When it comes picking my highlights of the last year, I am impossibly indecisive – as ever there have been been the usual disappointments but there have been a fair few stunners in the arts calendar. I can’t believe how many shows I’ve seen but I also feel I’ve missed a lot – if only there were a few more hours in every day.
As I did last year, I’ve chosen the exhibitions that stand out for me as being remarkable; they include stunning art work, and are interesting and well-curated. Here we go…
Triumphant at Tate – Way back in February, I visited Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern and I can still vividly picture the exhibition. Kusama has always been ahead of her time – her work is beautiful, innovative and ground-breaking. The exhibition worked broadly chronologically with each sequence of rooms studying the emergence of a new artistic stance.
Yayoi Kusama, I’m Here, but Nothing, 2000. Own photograph.
Radiant at the Royal Academy – while the rest of the world is still raving about Bronze, the RA’s highlight for me was their exhibition Johan Zoffany RA: Society Observed. I admit that, as an 18th century art historian, I may be slightly biased but through these 60 or so works, the RA successfully argued his importance to the artistic culture and heritage of his time.
Johan Zoffany, Three Sons of John, Third Earl of Bute and Three Daughters of John, Third Earl of Bute, 1763-4. Own photograph.
Nailing It at the National Gallery – Seduced by Art is still on show at the National Gallery and is an unmissable exhibition. This divided opinion but, for me, it was a stunning and enthralling. Seduced by Art is not a survey, nor a history of photography. Instead, it offers an argument and dialogue that presents historical painting, alongside historical photography, alongside contemporary photographs. The National Gallery has had a strong year and I feel its Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 (with Wallinger’s Diana in particular) is also worthy of mention.
Jeff Wall, The Destroyed Room. Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada and via www.ng-london.org.uk.
Leaving London – Edward Burra at Pallant House was the first major show for over 25 years of the artist’s works in which Burra is finally awarded a smidgeon of the recognition he deserves. It offered an opportunity to study his extraordinary creativity.
Edward Burra, The Snack Bar, 1930. Image via www.tate.org.uk.
Also with podium finishes were:
Glistening Gold – Mondrian||Nicholson: In Parallel, The Courtauld Gallery
This explored the creative relationship between Mondrian and Nicholson, charting the parallel paths explored by these two artists during the 1930s. It was a far more contemporary show than we would normally expect from The Courtauld and it successfully changed the gallery aesthetic, pairing two artists who many wouldn’t otherwise have realised are connected.
Piet Mondrian, Composition C (no. III), with Red, Yellow and Blue, 1935. Image courtesy of Mondrian/Holtzman Trust and via www.courtauld.ac.uk.
Scintillating Silver – Nowhere Less Now, Tin Tabernacle
Artangel’s commission by Lindsay Seers, took place in the Tin Tabernacle; Nowhere Less Now was a poignant amalgam of film, photography, sculpture, performance, animation, philosophy and writing. Its complexities still offer food for thought many months afterwards.
The Tin Taberacle. Own photograph.
Brilliant Bronze – Painting from Life: Carracci Freud, Ordovas
Having successfully juxtaposed Bacon and Rembrandt in the past, Ordovas knows how to get its shows right: Painting from Life was a tiny exhibition bringing together head studies by Carracci and Freud. This was an intimate, simple and stunning juxtaposition.
Ordovas. Image via www.ordovasart.com.
Last but by no means least – Runner Up – Alberto Burri: Form and Matter, Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Before this exhibition, I didn’t really know who Burri was but he is undoubtedly a master of the 20th century who revolutionised the vocabulary of post-war art. From the simplest materials, Burri was able to create something monumental and striking, imbued with energy and movement.
Alberto Burri, White Cretto, 1975. Image courtesy of the Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini, Collezione Burri and Città di Castello and via www.estorickcollection.com.
But, there was also David Shrigley: Brain Activity at the Hayward Gallery, Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist at the Queen’s Gallery, Rothko/Sugimoto: Dark Paintings and Secrets at Pace London, Tim Lewis: Mechanisms at Flowers, Doris Salcedo at White Cube and Louse Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed at The Freud Museum and numerous great little shows at Josh Lilley.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots of gems. We are so fortunate to have such varied and high calibre art to admire on our doorstep. It’s so easy to get from gallery to gallery however precarious your footwear may be and, of course, there’s always a taxi around the corner.
It seems only fitting to include some of my favourite shoe pictures from the past year and to thank my principal shoe photographer (you know who you are).
Thank you, as ever, for reading Artista. I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and wish you all a Happy Shoe Year.