It’s been a strange year.
I’ve somehow been more full of art thoughts than ever, whilst simultaneously feeling less engaged with actual art happenings. Between two jobs and a dissertation I’ve been busy, to which my response has been to be hard on myself. My brain calls taking time even to go and see art as a treat I can’t allow myself. Fear not – I have solutions for all of this in mind for 2020.
Maybe that’s why several of these choices come from the latter part of the year – certainly not intentional. Indeed, looking through my archives of things written this year I was pleasantly surprised by how much there actually was. And plenty enough good things to put together my now-traditional Top 5.
The main thing I’m guilty of is perhaps not having enough candidates for the out-of-towner category. Leaving the city to make new discoveries is something I haven’t been particularly good at this time. Then again with art this good, have I needed to?
Best Major Show: Keith Haring
How to describe this show except as really great? This was about much more than Haring’s famous surfaces: complete justice was done to how he was engaged, political, often angry. Art that speaks directly to the social conditions from which it emerged, with a style that continues to have mass appeal. Brilliantly curated, it was way more of a journey of discovery than I’d expected, and a triumph for that.
Best Small Show: Dead Pigeon Gallery @ 189 Oakfield Road
The Dead Pigeon Gallery team have started the new lease of life for this terrace house in quite some style. This show looked at the complex emotional connotations of a home: what and where this is and what it means to lose it. Strong responses to both the particular setting and the sentiment made this a touching place to explore.
Best Personal Reaction: Astronomy Photographer Of The Year
A category title I’ve invented because I had to fit this show in somewhere. And it does genuinely stand alone as the show in 2019 which left me feeling the most overwhelmed. These photographs from across the world, of sites across the universe, all captured something about our place in the grand scheme of things – maybe small, but always marvellous – so beautifully.
Best Out-of-Towner: Ruth Murray “Geraniums”
I only discovered The Portico in Manchester in November, but immediately recognised it as a gem of a place. Incredibly jealous of curator James Moss who gets to work with their collection of incredible books and bring in artists to respond to them – putting together a programme I’ll be keeping a close eye on from now on. But discovering this single painting was a highlight of the visit. Domestic yet mysterious, evoking a homely kind of magical craft, inviting and intimate, and the use of light is wonderful. This will stick with me for some time to come.
Overall Favourite: FILTH
Having loved Ben Youdan’s last exhibition in The Gallery, I was hoping that Filth might be more of the same. In fact, it’s so much more. Confident, proud, glittery – and absolutely filthy. It’s gutsy and joyous, and sets a standard for how to look at something you care about and understand in a way that the wider public perhaps doesn’t. The good news is this is also still running into January, so you can give yourself a bit of inspiration for 2020.