I want first to remind you of a display that is already open, and which the smart among you will wish to visit quickly in order to have your faith in civilisation restored and to kick-start the new art year. The Enlightenment suite at the British Museum can surely claim to be the most exciting cabinet of curiosities ever created. It consists of many of the museum’s finest holdings in all its areas of collecting. Wow. Wow. Wow.
Being civilised is not, of course, the same thing as reaching perfection, and Philip Guston’s paintings, which arrive at the Royal Academy in a few weeks, sought to follow the slob’s route to enlightenment. Guston was a friend of Pollock who gave up abstract expressionism and began spewing out brutal figurative paintings, among the most original of the post-war era.
To make up for Guston’s beery brush-bashing, the academy is also unveiling an exquisite Vuillard show at the end of the month. Indeed, there’s lots of exquisiteness.Brancusi is coming to Tate Modern. So is the peerless minimalist Donald Judd. And in case anyone out there has not yet had enough of the pre-Raphaelites, a full-scale survey opens in a month at Tate Britain.
My own deepest instincts are maximalist, and what I am looking forward to most is El Greco at the National Gallery in February. He was, and is, a unique force in art. The first picture I ever stuck to a wall when I was a kid was his St Martin and the Beggar.
Yippee. It’s coming over.
Spring sees the arrival of a huge Roy Lichtenstein retrospective at the Hayward Gallery. Gee, captain, what can it mean? And only the devil knows which wicked forces of art have brought together Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst and Angus Fairhurstfor a joint show at Tate Britain in March, called In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (try saying “In the Garden of Eden” after you’ve drunk 20 pints). Vivienne Westwood, the only fashion designer who deserves to be looked at seriously in an art gallery, is coming to the V&A in April. Meanwhile, Britain’s worst and ugliest art gallery, the Barbican, has been refashioned and reopens in May with the compelling Mexican photography ofTina Modotti and Edward Weston. Up in Liverpool, they will unveil the third Liverpool Biennale in September. The first two were exceptionally promising.
However, the year’s biggest unveiling is set for the autumn, in New York. After a momentous rebuild, the Museum of Modern Art is set to fling open its new doors in November. Can Tate Modern cling onto its reputation as the planet’s leading modern-art space when the new Moma monster rises from the ashes? I can’t wait to see.