Culture24 Crystal Ball reveals the top art exhibitions of 2010

By Richard Moss | 31 December 2009
a letter with an illustration of factories seen across fields across the top

(Above) Vincent Van Gogh. Letter from Vincent to his brother Theo van Gogh, Pollard willow Aug 1882. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Culture24 editor Richard Moss picks out some of the highlights in another packed year for art exhibitions in the UK

After the blockbusters of recent years, at first glance 2010’s line up of art exhibitions seems quite considered and even modest. But take a closer look and some familiar names emerge - Picasso, Canaletto, Moore, Cezanne and the Impressionists - to suggest that it’s going to be business as usual in museums and galleries during 2010.


At the Royal Academy they get the year rolling with the first potential blockbuster. The Real Van Gogh, the artist and his letters (23 January –18 April 2010) brings together 35 rarely exhibited original letters with 95 paintings and drawings by the troubled genius. If ever there was an artist who lends himself to this kind of contextual appraisal surely it is Van Gogh - and his demons.

The Academy continues in this vein of oblique investigation, albeit less intriguingly, with a look at the little-known Seacapes by the ever-popular Edwardian society portraitist John Singer Sargent (July 10 - September 26).

At The National Gallery they are pinning their hopes on Painting History: Delaroche and Lady Jane Grey (February 24 – May 23), which promises a fascinating examination of this iconic masterpiece in the context of Delaroche’s great historical paintings. The National will then be turning our eyes towards Venice for a major show, Canaletto and His Rivals (October 13 – January 16 2011), which lays claim to being the finest assembly of Venetian views by Canaletto and his competitors since a much-celebrated display in Venice in 1967.

Canaletto is a fittingly impressive finale to a trio of Italian art shows in the capital in 2010. At the British Museum they are looking to the Italian Renaissance with Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance drawings (April 22 – July 25) which will bring together the finest group of Italian Renaissance drawings to be seen in this country for over seventy years.

Preceeding both is the Courtauld Gallery's rather more modest Michelangelo’s Dream of Human Life (February 16 – May 18), which examines one of the finest of all Italian Renaissance drawings and one of the Courtauld's greatest treasures.

a portait of a man in frock coat and ruffles leaning thoughtfully on a table

Walpole and his world will be uncovered by the V&A in the spring. Portrait of Horace Walpole c. 1756-7 Joshua Reynolds Oil on canvas. © Marquess of Hertford, Ragley Hall Warwickshire

Style Icons and Gothic pioneers

At the V&A an unassuming but absorbing exhibition on quilting, named with unimpeachable aplomb, Quilts (March 20 - July 4), is followed in the spring by Grace Kelly Style Icon (April 17 - September 26), which will trace the evolution of the late film star’s chic elegance – from her Hollywood to Monaco years.

Included will be over 50 dresses, together with jewellery, hats, posters, photos and even her Oscar statuette. All very impressive, and for the V&A it’s a winning formula, but let’s see how it measures up to 2008’s Kylie show…

The V&A’s other stand out show is the first major UK exhibition exploring the passions of the gothic novelist, MP, man of letters etc, Horace Walpole.

Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill (March 6- July 4) promises to bring together many of this colourful character’s “most remarkable objects”. Given Walpole’s interests and his fanciful Gothic creations (both architectural and literary) this should make for an interesting menagerie.

a painting of a girl in a garden

Impressionist Gardens will be packing them in at National Galleries Scotland this summer. Berthe Morisot, Child amongst the Hollyhocks, 1881. Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln

Fin de siècle feel…

The highlight of the 2010 summer season at the National Gallery of Scotland complex in Edinburgh is another potential crowd puller. Impressionist Gardens (July 31 – October 17) features Impressionist big hitters Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Manet and Sisley with Cézanne and Bonnard thrown in for good measure.

There’s a similarly fin de siècle feel at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool where High Kicks and Low Life: Toulouse-Lautrec Prints (May 14 – August 8) revisits Lautrec’s very personal observations of the lives of prostitutes from the brothels and bars of Montmartre.

At the Bowes Museum Goya’s Prison: the Year of Despair (October 3 – April 11) is a gloomily monikered exploration of one painting; Goya’s portrayal of the inside of a prison – one of his cabinet paintings produced around 1793. It should be dark but fascinating stuff. Poor old Goya produced it - and others in a similar vein - in the months after he was consumed by a mystery illness that left him profoundly deaf.

There’s distinctive fair during 2010 at the Fitzwilliam Cambridge, which boasts a typically fascinating programme of exhibitions that range from the niche to the popular. Netsuke: Japanese Art in Miniature (23 February – 27 June) and Maggi Hambling: The Wave (27 April – 18 July), featuring her sea paintings, are just a taster of an eclectic line-up.

an abstract painting of a female nude

The African influence on modern art will be the focus for Tate Liverpool in early 2010. Wifredo Lam, The Murmur 1943. © Collection Centre Pompidou, dist. RMN / droits reserves © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2009

Accent on Africa

Tate Liverpool’s Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic (January 29 – April 25) is, remarkably, the first UK in-depth exhibition to trace the influence of black cultures on art. The long overdue show features Chris Ofili, Ellen Gallagher, Walker Evans, Picasso, Constantin Brancusi and many more.

