Friday, 17 December 2010


Statistically, I reckon I saw - implausibly perhaps - well over 1,000 shows in London in 2010. I was assisted by a summer between dayjobs – I doubt I’ll see that many again! I recommended 234 of them, with 156 galleries featuring. Aside from taste, those choices were influenced by (still!) seeing only about half of the potentially worthwhile shows in London, by matters of timing as well as taste, and a tendency to favour the ‘less obvious’ somewhat – all of which makes the appearance totals some way from a verdict on the galleries’ programmes. Nonetheless… many galleries had two recommendations, ten had three listings (Aicon, Charlie Smith, the Barbican, Madder 139, Simon Lee, Sprovieri, Tate Modern, Timothy Taylor, White Cube, Vegas), four had four (Bischoff / Weiss, Hauser & Wirth, Poppy Sebire, Seventeen) and two had five (Camden Arts Centre and Tate Britain). Paint was the most frequent medium (74 shows, or 39% of the 188 not classified as ‘Various’, which were typically mixes of painting and sculpture), followed – unless you merge the next two sometimes not-so-separate categories – by installation (27%), sculpture (13%) , photography (8%), video (7%), drawing (4%) and collage (1%), with prints, text work, ceramics and design featuring just once each, and no pure sound installation despite the aural victory in the Turner Prize.. 28 shows were internationally various, leaving UK artists unsurprisingly dominant with 47% of the other 206 shows, though that includes artists of diverse origins. The home side was followed by USA (13%), Germany (6%), France (4%), Italy and the Netherlands (2.5% each), with 37 nations represented in all. 8% of the shows were Asian, 4% South American and only 1% African. My guess, which I can’t prove, is that those statistics may be broadly representative of the total gallery offerings in 2010.

Given those figures, and the fact that 2010 was a rich and varied year, it is perhaps unsurprising that what started as a top ten got a little out of control...

Christian Marclay: The Clock @ White Cube - the 24 hour showings of Marclay's tour de face felt like the art event of the year.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot @ The Curve: birds played guitars memorably at the Barbican's superbly curated alternative space, which also scored with Damián Ortega.

Martin Honert @ the Bloomberg Space - justifying his status as the only artist in the long-running 'Comma' series to have both rooms to himself.

Angela de la Cruz @ Camden - the show which should have won the Turner Prize?

Leigh Ledare @ Pilar Corias - the most confrontational photography show of the year may well have been the best. Jean-Luc Mylayne at Spruth Magers and Elina Brotherus at Wapping Bankside were contrasting challengers for that honour.

Rachel Thorlby: The Immortality Drive @ Madder 139 - in a crowded field, this may just have edged the award for best show in a small gallery. There again, I also loved Danny Rolph @ Poppy Sebire, Emma Bennett @ CHARLIE SMITH London, The Body in Women's Art Now Part 2 - Flux @ ROLLO, Alex Hudson @ Vegas and Graham Dolphin @ Seventeen...

Francis Alys: A Story of Deception and John Baldessari: Pure Beauty @ Tate Modern - the most imaginative of the major shows were both at Tate Modern.

Analia Saban: Information Leaks @ Josh Lilley - my pick of the artists wholly new to me (much of the work shown here was, incidentally, snapped up by the mega-collecting Rubells and is now on show in Miami)

The Real Van Gogh: the Artist and His Letters @ the Royal Academy - the most memorable historical show of the year - which isn't to forget Gauguin and Gorky at the Tate Modern, Paul Nash at Dulwich, the Sacred Made Real at the National Gallery and Michelangelo at the Courtald.

Hannah Wilke: Elective Affinities @ Alison Jacques - this gallery did a great job in presenting work new to London from the American performance artist, sculptor and photographer(1940-93) as well as showing Ana Mendieta and Lygia Clark to score a rewarding hatrick of female estate shows. Which reminds me of Alice Neel at the Whitechapel and Louise Bourgeois at the new Hauser & Wirth space and also...

Francesa Woodman @ Victoria Miro & Picasso: The Mediterranean Years @ Gagosian - the best museum shows not in a museum. The former actually did come from a museum show which toured Spain and Italy, the latter merely seemed as if it might have come from MOMA.

William Tucker @ Pangolin - the 75 year old was one of many happily still-surviving 'grand old men' to impress: also good, and older, were Marc Vaux (78) at Bernard Jacobson, Alex Katz (82) at Timothy Taylor, Antoni Tàpies (87) at Waddington, Richard Hamilton (88) at the Serpentine, Paul Feiler (91) at the Redfern Gallery.

John Smith: Solo Show @ RCA - my favourite video show of the year was the students' presentation of the most extensive selection yet from Smith's long career.

Anton Henning @ Haunch of Vension - if you wanted one artist to excess and possibly beyond, then this was the place - along, perhaps, with Bharti Kher @ Hauser & Wirth.

THE THE THINGS IS (FOR 3) at Milton Keynes Gallery - Giorgio Sadotti's anonymously presented riot of an exhibition challenged the definition of London, as did such excellent shows as Miroslaw Balka at Modern Art Oxford, Dolly Thompsett at ArtSway and Tomoko Takahashi at the de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill...

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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.