HTSI editor’s letter: the icons-only issue
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
This arts issue is a celebration of the creatives that we love. Vanessa Redgrave has been captivating audiences – and provoking debate – for more than 60 years now. She made her stage debut in 1958, became an active member of the Workers Revolutionary Party in the ’70s, and her career has moved in parallel with a range of causes that have frequently found her on the other side of public opinion – and the law. Her political acuity remains undimmed in her 80s and she makes for an intimidating subject, as Fiona Golfar discovers in a series of interviews. In a cover dedicated to the “iconic” figures who have helped to shape the cultural conversation, she represents those voices that now feel increasingly absent: uncowed by fear or fashion, eager to fight for others and quick to speak her mind.
As one of Stephen Sondheim’s favourite singers, and a musicals star for many decades, Bernadette Peters is another icon. Not least for her extraordinary hair. She is one of a trio of performers in this issue who talk about their passions: Peters’ longtime obsession is Broadway Barks, an annual charity event promoting the adoption of shelter animals that she founded with Mary Tyler Moore in 1999. To describe Peters as a dog nut does her a slight disservice, but – like Redgrave – her passions are written across her personality and inform much of what she does. Brittney Denise Parks, meanwhile, has reclaimed the violin as part of her transformation into her experimental pop/classical/Afrobeats-inspired alter ego Sudan Archives: the musician talks about her favourite instrument as an inspiration and a political tool. By contrast, Albert Hammond Jr prefers the more meditative art of coffee making. The Strokes’ guitarist, who recently released his fifth solo album, invites us into his home to talk music, caffeine and how to make the perfect brew.
Sarah Lucas has been a colossus of the art world since the 1990s, and her work – witty, subversive, sexually provocative and squidgy – continues to inspire. On the eve of a major Tate Britain exhibition, she invites Louis Wise to visit her studio in Suffolk – a more genteel neighbourhood than one might expect of someone who once ripped the canvas of the establishment, but an area towards which a good few YBAs have migrated in recent years. We find the artist – formidably talented, though mild in person – surrounded by stuffed Bunnies, boozing with locals and reading Yanis Varoufakis. While her work may have matured, we’re delighted to find her smutty humour intact.
What happens when an icon dies? Last year I found myself sitting next to Benjamin, the son of the late Peter Lindbergh, the German photographer and portraitist whose work characterised so much of ’90s fashion and helped establish the aesthetic dominance of the supermodels – Christy, Linda, Naomi et al. Benjamin is now in charge of managing and upholding his father’s enormous archive. It made me wonder about other estate guardians and what it’s like to manage a reputation, as well as the self-sacrifice of focusing so much on someone else’s work. Louise Benson speaks to five people watching over five extraordinary estates to discuss the challenges and comfort found in keeping legacies alive.
Finally – to the Bright Young Things. Again. This glittering set has inspired the fashion world for decades – designers seem incapable of quitting the works of Evelyn Waugh. Mark C O’Flaherty examines what it is about the era that continues to grip the imagination – from the high-waisted trousers and sailors’ uniforms to the sexual and intellectual freedoms the group enjoyed.
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