Articles - 21st December 2018

Best New Art Exhibitions of 2018

Words by Eleanor Forrest

2018 was certainly an interesting year for art in the UK.

From feminist photography to disappearing pre-Raphaelite works, as well as an exhibition dedicated to celebrating Snoopy and the enduring power of peanuts.

Without further ado take a look at our list of the top 10 art exhibitions of 2018.

10. Double Fantasy: John and Yoko at the Museum of Liverpool

This is definitely one for the list. Depicting the meeting between the two artists, Double Fantasy demonstrated how John and Yoko used their platform and talent to campaign for peace and human rights across the world, transforming activism forever. There was also a personal touch to this exhibition, as items belonging to the pair were displayed for the first time, providing an intimate look into the activists themselves.

9. Life in Motion: Egon Schiele/ Francesca Woodman at the Tate Liverpool

2018 saw the Tate Liverpool showcase the work of Gustav Klimt’s protegé, Egon Shiele and contrasted it with the dynamic photography of Francesca Woodman. All in all, it created an intimate and unapologetic exhibition that fully demonstrated the power of portraiture, as the pieces aim to look beneath the surface to capture their subject’s emotions. Schiele’s raw drawings depict the energy of his models whilst Woodman utilises long exposures to create surreal photographs. It was certainly a considerate exhibition, holding in mind the desires of the artists in what they wanted to communicate with their work.

8. NOW: A Dialogue on Female Chinese Contemporary Artists at the CFCCA, Manchester

The Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art might not be an incredibly well-known art gallery but in the past year, it proved an asset to the cultural landscape of Manchester. With the exhibition NOW, the gallery brought a few female Chinese artists together to think about gender in not just the art world but the Chinese art world and in Chinese society itself. Understanding the feminist movements of the past and looking at where feminism sits in mainstream Chinese society today, the exhibition demonstrated just how multifaceted beliefs about feminism were in such a vast country.

7. All too Human: Bacon, Freud and a century of painting life at the Tate Britain

Running from the 28th February to 27th August, ‘All Too Human’ captured the sensuous, immediate and intense experience of life in paint. Understanding the effect perceptions play on the portrayal of the human form, the exhibition celebrated painters in Britain who strove to depict human figures. Free entry was provided for members and displayed the work of Francis Bacon for the first time in three decades allowing people to form fresh impressions. Described as the true heroes of modern British art by Jonathan Jones, the exhibition also shone a light on the artists before Bacon and Freud. By doing so, the exhibition demonstrated how the spirit of painting was fostered.

6. Another Kind of Life at the Barbican, London

Featuring over 300 pieces of work from the 1950s right up until the present day, Another Kind of Life depicted the lives of the outsiders. In a raw and refreshingly unusual look, the public had the chance to witness trans-gender sex workers, street pedlars and Soviet hippies to name a few. Taking place at the Barbican in London, it was considerate to its subjects in every way.

5. Good Grief, Charlie Brown! at Somerset House, London

We all had a piece of clothing/ accessory/ toy that was Snoopy related and just that fact demonstrates the power of the cartoon which brought it all to existence, Peanuts. Somerset House takes this enduring love and allows contemporary artists to go wild with their creations with the exhibition Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

The power of Peanuts and it’s never-ending appeal is analysed as the public understand what it was about the 1950s cartoon that made it so popular. Whether it’s a result of the illustrations themselves, the messages depicted or a bit of both, (most likely both) the cartoon has enjoyed renewed appeal in recent years. Tickets cost £14 and you have until the 3rd March to enjoy.

4. Speech Acts: Reflection, Imagination, Repetition at Manchester Art Gallery and Museum

Since the 25th May, Manchester Art Gallery has been showcasing the diverse meaning of what it means to be British in today’s society. Speech Acts: Reflection, Imagination, Repetition aims to unpick the effect of public museums and how they shape our collective imagination and the power of exhibitions in these shared narratives. An interesting exhibition, showcasing a variety of work that differs from each other in every way but together they create a thoughtful exhibition that is well worth a visit. It’s still open and also free, so what are you doing!?

3. Women Power Protest, Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum

A direct result of the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, 2018 witnessed the rise of feminism not just across the country but throughout the world. Celebrating the power of womanhood, whilst packaging it in an accessible manner is the Women Power Protest at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Opening at the latter end of 2018, the exhibition opened at the beginning of November and is set to run until February 2019. The best thing about this exhibition, apart from the obvious one, is its inclusiveness of women from all walks of life that really makes this exhibition a special one.

2. Anita Corbin, First Women UK at Royal College of Art, Battersea

Marking the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which granted women the right to vote, Anita Corbin brought First Women UK to Battersea. Using photography she showcased the impressive talent of women throughout the country who all became first in their professions. From engineers to the head of Lloyds bank the exhibition was a crucial look at women who decided to buck the trend. The most impressive aspect of the exhibition was its demonstration of female subjects in the female gaze, contrasting the pre-Raphaelite artworks that usually decorate the halls of art galleries.

1. Sonia Boyce and the disappearance of Hylas and the Nymphs, Manchester Art Gallery

Perhaps the most controversial of all of these in the list, the top spot has to be the removal of John William Waterhouse’s masterpiece, Hylas and the Nymphs at Manchester Art Gallery. The piece was removed from its original spot with no explanation and as you might expect the internet went wild. Orchestrated by artist Sonia Boyce, in the lead up to her own exhibition at the gallery, the move had its desired effect – opinions were divided. Through the medium of Twitter and post-it notes provided by the gallery, the public were able to voice what they thought of the move, granting an interactive element to the piece. Thought-provoking and great promotion for the gallery, even The Guardian had something to say, it was a great move on part of the artist.

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