End of an era

Is it our sense of impending apocalypse that's making The Grand Retrospective the cultural format du jour? Plagued with visions of Mitt Romney sailing through a rioting Kenya on a melted polar ice cap as vengeful battery chickens force the mercury from shattered energy-saving light-bulbs down our obese, vodka-burnt throats, are we determined to summarise the careers of our great and glamorous just in case God is watching?

In fashion, that gaudy grail that runneth over with old thin people shivering with intimations of mortality, the V&A's Golden Age maxhibition has been swiftly followed by Valentino's uber-Valentino-sundae-with-a-Valentino-cherry-on-top last-ever fashion week show and now LaCroix's 20-year review at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris. The big Tate success of the winter has been that tatty, batty, bohemian queen Bourgeois, and even Dennis Hopper is preparing a big film and art retrospective at the Cinematheque Francais for October.

Of course, the retrospective is a perennial favourite, satisfying our compulsion to make lives into narratives and creativity into A Canon. We have always yearned to turn the unremarkable past, with it's fennel-tinged taste of unmaterialised promise, into an ambrosial-flavoured utopia. This often leads to misanthropic mythologising of golden olden times; however, these recent shows, by reviewing the work of people still alive, seem born of an urge to prove the opposite: there's life in the old world yet.

Which there is. Just look at the cut of this jib.