UK City of Culture: Why 2017 will change Hull for the better

Hull 2017 slogan on rooftops Image copyright Hull 2017
Image caption Hull 2017 is using the slogan "everyone back to ours"

Why on Earth is Hull spending tens of millions of pounds on a 12-month arts festival? What's the point?

Will the much-trumpeted "spectacular light shows" and opera on the Humber Bridge generate a flood of enquires from entrepreneurs looking to set up shop in the area? Probably not.

Will the £4.5m refurbishment of the city's Ferens Art Gallery in preparation for hosting the Turner Prize in 2017 transform Hull from an underappreciated outpost on England's eastern seaboard into a must-visit destination for tourists of all types? Unlikely.

And what about all the partnerships the city is enthusiastically making with the likes of the Tate, BBC and Royal Shakespeare Company - will they help turn Hull into a vibrant hothouse of creativity in the long-term? I doubt it.

So, isn't it all a bit of waste of money?

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Snack Bar painting: Right decision, wrong reason

Australian artist Hebert Badham's 1944 painting Snack Bar Image copyright Deutscher and Hackett
Image caption Australian artist Herbert Badham's 1944 painting Snack Bar

Here's why the Aussies decided Herbert Badham's oil painting, Snack Bar (1944) should not be allowed to leave the country to hang on a wall in its owner's London pad.

"The subject matter, which graphically records the interaction of different races, associating in congenial circumstances at a time of great danger for Australia is deeply impressive."

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Who will fill Nicholas Serota's shoes at Tate?

Sir Nicholas Serota Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Nicholas Serota has overseen Tate's growth into an international art megabrand

There is one sentence in the press release announcing Nicholas Serota's departure from Tate that stands out.

It is a direct quote from the man himself and reads: "I leave an institution that has the potential to reach broad audiences across the UK and abroad, through its own programmes, partnerships and online."

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Edinburgh Fringe: Why comedians need to get serious

Richard Pryor in 1977 Image copyright AP
Image caption Richard Pryor met the harsh truths of his real life head on

Back in 1967, when Richard Pryor was a 20-something stand-up, he found himself waiting in the wings of a club in Las Vegas about to go on. The house was packed. He was probably nervous and almost certainly high.

He walked on and spotted Dean Martin sitting at one of the front tables. The actor's famous face was full of boyish excitement. Pryor looked around and saw hundreds of other similarly expectant faces: eyes bright, mouths cracked open primed to laugh.

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First Nigerian-produced musical hits London's West End

Media captionFirst Nigerian-produced musical hits London's West End

It was a hit in Lagos - and now it has come to London.

Wakaa The Musical follows the fate of a group of young graduates as they begin to find their way in the world.

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Spielberg and Rylance's Big Friendly bromance

Media captionSteven Spielberg and Mark Rylance talk about working together in The BFG

"He's one of the greatest actors I've ever experienced in my career."

That's not a bad accolade for British actor, Mark Rylance, especially when it comes from one of Hollywood's biggest directors, Steven Spielberg.

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Georgia O'Keefe: Beacon of beauty and range

Georgia O'Keefe Image copyright AP
Image caption Georgia O'Keefe's trademark voluptuous flower paintings were originally interpreted by some as allusions to female genitalia

In or around 1917 the notion that art should be beautiful was deemed passe. Marcel Duchamp had brought his homespun and highly persuasive cod French philosophy to Manhattan and declared that art should henceforth be "anti-retinal". He made his point with a "readymade" urinal.

The idea caught on and prevails to this day in the shape of unmade beds and rotting cows' heads. But not all artists swallowed Duchamp's ugly Parisian pill.

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The quiet man at the British Museum

Hartwig Fischer Image copyright Sean Gallup
Image caption Hartwig Fischer took over from Neil MacGregor earlier this year

When Neil MacGregor was the director of the British Museum, press conferences tended to be lively affairs. He was a born raconteur who'd make his points by telling stories and cracking jokes. He had the ability - like all natural showmen - to reach out to his audience.

His successor, Hartwig Fischer, is cast from a different mould. Three months into the job, and quite reasonably still sizing up the enormity of the task, he cuts a more circumspect figure. There were no laughs or stories or great statements about future plans at his press conference this morning. Instead, a gentle earnestness prevailed.

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Venice Biennale's brighter future

Venice Biennale
Image caption An office made out of a reconfigured water pipe, part of this year's Venice Architecture Biennale

With thoughts on how to house Millenials and designs for an airport for drones, the visionary architects and curators at the Venice Architecture Biennale are looking to the future.

"If we're going to talk the talk, we have to walk the walk," insists the Pritzker Prize-winning Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena - curator of this year's Venice Architecture Biennale.

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Turner Prize: Art not gibberish, please

Anthea Hamilton Image copyright Tate
Image caption Anthea Hamilton explores desire, fetish and pop culture

To start, a moan: why do the Turner Prize curators write such unintelligible gibberish about the artists shortlisted for the prize?

Where do they go to learn to produce these texts laden with pseudo-academic speak? Does their dense, mangled prose reflect a lack of confidence in the artists whose status and work - the curators' might think - needs to be elevated by arcane, pompous language?

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