As befits a city that was a major gateway to the Atlantic Slave Trade and is home to the International Slavery Museum, a citywide programme of parallel exhibitions will take place at the Bluecoat, FACT, Metal, Walker Art Gallery and Liverpool University.

The accent is also on Africa at the British Museum where Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures from West Africa (March 4 – June 6) looks at the sculpture of the cosmopolitan Ife State (roughly modern Nigeria) between the 12th and the 15th centuries. Refined and highly naturalistic, the Ife sculptural tradition in stone, terracotta and copper created a style unlike any in Africa at the time.

The BM's big autumn show stays on the African continent for an atmospheric investigation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Journey Through the Afterlife (November 4 - March 6 2011).

A contemporary view of Africa is served up by the Design Museum, whose Urban Africa features David Adjaye's photographs of buildings and places in Africa - all part of an ongoing project by the architect to study new patterns of urbanism.

Back at the Tate empire, it’s a typically busy year. At Tate Britain they steal a march on Liverpool by kicking off the year with one of the stars of the Afro Modern show, Chris Ofili (January 27 – May 16). The Liverpool outpost hits back with Picasso: Peace and Freedom (May 21 – August 30), before succumbing to a Rachel Whiteread show at Tate Britain (September 8 – January 16) and Gauguin (September 30 – January 16) at Tate Modern.

Along the way they also slip in a re-examination of the Avant-Garde (February 4 – May 16), at Tate Modern, followed by a survey of British Comic Art(June 9 – September 5) at Tate Britain.

You want Moore?

However the really big show of the year should be Tate Britain’s Henry Moore (February 24 – August 15), which they are billing as the “most comprehensive for a generation”. Featuring over 150 works the Gallery promises an exhibition that will uncover a “dark and erotically charged dimension” to the artist we all know and love.

With serendipitous readiness The Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green will be expanding on the theme with an exploration of Moore’s graphic works in Henry Moore: Books, Prints and Portfolios (March 30 – August 30) in the wonderfully named Sheep Field Barn gallery.

In the Leeds gallery outpost of the Foundation, the Henry Moore Institute, they have lined up the bizarre abstract/Art Nouveau works of Herman Obrist (1862-1927) (June 3 – August 29) who produced what were arguably the first abstract sculptures.

But it’s another great British artist who gets the retrospective treatment at Dulwich Picture Gallery, where Paul Nash, The Elements (February 10 – May 9) will bring together around sixty of Nash’s finest paintings and watercolours, from Surrealist and war works to his later neo-Romantic paintings.

an abstract painting featuring an insect, shapes, a face and block colours

Surrealism and science comes to Pallant House in 2010. John Tunnard, Self-Portrait, 1959. National Portrait Gallery London

British Surrealists and abstract pioneers

Compton Verney is turning to (ahem…) the second biggest name in 20th century British art with Francis Bacon: In Camera (March 27 – June 20). This thoughtful exploration of how film and photography influenced Bacon’s work is followed by a long overdue examination of the way artists have responded to the destructive power of Volcanoes, with an exhibition called simlpy, Volcano (July 24 – October 31).

Down in Chichester at Pallant House Gallery they are heading into British surreal territory with an exhibition about Surrealist and abstract pioneer John Tunnard. Inner Space to Outer Space (March 13 to June 6 2010) is the first major exhibition for thirty years covering this British artist whose paintings drew on both Surrealist fantasy worlds and developments in science and engineering.

The other big show amidst a packed programme at Pallant, which includes The St Ives of Ben and Winifred Nicholson (March 6 to May 31) is Surreal Friends: Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Kati Horna (June 19 to September 12 2010). Celebrating the three artists the exhibition will also be the most comprehensive display to date of the 92-year-old Carrington.

a drawing of two girls

An early treat for 2010: Paula Rego's selection of British Council artworks at the Whitechapel. Gerald Brockhurst 1891-1978West of Ireland 1928

An early art injection?

If you’re looking for an early injection of art to see you through the bleak winter months then perhaps Whitechapel Art Gallery’s Paula Rego selection of works from the British Council collection, will fit the bill?

Thresholds (January 9 – March 12) marks 75 years of the British Council and features twentieth century works with strong narratives and representations of women from the likes of Kitaj, Auerbach, Augustus John, Prunella Clough and Chris Ofili.

If photography or celebrity is more your thing then there will be some strong representations at the National Portrait Gallery’s Irving Penn Portraits (February 18 – June 6), which will feature over 120 prints from the late photographer’s early days at Vogue right through to the present day. In a career spanning 70 years he snapped everyone from Piaf and Picasso to Pacino.

a diptcht panting of an empty blurred street and a patrolling soldier in camouflage

Richard Hamilton gets the restrospective treatment at the Serpentine from March. The State 1993. © 2010 Richard Hamilton

Feeling contemporary

At the Serpentine Gallery there is a long overdue re-assessment of pop artist, designer, printmaker and painter Richard Hamilton (March 3 – April 25).

