September 25, 2023

Arthur Brand: ‘I never give up informants – they will shoot you dead’

The ‘Indiana Jones of the art world’ on receiving that stolen Van Gogh, how he gains the trust of criminals and police, and how he got into his unusual careerArthur Brand stands at the front door to his modest flat in east Amsterdam, where a week ago he took an extraordinary delivery: a stolen Vincent van Gogh painting worth up to £5.2m.He didn’t sign for it. The delivery man, a criminal uninvolved with the theft who had been granted amnesty to return the piece, smiled and fled. Then Brand ran upstairs, where a colleague videoed him removing a pillowcase from a blue Ikea bag. Andreas Blühm, director of the Netherlands’ Groninger Museum, who was waiting at a nearby cafe, rushed over to confirm it was the Van Gogh stolen from the museum three years ago. Within hours, the recovery of The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring was all over the news. Continue reading...
September 23, 2023

Olympic dream gives Wiegman extra fuel for England’s Nations League tilt

Coach would savour chance to be at the helm of Team GB in Paris, but may need to tweak Lucy Bronze’s role first When Sarina Wiegman describes the possibility of coaching Team GB at next summer’s Paris Olympics as a “great honour” and “a privilege”, she means it. England’s manager is an expert at concealing her emotions and giving precious little away but introduce the word Olympics to the conversation and Wiegman suddenly animates. “They’re very special,” she says, eyes sparkling. “They’re one of the very biggest stages for women’s football.”Should Wiegman’s Lionesses reach the final of the Nations League next spring – or, if France make the final two, finish third – she will be placed at the helm of Team GB. That potential prize explains why she was delighted to see a rather unconvincing England squeeze past Scotland at Sunderland on Friday night, registering a 2-1 win. Another victory against the Netherlands in Utrecht on Tuesday would put England in pole position to top an initial group also including Belgium. Continue reading...
September 23, 2023

Toys, twisted rollercoasters, rooftop fountains: meet this year’s Turner Prize nominees

Barbara Walker, Ghislaine Leung, Rory Pilgrim and Jesse Darling explain what’s gone into their nominated work – from a ‘dysfunctional’ steel rollercoaster to a dramatic fountain splashing water on to the venue floorThe Turner prize shortlist, as jury chair and Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson rightly points out, provides an annual “snapshot of British artistic talent”. But this year, the last word you would use to describe the actual work of the four shortlisted artists is “snapshot”. Instead, they have all engaged – through a variety of approaches and mediums – with the long-term and the bigger picture, seen through remarkably wide-angled political and social lenses.The rules of the prize have changed over the years but three of the four artists – Ghislaine Leung, Rory Pilgrim and Jesse Darling, all born in the 1980s – would fall under the now discontinued age limit of artists under 50; the other artist nominated this time, Barbara Walker, was born in the 1960s. Only Walker and Leung are based permanently in the UK, with Pilgrim moving between the Netherlands and Dorset, and Darling working from Berlin. The shows for which they were nominated also extend beyond the UK, with Walker’s Burden of Proof being shown at the Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates and Leung’s Fountains in Copenhagen, Denmark. Continue reading...
September 21, 2023

The Guardian view on Europe’s politics: volatile and drifting rightwards

New research exposes the growing influence of the radical right on more mainstream forces. A counteroffensive is overdueThe taxation of property in the eastern German state of Thuringia would normally be a subject of strictly local concern. But last week a vote to cut stamp duty in the regional parliament in Erfurt made national headlines. Ignoring a cross-party taboo on collaborating with the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party, local Christian Democrats and liberals co-opted its support to force the measure through. Loud condemnation duly followed. But with the AfD running second in national polls, there are grounds for fearing that this will not be the last occasion on which the cordon sanitaire surrounding the party is breached.The Thuringia vote is just one sign of changing and volatile times in European politics, as the radical right expands its influence on the mainstream. New PopuList research by 100 political scientists in 31 countries, reported in our new digital Europe edition, finds that almost one-third of Europeans voted for anti-establishment parties in national elections held last year. Half of that number voted for the far right, which is increasing its vote share among these disaffected voters most rapidly. Illiberal, nationalist parties hold power in Italy, Hungary and Poland. They have a share of it in Finland and Sweden and anti-establishment forces have every chance of acquiring it in forthcoming elections in the Netherlands and Slovakia. Austria’s Freedom party, ostracised at the time of its emergence in the 1990s, is well ahead in the polls, with elections due next year. Continue reading...
September 13, 2023

Keira Walsh out of England’s inaugural Nations League squad due to calf injury

Influential midfielder sidelined with ‘not major’ issueEngland face Scotland and Netherlands later this monthKeira Walsh is not in England’s squad for the inaugural Nations League fixtures this month, with a calf injury sidelining her and forward Beth England. The extent of Walsh’s injury is unknown, although head coach Sarina Wiegman has described it as “not a major thing”, while England underwent surgery for an ongoing hip problem following England’s World Cup final loss to Spain in Australia.Influential midfielder Walsh missed England’s final group game at the World Cup against China after suffering a knee injury against Denmark but was fit to play in all knockout games after the injury was revealed to not be as bad as it initially looked. Continue reading...
September 5, 2023

