The Culture24 Year in Review: exhibitions of 2009

By Culture24 Staff | 23 December 2009

This year has offered museum and gallery goers an enormous array of cultural delights, from headline-grabbing exhibitions to new and old venues and historical milestones. Culture24 picks out some of the year's highlights...

a photograph of the cover of a Penguin book

The year kicked off with a celebration of the 70th anniversary of Penguin books at Gateshead Shipley Museum, exploring the design and publishing history of Penguin books (left), as well as charting the development of their iconic logo.

In London, daredevil designer Colin Corbett explored the rarefied world of the decorated jockstrap with his exhibition of racy handmade jockstraps at the London College of Communications.

Woking's Lightbox played host to Out of China, a set of extraordinarily large porcelain pieces by a Royal Academy of Arts resident artist who took a year long sabbatical in china to graft in Mr Yu's Big Ware Factory.

a photograph of a man surrounded by hats

February was definitely a month for fashion fans and design devotees, beginning with top fashion journalist Iain R Webb's selection of show-stopping pieces by 1970s designer Bill Gibb in Bill Gibb: A Personal Journey at the Fashion Museum in Bath.

In the capital, The Victoria and Albert Museum's Porter Gallery was turned into an Alice in Wonderland-style garden by world-renowned hat designer Stephen Jones (above). His sumptuous exhibition Hats an Anthology pulled together collections and footage from around the globe.

Across town, Le Corbusier - The Art Of Architecture at the Barbican offered an in-depth exploration of one of the most influential architects of the 20th century.

Not only was Le Corbusier a media savvy self-promoter and a celebrated thinker, writer and artist, but he also transformed the way in which buildings were designed and viewed.

a painting of a girl in a white dress

Constable Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery was the first exhibition to explore John Constable's life and art through his portraits (left), featuring more than 50 works and offering a window into the middle and upper ranks of early 19th century society.

As part of the Darwin 200 celebrations, sculptor Tania Kovats spoke to Culture24 about the joys of turning a 40-ton tree into a fairytale piece of art in the ceiling of a gallery at the Natural History Museum.

A number of exhibitions took place around the country to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession to the throne, including Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill at the Tower of London. The exhibition painted a fascinating picture of the monarch using weapons, armour and unfeasibly large codpieces.

a photograph of people inside of a gallery

The new contemporary Towner Gallery (right) opened its doors to the public in Eastbourne with a new gallery formed as a result of a public poll. Culture24 caught up with People's Choice Gallery curator Sara Cooper for a jaunt around some of the key pieces chosen by members of the public.

Another even more interactive experience was taking place at Leicester's New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in the LoveSport show, where energetic visitors had the chance to test their reaction times, try to avoid emulating some of the worst penalty kicks ever fluffed and attempt the Tour de France.

If all that leaping around was too much then the Oh Yeah Music centre in Northern Ireland had collected together an impressive collection of memorabilia and ephemera for From Dana to The Undertones, exploring Northern Ireland's rich musical history.

a photograph of an art installation made of fluorescent tubes

Coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Second World War, Captured - The Extraordinary Life of Prisoners of War at IWM North was the IWM North's extensive new exhibition looking at the world’s of people taken captive during WWII.

Sworn in at the beginning of 2009, US President Barack Obama drew massive interest from around the globe. Israeli photographer Nadav Kander shot a series of portraits of Obama's Political team for Obama's People at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Further north, in Liverpool, the Tate was exploring a shifting moment in 20th century attitudes to colour as a ready-made material rather than scientific and expressive in Colour Chart (above).

a photograph of people looking at pieces in an art gallery

Graffiti superstar Banksy took his biggest ever indoor show (right) to his hometown of Bristol for Banksy versus Bristol Museum.

June's second blockbuster exhibition was the largest ever retrospective of JW Waterhouse's work at the Royal Academy of the Arts.

The National Portrait Gallery played host to some fresh new talent when a Surrey schoolteacher beat off stiff competition from thousands of other entries to win the BP Portrait Prize with his portrait Changeling 2, formed from a series of portraits of his daughter.

a photograph of a man dressed as a woman

The National Space Centre marked the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon landings when Buzz and Neil took the one small step that really was a giant leap for mankind in Project Apollo: The Lunar Landings.

In Brighton, Seattle artist John Grade's love affair with the English South coast became an installation of algae from millions of years ago at Fabrica in The Elephant Bed, exploring the layer of powdered elephant which Brighton and Hove lies upon.

Grayson Perry embarked on a rather different cultural exploration (above) in Unpopular Culture and Nostalgia for Bad Times at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

a red poster with white slogans

To celebrate the 50th Birthday of Alec Issigonis's iconic Mini motor car, the Heritage Motor Centre held the aptly named 50 years of the Mini.

IWM North’s Outbreak exhibition (right) marked another milestone, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Second World War.

The exhibition vividly evoked the beginning of the Second World War through the stories of everyone from politicians to policemen who were there in 1939.

Drawn from Ditchling at Ditchling Museum celebrated the people who have lived in the village and the artists who have painted them, including Eric Gill and Louis Ginnet.

a photograph of artists completing a large cartoon

Viewers of ITV's Bank Holiday blockbuster, Wuthering Heights, were able to get up close and personal with Heathcliff and Cathy when costumes from the show went on display at Bronte Parsonage Museum.

The Campaign for Drawing, which encourages people to embrace the art of drawing in all its forms, celebrated its 10th year with an exhibition featuring one-off drawings from some of the country's best-loved artists (above).

September saw another historical the marking of another historical milestone when the IWM commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with Living With the Wall 1961-1989.

a photograph of a ceramic statue

The Barbican's Curve Gallery was painstakingly transformed into a World War II bunker thanks to Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski and his team of engineers for.

The first British Ceramics Biennial smashed into Stoke-on-Trent with events taking place across the potteries.

The Midlands also played host to Jann Haworth, pop artist and co-designer of The Beatles' iconic Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, who held her first exhibition in the UK since 1963 at Wolverhampton Art Gallery (above).

a photograph of the inside of a museum

The Ashmolean Museum (left) opened its doors following a £61million redevelopment with a brand new coin gallery to house its 300,000 piece collection and pieces from the collection were used to bring the rest of the museum's collection to life.

Another grand opening came at the Nottingham Contemporary, who managed to lay their hands on more than 60 Hockney works for their inaugural exhibition.

Amsterdam's Red Light District was transported to London for The Hoerengracht at the National Gallery.

a photograph of the inside of a museum

The Sacred and the Profane at Pallant House Gallery examined the polarities in the work of Eric Gill, whose career has controversially come to symbolise faith and religion as well as moral and sexual taboos.

Controversial installation Old Persons Home 2007 by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu went on show at the Saatchi Gallery as part of Chinese Art: The Revolution Continues, allowing visitors to get close to life-like silicone models of former world leaders and dictators.

Looking forward to more great shows next year? Find out where to go with Culture24 - your charming, intelligent and handsome one-stop guide to exhibitions throughout 2010.

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