South London Gallery meanwhile welcomes Michael Landy’s Art Bin (January 29 – March 14). Over the course of six-weeks an enormous 600m³ bin will gradually fill up as people discard their art works in it, ultimately creating, in Michael Landy’s words, “a monument to creative failure”.

Given Landy’s track record of destruction in the name of art they had better not want their artworks back.

At the other end of the capital, Camden Arts Centre is hosting Brazilian-based, Italian-born installation artist Anna Maria Maiolino (April 2 - May 30). Her site-specific installation will be made onsite out of hand rolled clay. There will also be a selection of her film works made over the last 30 years.

a photograph of two men with masks in a living room with a buzzard flying between them

Hurrah! Marcus Coates gets a big show in the MKG in January. Marcus Coates, Vision Quest, Ernie 2009. Photo by Nick David. Produced by Nomad.

Feral explorations

At the Milton Keynes Gallery, Marcus Coates – yes, he of the shamanic and feral explorations and deer antlers, gets his first solo show in a UK public gallery (January 15 – April 4). Expect lots of films of grunting – and the occasional bemused pensioner. Wonderful stuff.

BALTIC have scooped one of Jenny Holzer’s spectacular LED installations for her retrospective at the Gallery (March 5 - May 16) in which the renowned American artist will be presenting work spanning the last two decades – enough to fill two floors of BALTIC’s galleries.

The Tyneside gallery also hosts the first UK retrospective of the watercolours of John Cage (June 11 – September 5). As you might expect it’s not going to be a straight painting show. Two hundred of the avant-garde composer’s watercolours will be arranged using a computer programme based on the I-Ching. And much like his compositions visitors will make chance encounters with the paintings at varying heights and positions without the aid of a curator. (Does the Curator’s Union know about this?)

Staying with the art-music thread, the latest artist to take on the Barbican’s Curve Gallery is French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot (February 27 – May 23) who will be making a walk-through aviary inhabited by 40 zebra finches. But here’s the catch - this bird landscape will be made of electric guitars and cymbals. The result, says the ever hopeful Boursier-Mougenot, will be a “chance composition” as the birds hop about and "make music".

At the Hayward Gallery the focus this summer is firmly on Brazil with Ernesto Neto (June 19 – September 15) opening their newly refurbished gallery with his sculptures whilst The New Décor (June 19 - September 5) features 30 contemporary international artists whose work explores interior design.

Back at the Barbican, their main galleries will house the first major survey in the UK of the internationally acclaimed ‘design maverick’ Ron Arad (February 18 – May 16). Design fans will also be pleased to know that a major retrospective of an acclaimed UK graphic designer comes to with Alan Fletcher: Fifty years of graphic work (and play) (January 21 – April 4).

a wax model of a naked bearded man on a stool

Ron Mueck will be bringing his outsize world to Manchester for Artist Rooms.

Immersive experiences

There are some shifting – not to say cosmic – experiences to be had at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art who welcome Semiconductor’s newly commissioned multi-screen film and sound installation, Heliocentric (March 5 – May 1), which reveals the Earth’s rotation as it orbits the sun.

Carrying on the multi media theme the Bluecoat Liverpool sees in the New Year with an installation by one the artists in Tate’s Afro Modern show,Sonia Boyce whose Like Love - Part 2 (January 30 - March 28) is the result of local workshops and a residency at the Meriton School for Young Parents, Bristol and explores universal ideas around the concept of care.

Since it redesign Manchester Art Gallery has forged a strong reputation for an innovative gallery programme and, apart from welcoming the weird, outsized waxwork world of Ron Mueck (February 4 2010 - April 11), they will be going all Charles Saatchi on us in 2010. Facing East: Recent Works from China, India and Japan from the Frank Cohen Collection (February 4 - Sunday April 11) features ten rarely-shown works by current and future global art stars from Asia.

At the aforementioned’s Saatchi Gallery there is a now customary monikered series of shows with deadpan names such as Paint and the Power of Paper as well as explorations of Contemporary Photography and German Art Today. Perhaps taking their cue from their enigmatic namesake, the Gallery is yet to finalise the dates for these.

And finally…

And finally let’s give a mention to the Artist Rooms tour, which gathers apace in 2010 with exhibitions popping up in all manner of places the length and breadth of Britain.

Among the many highlights are Andy Warhol at Perth Museum (April 17 – October 23) ; Damien Hirst at [Tate Britain (April 1 - April 1 2011); Richard Long at Ulster Museum (September 1 – February 1) 2011 and probably one of the most fitting combinations - Joseph Bueys at Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery (April 1 - June 2).

You want more? There are of course hundreds more exhibitions in the pipeline for 2010 - not to mention a slew of biennials and festivals - so keep checking Culture24 editorial and listings throughout 2010 for the latest in exhibition news.

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