Smart Living

Barber’s Cut: this month’s cultural highlights and three new coffee table upgrades

As picked by The Jackal's Editor-at-Large

Compare/contrast has become something of a recurrent prop for art curators looking to dig out extra meaning (and artworks) for exhibitions, and sure enough, October throws up a trio of juxtapositions that veer from the intriguing to the deeply whacky. In the former corner, we have “Dali/Duchamp” at the Royal Academy (opens 7 October), two 20th century giants who one might see as near opposites, but who happened to be firm friends, with over 80 exhibited pieces going on show.

Meanwhile “Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphelites” (2 October) gives the National Gallery the chance to showcase one of its greatest treasures, the Arnolfini Portrait, alongside works of the 19th century Brits it partly influenced – I suspect Van Eyck will come out of it better than Rosetti and co. Finally, sublime meets the truly ridiculous in Margate, where the Turner Contemporary is rolling out Tracey Emin’s unmade bed alongside – but of course! – JMW Turner paintings chosen by Emin herself.

Basquait painting, culture, The Jackal magazine

An untitled work by Basquiat, 1982

On the other hand, right now London is offering up a coincidental comparison that is more tempting: in a year of landmark exhibitions of American Art, retrospectives for Jean-Michel Basquiat (Barbican Gallery) and Jasper Johns (Royal Academy), offer two great painters – one who died aged 28, the other still going strong at 87 – drenched in the visual culture and turmoil of 20th century America. That’s a one-day compare/contrast worth making.

Plus, three new books to transform your coffee table

Universe: Exploring the Astronomical World

From prehistoric cave painting to contemporary art and Hubble Space Telescope photographs, this delves into mankind’s visual response to the cosmos down the ages. £39.95, phaidon.com

Joseph Banks’ Florilegium

Remarkably, this is the first ever full-colour publication of the sublime illustrations commissioned by Joseph Banks, the botanist who accompanied Captain Cook on his great first voyage of discovery. Made from original 18th century plates, it offers new insight on one of the Enlightenment’s great works of science and art. £65, thamesandhudson.com

Warhol: The Impossible Collection by Eric Shiner

A true slab of a collector’s edition in Assouline’s ongoing ultra-luxe “Impossible Collection” series, compiling 100 of Warhol’s most quintessential works in very fine, handcrafted style. £650, assouline.com