From Kraftwerk and William Scott to Jeremy Deller and David Bowie: A Culture24 review of 2013 in art

By Mark Sheerin | 23 December 2013

Culture24's Mark Sheerin takes a look back at the shows, the spaces, the players and highlights in an eventful 12 months in the art world

Colour photo of several hooded mannequins watching a film projection
Art lovers enjoying a film at the Chapman brothers' retrospective at the Serpentine© 2013 Hugo Glendinning
Derry-Londonderry is an interesting place to start with an end of year round-up of the UK art scene. But the one-time troublespot in Northern Ireland was a worthy City of Culture, staging an outpost of the Lumiere festival, a major show by local Willie Doherty and, oh yes, the Turner Prize.

And were that not enough evidence that Tate is broadening its horizons, the shortlist featured a German man and a Frenchwoman. The latter, Laure Provost, carried off the art world’s most controversial prize. And from a living room on the mainland, this looked to be the right decision.

Colour photo of a gallery seen beyond a ciity wall
CCA Gallery in Derry Londonderry, with city walls in sight© Courtesy of CCA Derry-Londonderry
Bear in mind that until this year, Northern Ireland had not staged a single show by Andy Warhol. This was set right at MAC in Belfast with a geographically relevant survey to include camo prints and para boots, plus religious iconography.

Warhol was put on by the Artists Rooms programme which takes Tate quality artwork all around the country. In a similar gesture, Edinburghians were given a chance to see late work by Louise Bourgeois at the Scottish National Gallery, a show complimented by her drawings at Fruitmarket.

Colour photo of various menacing exhibits in a darkened gallery
Dumb things loom from the shadows in a show by Mark Leckey© David Sillitoe. Courtesy Nottingham Contemporary
Throughout the rest of the regions there were a number of shows too good to keep in one place. Mark Leckey’s lively stab at curation, The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, went from Liverpool to Bexhill via Nottingham.

A show of British land art, Uncommon Ground, kicked off in Southampton, traveled to Wales and moves on in 2014. Meanwhile, landlocked Nottingham took a look at the ocean deep with Aquatopia, which has now gone to Tate St Ives.

Colour photo of a tennis court seen through mesh fence
Hurvin Anderson enjoyed a homecoming in Birmingham© Gordon Watson
That’s not to say touring shows were the only gigs worth seeing in the regions. On the cusp of its 50th anniversary, Ikon in Birmingham staged a very exciting show by Hurvin Anderson. The local painter impressed with lush colours, graphic details and a philosophical attachment to the grid.

Artist of the year might have been Jeremy Deller. He was certainly hard to avoid in 2013. His show at Manchester Art Gallery was a fascinating trawl through the industrial revolution, coming hot on the heels of his show in Venice. Deller took on the super-rich at the 2013 Biennale.

Blackand white photo of a glammy professional wrestler in a pit with several miners
Wrestler Adrian Street, pictured at Jeremy Deller show in Manchester© Dennis Hutchinson 2013
No year would be complete without a plethora of festivals. But those in Britain this year were a bit more low-key than Italy’s 55th International Art Exhibtion. There was, however, a flowering of collaborative commissions in the South of England, thanks to artSOUTH.

Meanwhile, HOUSE Festival in Brighton came back during the city’s festival for its strongest showing to date. And in October, Liverpool enjoyed a few hectic days of digital art and moving image, thanks to the festival Abandon Normal Devices.

The Art Party with Gove placard on the beach
The Art Party.© Tony Bartholomew
Frieze comes round quicker every year. This year visitors to the world’s favourite art fair will have been surprised to find spacious seating areas within the famous marquee in Regent’s Park. So it was a manageable event this year, if no less bewildering for the non-buyer.

A political conference in Scarborough proved more inclusive. This was from The Art Party, a pressure group opposed to government education policies. Bob and Roberta Smith led a troop of concerned arts professionals through a programme of talks and abuse of Michael Gove.

a portrait of a woman lying in a coffin
Gustav Klimt, Ria Munk on her Deathbed, 1912© Photo courtesy of the owner. Private Collection Courtesy Richard Nagy Ltd., London
But in the metropolis, you would not know the arts are in crisis. The National Gallery held contender for blockbuster of the year in Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900. This brought together works by Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka with a host of equally interesting contemporaries.

Only yards away in the same illustrious gallery was a show with potential to have been the year’s most disappointing. Michael Landy filled the Sunley Room with kinetic sculptures. Had all of them worked at all times, it would have been quite a special show.

No review of the year in art would be complete without dwelling on goings on at Tate. This was of course the year that LS Lowry got his dues with a popular retrospective at Tate Britain. And with artist’s artist Kurt Schwitters also on show here there was something for everyone.

Tate Modern, meanwhile, pleased their crowds with blockbuster shows by Paul Klee and Roy Lichtenstein. But the Bankside gallery also redressed the balance towards dead white males, with superb shows by Ellen Gallagher and Saloua Raouda Choucair, to name just two.

Colout photo of a woman artist sat on floow with skull between legs
Sarah Lucas selfie at Whitechapel Gallery© Copyright Sarah Lucas, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
After major shows for Tracey Emin (Hayward, 2011), Damien Hirst (Tate, 2012) and Gillian Wearing (Whitechapel, 2012) a certain tradition continues. This year’s YBA retrospectives were for Sarah Lucas at Whitechapel and the Chapman brothers at The Serpentine. Both are very strong shows.

Also strong was the shortlist for the 2015/16 resident of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Mark Leckey, Marcus Coates, Lillian Lijn, David Shrigley, Hans Haacke and Ugo Rondinone. It’s hard to call, but even David Shrigley’s proposal makes perfect sense in this hotly debated location.

No less prestigious was the shortlist for the 2013 Art Fund Prize. William Morris Gallery is Museum of the Year. If you haven’t been to Walthamstow for a while, now is your chance. We’ve had a spate of new museums in Britain lately, in the face of austerity.

So in 2013 we greeted many new spaces; second gallery space and café for Serpentine (the Sackler Gallery); a rehang and new entrance for Tate Britain; 600 more square metres at the Hepworth (the Calder); a new contemporary art hub in Leeds (the Tetley); a new museum for the arts and crafts scene in Ditchling in East Sussex; and, meanwhile, the Whitworth in Manchester is closed for major redevelopment.

Colout painted panel showing nurses and patients eating supper
Spencer's memorial chapel relocated to Somerset House© NT John Hammond
But that’s enough about 2013. How about 1913? 1913 saw the birth of UK modernist painter William Scott, celebrated with a show at Tate St Ives, The Hepworth Wakefield and Ulster Museum. 1914, meanwhile, saw the birth of Dylan Thomas and champagne corks are already popping. National Museum Cardiff has a Peter Blake show inspired by Under Milk Wood.

More regrettable is the small matter of eight and a half million dead servicemen in the Great War, of which we will be hearing a good deal more about - including a multitude of artistic responses - in 2014. You can get your reflections in early right now: a small tour begins at Somerset House for Stanley Spencer’s Sandham Memorial Chapel.

It’s easy to forgive the Germans; among other things they gave us Kraftwerk. Dusseldorf’s pioneers of electronic music played an eight night residency at Tate Modern in February. Was it art? Who can say?

It is to be compared with the mania for David Bowie which overtook the V&A. Event of the year, no doubt, and not a painting in sight.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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