence of imaginary letters to a Parisian collector of beautiful objects. It is the basis for his new show, Lettres à Camondo, at Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris, until May 15, 2022.

1. Art

Theaster Gates: A Clay Sermon, Whitechapel Gallery, London

Theaster Gates's A Clay Sermon at the Whitechapel Gallery.
Theaster Gates’s A Clay Sermon at the Whitechapel Gallery. Photo: Guy Bell/Rex/Shutterstock

Theaster Gates is a great American artist, potter and activist. He is the great radical voice in international ceramics that has reclaimed bits of neglected culture, especially African American culture, and brought it fully, polyphonically back into the consciousness of the people. His largest London exhibition to date has just opened at the Whitechapel Gallery. It’s a sort of autobiography told through some of his favorite ceramic objects, including, most powerfully, a large pot made by an enslaved African-American potter in the mid-19th century, alongside Gates’s own work. As the title suggests, it is a great sermon. A revivalist meeting for ceramics.

2. Poetry

Poems 1962-2020 by Louise Glück

American poet Louise Fortune.
American poet Louise Fortune. Photo: Daniel Ebersole/Reuters

I’ve been waiting a long time for this book. Louise Glück is such a remarkable poet. She won the Nobel Prize last year, which was great, because she’s been a much-loved voice in American poetry, but oddly enough, isn’t as well-known elsewhere in the world as she should have been. The beauty of her work is that it feels idiomatic, not precious. These are her collected poems and it gives you almost 60 years of poetry – a lifetime. You feel the growth of this person in the world and in the language. It’s also the most beautiful book of poems I’ve seen in decades.

3. Music

Max Richter at the South oriented festival

Max Richter performs at the South Facing Fest.
Max Richter performs at the South Facing Fest. Photo: @SouthFacingFest / twitter

My wife, daughter and I went to our first outdoor concert at Crystal Palace a few weeks ago to hear Max Richter’s new work, Vote, an extraordinary piece written around the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is spoken as well as sung and the actual statement is read aloud in many languages ​​during the performance. It’s very powerful, very moving and the evening itself was beautiful. There were hundreds of people and this feeling of finally being part of something much bigger than us again. And the stars came out. It really was a perfect evening.

4. Place

V&A Cast Courts

The Cast Courts in the V&A.
The Cast Courts in the V&A. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The V&A Cast Courts are one of London’s most special hidden gems. It’s free to enter, you can walk into these huge spaces, the largest in the V&A. They were created in the late 1800s to house plaster casts of Trajan’s Column, Romanesque churches, parts of a Greek temple, and Syrian mosques. It’s kind of a cultural pandemonium, but it’s delicious. And incredibly prescient, because these are replicas of objects that are elsewhere, and over the past 20 years we’ve all been trying to work out how to rebuild broken and destroyed bits of culture. It also contains the most romantic place in London: two people can step inside Trajan’s column. So if you want to meet someone, meet them there.

Yield An Artist's Diary Anne Truitt, Alexandra Truitt, Rachel Kushner
Photo: Yale University Press

5. Notfiction

Yield: An Artist’s Diary by Anne Truitt

Anne Truitt was an American artist who died in 2004. Throughout her life she kept diaries about what it is like to be an artist trying to raise a family, unrecognized, struggling to find money for materials, concerned about how they present themselves to the world, completely floored by the need to make the following. They are some of the most powerful personal accounts of what it is like to be an artist in the 20th century. Three of the parts have already been published and the last, posthumous part, Yield, will be published in February. I have seen proof and it is extraordinary.

6. Advocacy

English PEN

From left to right: Adjoa Andoh, Burhan Sonmez, Elif Shafak and Philippe Sands at the UK's PEN Centenary in September at the Southbank Centre.
From left to right: Adjoa Andoh, Burhan Sonmez, Elif Shafak and Philippe Sands at the UK’s PEN Centenary in September at the Southbank Centre. Photo: Sabrina Merolla/Zuma/Rex/Shutterstock

English PEN is 100 years old this year. It is the great advocacy group for supporting writers in dire situations and campaigning for human rights and freedom of expression around the world. The website is a great resource for translation materials, directing people to writers in exile, and how to read and research particular works. Last month there was a great weekend at the Southbank Center where many writers gathered, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Elif Shafak. PEN needs us; we need PEN.

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