2010: The Museum and Gallery Year in Exhibitions

By Ben Miller | 28 December 2010
A photo of coloured shapes against a black background
77 Million Paintings was at Fabrica in April 2010© Brian Eno, courtesy Lumen London, lumenlondon.com
Whether it was the Turner or the Book of the Dead, 2010 was another year full of memorable shows, even if the art world occasionally wasn't watching them in the cheeriest of collective moods.

Here's our look back at a few of them - click on the links to read our coverage and reviews...


From blockbusters to blocks of ice, the exhibitions which stuck in the mind and eyes in 2010 weren’t always the most obvious. Martin Parr found them in working men’s clubs in Cardiff, Jorge Santos saw them stalking haunted walls in Bristol and the irrepressible Marcus Coates put them in blocks of flats in Liverpool, reindeer outfits and all.

There were classic paintings – The Glasgow Boys 1880-1900 at Kelvingrove, Delaroche and Lady Jane Grey, Christen Købke and Canaletto at the National Gallery, and Cezanne’s beloved Card Players at the Courtauld.

There was light but hugely rewarding relief – bumping and grinding at the Hayward’s Move show, British Comic Art at Tate Britain, voyeurism at Tate Modern and Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skulls at The Bowes in Durham.

But often it was the figures behind the canvasses and the stories of their existences which dominated. The Real Van Gogh set a mythologised artist in context and broadened his appeal in the process at the Royal Academy, and the tortuous tale of Arshile Gorky, at Tate Modern, told a grim narrative against artwork which truly transfixed.

A photo of a skull
Damien Hirst: Print Maker continues at The Bowes until February 2011© Damien Hirst and Paragon Press
Grace Kelly at the V&A was as breezily stylish as its star, and Gauguin became victim, saint, martyr and sinner at Tate Modern - titles the cocky modern master would doubtless have revelled in.

Journeys to other lands included Antarctica at the Science Museum (which you can visit for quite a while), dreams from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh at the Whitechapel, Indian portraits at the National Portrait Gallery and the smoke and mirrors grandiosity of the Ballets Russes at the V&A.

Evolving English took a trip through language at the British Library, Surreal House delved deep into the psyche at the Barbican and Ernesto Neto sculpted an entirely new world at the Hayward, where lime green planets, outdoor swimming pools, fizzing neon lights and dimly lit tangerine borderlines engulfed the venue.

Francis Alÿs took improbable pilgrimages to Mexico City back at Tate Modern, which was also one of the places Wolfgang Tillmans snapped on his way to a rare London appearance at the Serpentine, turning up to administer a few shifting shapes and wrinkled sheets of sky among faded photocopies and wildly deviating flights of fancy.

A photo of a woman in a dress
Grace Kelly: Style Icon charmed London until September 2010© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld 2009
Romantics will be at Tate Britain until 2012, featuring eight missing William Blake etchings, and the Duveens Commission was a visceral showstopper by Fiona Banner, hanging a huge jet in the barren hall in a terrifying, utterly arresting slab of coldness, contrasting ever so slightly with Chris Ofili’s elephant dung.

Angela de la Cruz’s twisted sculptures and Dexter Dalwood’s trip to St Ives preceded their appearances in the , which might just have been marginally less derided than in previous years.

The origins of design played themselves out across the patterns of Van Doesburg and his International Avant-Garde, Brian Eno made a kaleidoscope at a former church in Brighton, Henry Moore showed his darker side and Paula Rego made some cheeky choices for a group show.

Then there was the brilliant Book of the Dead at the British Museum, which is worth seeing again between now and March, and Magnificent Maps, a “compelling” display at the British Library.

The House of Fairy Tales
goes to Preston (via Bestival) until the end of the year, and Art Fashion Identity, at the Royal Academy, unites designers from all over the world until the end of January.
  • Back to top
  • | Print this article
  • | Email this article
  • | Bookmark and Share
advertisement