10 Great Cultural Happenings To Get Into This Autumn

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10 Great Cultural Happenings To Get Into This Autumn

Words by Mr Colin Crummy

10 September 2023

Summer is over. Time to cease and desist with Barbenheimer. Enough of watching Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour on TikTok. And if you didn’t finish reading Yellowface on vacation, that ship, my friend, has sailed. We’ve all moved on, you see, from summer blockbusters and this year’s beach reads to the shiny new cultural happenings of autumn 2023.

In keeping with the season’s mood, the arts turn reflective, with long-awaited career retrospectives of visionaries in art and fashion. There’s smart, historical fiction with plenty to say about contemporary times. And in music, bright, young artists look back to move forward. So onward we go. Here are 10 great cultural happenings globally to get you in the swing of things this season.


Henry Taylor: B Side, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

This first major career retrospective of artist Mr Henry Taylor includes recent, star-making works, from his magazine-cover portrait of Jay-Z to his avant-garde rendering of the Obamas. The exhibition, Henry Taylor: B Side, showcases decades worth of work, with more than 150 paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations, from the 1980s to the present. Family, friends, the local homeless community, and patients from Taylor’s time as a psychiatric nurse serve as his diverse subjects. His unpredictable style is, as novelist Ms Zadie Smith puts it, as genre breaking as jazz and rap, and firmly in the African American aesthetic tradition. The common thread: everyone, no matter who they are, or how they are painted, is met with intense grace and empathy.

Previews from 28 September; opens on 4 October



Yves Saint Laurent Timeless Style at National Art Center, Tokyo

In a neat piece of scheduling by the National Art Center, Tokyo, this survey of Mr Yves Saint Laurent’s career comes hot on the heels of the museum’s Mr Christian Dior retrospective from earlier this year. Yves Saint Laurent Timeless Style begins at the House of Dior when, after the founder’s sudden death in 1958, a 21-year-old Saint Laurent stepped into the master’s shoes. It marked the beginning of an equally thrilling career spanning 40 years that would leave an indelible mark on fashion, breaking boundaries in gender and art, told here across 12 chapters and 110 thrilling looks.

From 20 September



Poor Things

Mr Yorgos Lanthimos excels at assembling bracing takes on the human condition, turning period dramas into outrageously animalistic power grabs in The Favourite or savaging our mating rituals in The Lobster, where Mr Colin Farrell’s character must procreate or turn crustacean. Lanthimos’ latest, Poor Things, looks equally madcap, a fantastical tale about a woman, (The Favourite’s Ms Emma Stone) resurrected in a squeamishly Frankenstein style by a scientist (Mr Willem Defoe). A Venice Film Festival programmer, where Poor Things premieres this month, has politely suggested that what follows is not for everyone. But, if you were cool with the lobster thing, then this a must-see.

In cinemas from 8 December



Succession and The White Lotus banked on our fascination with the nouveau riche behaving appallingly. But no one does bad behaviour better than old money. Which is where Saltburn, from Promising Young Woman writer and director Ms Emerald Fennell, comes in. The film sees young Oxford student Oliver Quick (Mr Barry Keoghan, fresh off his Oscar nomination for The Banshees Of Inisherin) invited by the dashing young aristocratic Felix Catton (Euphoria’s Mr Jacob Elordi) to stay at his family’s estate, Saltburn. Here, Quick finds himself immersed in a world of privilege, obsession and, we wager, plenty of terribly bad behaviour.

In cinemas from 24 November


Sex Education

Over three seasons, Sex Education, Ms Laurie Nunn’s taboo-breaking high-school comedy, has been a constant revelation thanks to its arrestingly candid account of sex and sexuality. It is testament to the writing – and the fresh acting talent that includes Mr Ncuti Gatwa and Ms Emma Mackey – that the show effortlessly tackles the thorniest, horniest dilemmas in hilarious and heartbreaking fashion, and often in the same scene. But four seasons in, it’s time for the kids of Moordale High School, led by amateur sex therapist Otis (Mr Asa Butterfield) to graduate. The final series promises further sexploits, a cameo from Mr Dan Levy and, inevitably, an emotional climax (sorry).

Streaming on Netflix from 21 September


The Changeling

A regular on MR PORTER’s best-dressed round-ups, Mr LaKeith Stanfield is a compelling, charismatic presence whether he’s onscreen or on the Oscars red carpet. The former Atlanta star is the primary draw then, in The Changeling, a new eight-part horror series on Apple TV+, in which he both stars and executive produces. The story, based on the best-selling novel by horror impresario Mr Victor LaValle, is no slouch either, a gripping tale about a guy forced to go on a fantastical odyssey through New York after his wife commits an unspeakable act and promptly disappears. With slick directing duties from Queen & Slim’s Ms Melina Matsoukas, The Changeling looks as stylish and absorbing as its leading man.

Streaming on Apple TV+ from 8 September


The Fraud by Ms Zadie Smith

Read Ms Zadie Smith’s five hugely acclaimed novels or her vital cultural commentary (see above) and you’ll know the British author is the real deal. But could one of our foremost chroniclers of contemporary life master historical fiction? That’s the question Smith answers with her latest work. Set in 1873, The Fraud interweaves narratives about a literary London set, a real-life trial that gripped England at the time and an enslaved man’s plight. It’s an epic mosaic of Victorian times that, in Smith’s signature smart, mischievous style, gets real about identity, historical truth and who gets to decide what fiction about our lives we can live with right now.

Published on 7 September by Penguin Books


Crazymad, For Me by CMAT

CMAT, AKA Irish singer-songwriter Ms Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, grew up online, a fact reflected in her comic, confessional lyrics (the dating-bio line of “God, self-destruction and a Britney tune” from “I… Hate Who I Am When I’m Horny” is typical), and her musical and stylistic influences (channelling Ms Tammy Wynette and Ms Bonnie Tyler in the open-hearted country rock sound and big-hair front). On paper, this might read novelty act, but on tracks such as the gorgeous single “Where Are Your Kids Tonight?”, a duet with Mr John Grant, CMAT reveals herself to be an old soul with a young spirit, and a very serious proposition at that.

Out 13 October


Falling Or Flying by Ms Jorja Smith

Blending Ms Amy Winehouse swagger with Ms Lauryn Hill astuteness, Ms Jorja Smith’s 2016 debut album Lost & Found saw her heralded as the voice of a generation, earning her cosigns from Drake and Mr Kendrick Lamar, along with Brits and Grammy nominations. After this speedy ascent, Smith chose a slower route to her sophomore release, recording it firmly away from the spotlight, at home in Walsall, in the British West Midlands, with local duo DAMEDAME*. It was a wise move; Falling Or Flying is intimate, anthemic and incredibly grounded, the sound of an artist about to take flight once more.

Out 29 September


The Day Before

The Last Of Us may be the don of zombie apocalyptic gaming, boosted by the HBO adaptation this year. But there’s another much anticipated and much delayed survival MMO game to debut in 2023. The Day Before is finally set for release this autumn after many postponements (for context, the trailer debuted in early 2021). Players can expect a zombie shoot-em-up meets scavenger hunt action that should appeal to fans of The Last Of Us and The Division. Fingers crossed for no last-minute hitches, up to and including a real-life zombie apocalypse. Anything is possible, right?

Out 10 November on PC