2017 has been a mixed year, but it’s seen some top culture activities. Here’s my top five:
5 Vietnam War [review in January]
Ken Burn’s 10 part documentary The Vietnam War became the must see box set of 2017. This 18 hour documentary doesn’t just tell the tale of American involvement in Vietnam, but also how “Vietnam” changed America from the second half of the 20th century. Crucially it adds the voices of the Vietnamese affected by the war (from the South and North).
A stunning exhibition which uses the best bits of fine art, historical and archival research and imagination. In many ways this show didn’t just look at the work of architects, working in the vernacular, but at all of us. This was the best exhibition of the year. If you missed the show, then get the book. A handsome addition to any bookshelf.
3 La mort de Louis XIV (The Death of Louis XIV)
A sumptuous film depicting the last days of the Sun King. Albert Serra directs the highly ritualised court at Versailles as its central point withers and fades. The bodily and the stylised converge on the single figure of a feeble man. Jean-Pierre Léaud stars as the eponymous king, but the real stars of the show are the King’s poodles. Watch now.
A brilliant exhibition. Basquiat’s achievements are monumental but curatorial interventions tended to white wash much of the context of Basquiat’s work. Nevertheless, this is possibly the defining retrospective of any artist of this decade.
1 Eli Goldstone’s Strange Heart Beating
A stunning debut, this short but well constructed novel tells the story of Seb an academic whose wife Leda is tragically murdered by a swan. This is my standout cultural work of 2017. If you do one thing in 2018, then buy this book.