Arts in the new year: The critics of the Observer choose the community that will take us through to spring


The widely awaited debut album by 20-year-old Londoner Arlo Parks, whose title comes from a line by Zadie Smith, is Collapsed in Sunbeams.

It’s breezy but heavy with lived-in feeling, released Jan. 29, Parks’ 12 songs finding a very British meeting point between torch songs and rhythm. Celeste was omnipresent in 2020, landing her first Top 10 hit with a charity single. U.S.-born, U.K.-raised. She releases her soulful and sophisticated Not Your Muse project on February 26. God knows we all need a little break. Kitty EmpireFilm: Her cue to laugh again. Fortunately, since we are approaching 2021, there are quite a few comedies on tap. First up is Promising Young Woman (Feb. 12), a gritty attack on the culture of rape written and directed by the author of Killing Eve, Emerald Fennell, and starring Carey Mulligan, who never fails to impress.

In March, on Amazon Prime, Coming 2 America, starring Eddie Murphy, reprises his role as Akeem, heir to the Zamunda throne.

Amazon in the U.K. was also released in early 2021. Palm Springs is an original version of the Groundhog Day format in which Andy Samberg is stuck in a marriage that is continually replicated.

Meanwhile, in French Exit (Feb. 26), based on the novel by Patrick DeWitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, with her perfectly manicured nails, slips into a fantasy role as an aging socialite. Wendy IdeRadio: Emma Barnett on Woman’s HourFrom January 4, Monday through Thursday, the redoubtable Emma Barnett will host Woman’s Hour every day, with other hosts trying their hand at the Friday slot.

For Barnett, who is used to the fast-paced freedom of a three-hour show (her morning show on 5 Live), with the snappy back-and-forth of political interviews and the spontaneity of listener calls, it is a major change. The Hour of the Woman has been much quieter and more closely packaged for a long time. There is a feeling that could change now that Barnett is on it.

Miranda SawyerTheater: The Walk Good Chance is partnering with Handspring Puppet Company, which produced War Horse, for a walking festival led by Amir Nizar Zuabi to help refugees after the success of The Jungle. The star is a 3.5-meter-high puppet, Little Amal, who set out on 30 March to walk more than 8,000 km through 70 towns and villages from the Syrian-Turkish border to the United Kingdom, portraying displaced children, bringing together artists, cultural institutions and humanitarian organizations in one of the biggest and most generous public works of art ever. Online, follow the journey:

Susannah ClappArt: Apart from the constraints of Blockbusters Epidemic, a revival of great exhibitions is due. The first is the exhibition at the Royal Academy by Francis Bacon: Man and Beast (currently scheduled for Jan. 30).

Dogs, hawks, monkeys and baboons were painted by Bacon as if they were animals, and men as if they were beasts. The National Gallery’s Dürer’s Travels portrays Albrecht Dürer as the first major tourist in Europe, drawing walruses in Belgium and whales in Zeeland, beginning March 6. In 1992 (Feb. 15) and Rodin’s seminal figures (April 29), The Tate Modern is dedicated to Australian art, while Yorkshire Sculpture Park presents Breaking the Mould, an epochal survey of women’s sculpture from Barbara Hepworth to Rachel Whiteread (March 13). Look for the wonderful visions of Kenyan-born painter Michael Armitage (Royal Academy of March 13) in contemporary art alongside David Hockney’s evergreen spring paintings (from March 27).

And on March 29, by popular demand, Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored Infinity Rooms returned to surprise the viewers at Tate Modern.

Laura CummingClassical: Hallé Season The seven-concert winter/spring season of the Hallé Orchestra at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall and Hallé St. Peter’s showcases flair and variety. Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and saxophonist Jess Gillam will perform the world premiere of Hannah Kendall’s Where Is the Chariot of Fire, conducted by Jonathon Heyward, at the opening of the season (Jan. 14). Beethoven (Jan. 28) is performed by pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason; the rising star of Hallé, assistant conductor Delyana Lazarova, conducts Shostakovich (Feb. 25); Mark Elder conducts a staged performance by Annabel Arden of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale (March 18). A mixed repertoire program has been prepared by Norwegian violinist and composer Henning Kraggerud, Artist in Residence,


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