The Best Blockbuster Art Exhibitions Of 2015

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 33 months ago
The Best Blockbuster Art Exhibitions Of 2015
One of the sculptures from our exhibition of the year. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum.

Another year has passed by of spectacular art exhibitions, it's a benefit of living in our fantastic city. But which ones did we love the most? Here are our top picks. Only art and photography are in the running for this list. A separate article for all the exhibitions that fall outside this criteria will be published tomorrow.

The Top 10

1. Defining Beauty at British Museum
This was everything we expected and more. Greek sculpture is beautiful to look at, and this exhibition was filled with fantastic examples of the human form.

2. Inventing Impressionism at The National Gallery
We love Impressionism so this was a dream for us. Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro — the masterpieces just kept coming and we were enthralled.

3. Ai Weiwei at The Royal Academy of Arts
This was one of the hottest tickets in town, and for good reason. The ordeals that the artist has been through are reflected in his powerfully politicised works.

4. MC Escher at Dulwich Picture Gallery
The skill of this draughtsman knew no bounds. There were surreal works aplenty that played with our perception, and the detail in some of his drawings is astounding.

5. Goya: Witches and Old Women at The Courtauld Gallery
Out of the two Goya exhibitions, we preferred this one. The portraits at The National Gallery was brilliant but we loved the darker and freer side of Goya's expression.

A colourful explosion was one of the performances in Station to Station. Photo © Brian Doyle. Courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York

6. Station to Station at Barbican Centre
This ambitious 30 day festival had everything — art, talks performances, music and film. We simply bounced from one experience to another and there was never a dull moment.

7. Carsten Holler at Hayward Gallery
This one divided opinions in the Londonist office — we all enjoyed it, but did it lack artistic merit? Not all of the works left any lasting impressions but there were some challenging pieces that made us contemplate the nature of art. The question is whether other visitors did, or were they having too much fun?

8. Tate Sensorium at Tate Britain
The queuing and ticketing system was abysmal, but once inside a whole new way of experiencing art was revealed. Taste, smell and even touch were used to change how we view art in this brilliant experiment.

9. Alexander Calder at Tate Modern
When the mobiles rotate with just the prod of gentle air currents it's magical. A shame that a lot were immobile but that doesn't detract from this captivating show.

10. Peter Kennard at Imperial War Museum
An exhibition with impact. Anti-war posters and statistics that will make visitors wonder if wars would ever happen if people knew the true cost of it.

Gallery of the Year

The detail is astonishing in the work of MC Escher. © 2015 The M.C. Escher Company-The Netherlands.

Dulwich Picture Gallery
The only gallery to make the top 10, which isn't in Zone 1. This gallery punched well above its weight this year with the fantastic Escher and Made in China, plus the ethereal paintings of Ravilious. It also has a fantastic permanent collection, so if you've never ventured out to it, it's time to add it to the things to do in 2016.

The Let Downs

There are always a few major exhibitions each year that leave us wondering why anyone would pay the ticket price, and this year we'd draw attention to two that left us particularly unimpressed:

Agnes Martin at Tate Modern
We know this will enrage her fans, but 15 rooms of the same thing is a fair assessment of this dull and drab exhibition. Martin's life was interesting but the Tate chose to ignore all of that and just focus on grids. Lots of grids.

Richard Diebenkorn at Royal Academy of Arts
An abstract landscape painter whose work is remarkably uneventful. It often felt like a cross between a GCSE art student and an artist who just doesn't know what to paint.

For transparency we should point out that the majority of critics loved these two exhibitions.

The Year Overall

To finish on a high note, this has been another year of brilliant art exhibitions and we're looking forward to what 2016 has in store.

These were our top picks for the year. Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

Last Updated 28 December 2015

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