Best British show: Gauguin at Tate Modern The first big Gauguin show for 50 years finally discovered the serious artist behind the dubious reputation. Sculptor, potter, painter, printmaker: was there anything he couldn’t do? The religious paintings produced before he left for Tahiti were a highlight.
Best international blockbuster: Monet at the Grand Palais Quite simply, the best Monet show ever. Not only because it brought together so many of his finest paintings, but because it understood him in a radical new way: as an emotional and expressive artist, and not just a superb eye.
Best psychedelic experience: James Turrell at Gagosian What a transcendental treat. A full-body immersion in a huge and spectacular colour machine was the unforgettable moment, but all the pieces at this transportative event lifted you out of the ordinary world and deposited you on another planet. Should we now see Turrell as the greatest living artist?
Best retrospective: Arshile Gorky at Tate Modern The famed abstract expressionist fled from his native Armenia at the time of the Turkish massacres and made his way to America, where he painted some of the most beautiful of all 20th-century abstractions. Yet the show argued convincingly that Gorky never forgot his roots — or forgave the Turks.
Best contemporary show: Christian Marclay’s The Clock at White Cube A modern masterpiece. Using tiny clips from tens of thousands of movies, Marclay has created a detailed installation that functions accurately as a 24-hour clock. Whatever time you go in, that is the time the action is set. The final point seems to be: time is what you make it.
Best international newcomer: Tala Madani The rise in interest in the art of the Middle East was perhaps the key event of 2010. Few are as original or fearless as Madani, an Iranian-American painter who pulls no punches in her attacks on male-dominated Islamic society. She made an impressive appearance in the Saatchi show with paintings that were scarily brave.
Best British newcomer: Ian Kiaer Kiaer deals in the quiet, minimal beauty that is the preferred tone of British art today. Made out of unglamorous materials, his installations can seem hardly to be there at all. Once these delicate moods get into your head, though, you can’t shift them.
Worst show of 2010: Paul Delaroche at the National Gallery What on earth possessed the National to unleash this hokum on modern audiences? The French fantasist tried to pass himself off as a history painter, but his work inspires giggles. A tearful Cromwell studying the beheaded corpse of Charles I was the lowlight.
Worst event in the arts: the cuts In particular, the unforgivable damage they have done to Britain’s provincial galleries. By looking after the big London galleries and ignoring the small regional ones, the government is employing a model imported from the world of supermarkets. The mollycoddled Tate and all its far-flung franchises are the art world’s answer to Tesco. But what about the corner shops?