Tour of Britain: Kooij makes history with three consecutive stage victories

Cyclist has won every Tour of Britain stage competed inNetherlands rider held off fast finishes of Van Poppel and VernonDutchman Olav Kooij continued his perfect start to the Tour of Britain with a third straight win on stage three from Goole to Beverley.The Jumbo-Visma rider - who is tackling the Tour of Britain for the first time - edged a bunched sprint finish to the 154.7km stage, which was the first of the event to be held in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Continue reading...
September 3, 2023

The big picture: an image that defined Chile’s brutal 1973 coup

Koen Wessing, a young Dutch photographer, flew to Santiago 50 years ago and showed the world what General Pinochet’s rule would mean for the countryWhen news broke of the overthrow of Salvador Allende’s elected government in Chile, 50 years ago this month, the Dutch photojournalist Koen Wessing took the first plane to Santiago. He was one of the few journalists on the ground to witness the mass arrests of Allende supporters and book burnings in the aftermath of General Augusto Pinochet’s CIA-backed coup. This picture shows groups of Allende supporters forced at gunpoint to remove democracy slogans from city walls. The man walking by, hands in pockets on the deserted street, completes the scene. He may affect indifference to what he is witnessing, like some parts of the international community at the time, but the automatic weapons of the trio of Pinochet’s henchmen are still aimed casually at the back of his head.Wessing was 31 when he went to Chile. He had become famous in the Netherlands during the student riots of 1969 when he evaded a police cordon around the University of Amsterdam by creating a high footbridge between two buildings to make sure his film of the protests got out. Fearing the seizure of cameras in Chile, he employed similar determination and cunning to get his story to the world, enlisting the help of an air hostess to smuggle his film back to newspapers in Europe. A book of 24 of Wessing’s images, Chile, September 1973, printed without introduction or captions, became a definitive document of the initial repression of Pinochet’s regime, graphic evidence of the brutality of the dictator’s methods. Wessing was due to attend the first public exhibition of his work in Santiago when he died in 2011. By then, the accepted figure for the number of political prisoners tortured or killed by Pinochet had risen to 40,018. The Santiago exhibition of Wessing’s work was titled Indelible Images. Continue reading...
September 1, 2023

Time is running out for Ukraine's counteroffensive. Its allies will be crucial in what comes next | Frank Ledwidge

With no military breakthroughs and a US election looming, the west needs to unite around an achievable goal for the conflictFrank Ledwidge is a former military officer who served in the Balkans, Iraq and AfghanistanIt is clear now that there will be no sweeping gains from Ukraine’s counteroffensive. While it has not failed, it has in no way resembled the kind of swashbuckling victory hoped for by optimists. This should be no great surprise. It was always going to be a slog – a series of “bite and hold” operations; more first world war western front than some latterday blitzkrieg. Western officials now fairly bluntly state that there will be no breakthrough of well dug-in Russian lines any time soon. The Ukrainians are also facing a developing threat in the east, as the Russians advance in the direction of Kupiansk, a situation described as “complicated”.As a result, something of a blame game is being played by both Ukrainians and their allies. The Ukrainians, quite reasonably, point out that rather more in the way of western (for that, read US) equipment might have made a decisive difference. Given that there are thousands of tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery systems currently in US storage and unlikely to make their way east, they have a point. Ukraine’s friends say that if only the Ukrainians had used the “combined arms” tactics in which they were (very briefly) trained, and had deployed their forces differently, more progress could have been made. Of course, the underpinning assumption behind combined arms warfare is that one of the “arms” concerned is air power, which the Ukrainians currently lack. The various re-announcements concerning F-16s heading Ukraine’s way mask the reality that they will not, effectively, be deployed in any numbers until the end of next year. British and US generals and admirals weigh in, with advice such as “starve, stretch and strike” – a catchy phrase, presumably from the same stable of media officers who gave us the vapid “clear, hold and build” slogan in Afghanistan. Ukrainian generals, who, unlike their British or US counterparts, have actually – and quite successfully – fought a conventional war, may be wise to take their own counsel. Continue reading...
August 31, 2023

Cycling, art, mines and vineyards in Belgium’s Limburg province

This area of Flanders has long been a paradise for cycling enthusiasts, but now it offers cutting-edge art and great culinary experiences tooIt feels strange to be cycling along a sunken path, my head at the same level as the ducks and swans swimming on the still waters of the pond beyond the walls. But Cycling Through Water, part of a biking trail in the Bokrijk forest, is another surprise on a trip to Belgium’s Limburg province.Close to the border with the Netherlands, this unspoilt area is less than two hours’ drive from Brussels. Soon after picking up a car at Brussels Midi, I’m driving through luxuriant countryside passing dense woodland, cornfields and shaded lakes. With about 1,250 miles (2,000km) of paved, mostly car-free trails, Limburg is a paradise for bike enthusiasts – and easily navigable thanks to a clearly numbered junction system on its innovative cycle network. Difficult even for amateurs like me to get lost. Continue reading...
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