The Top 10 Exhibitions Of 2016

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 24 months ago

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The Top 10 Exhibitions Of 2016

One of the best things about living in London is there are more exhibitions than you can physically visit — trust us, we've tried. But of the hundreds we saw in 2016 here are our favourites.

Some fantastic virtual reality experiences included being transported into a cardboard house.

10. Enter through the Headset at Gazelli Art House

We've often said that virtual reality is the future of art. Here we had a selection of fantastic examples including a cardboard house which transformed into multiple worlds, and an eerie journey by boat into the underworld. We should also mention Shezad Dawood's excellent VR exhibition based around the Himalayan town of Kalimpong.

War was just one feather to this talented and diverse painter's cap.

9. Paul Nash at Tate Britain

One of Britain's greatest ever painters is often cruelly undersold as only a war artist. Yes his paintings of war are hauntingly brilliant, but Nash was so much more than that. This exhibition gives the full diversity of his talent the credit he deserves.

The subtlest entry but a spectacular photography exhibition. © Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

8. Paul Strand at V&A

The one photography exhibition on this list is brilliant in its subtlety. Paul Strand could find beauty in everything and his use of light is sublime. This was not an attention-grabbing blockbuster exhibition, but it was excellent.

Floating fish were just one element of the Turbine Hall's multi-layered experience.

7. Philippe Parreno: Anywhen at Tate Modern

Floating fish, a roving light and speakers and a screen descending from the ceiling, this exhibition had it all. Did it all make sense — probably not — but it delivered an unforgettable immersive experience.

Recreations of trenches were part of this superb exhibition in Croydon.

6. Remembering 1916 at Whitgift exhibition centre

If you'd told us at the beginning of the year that one of our favourite exhibitions would be next to a school in Croydon, we would have laughed. We're still in disbelief as to how good this show was, with tons of artefacts, recreations of trenches and a great tribute to the fallen.

We got into the swinging sixties at the V&A. Photo (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

5. You say you want a Revolution: Records and Rebels at V&A

The spirit of the late 60s was captured with fashion, a mini Woodstock, technology and war. What elevated this exhibition even higher was the fantastic locational audio with a brilliant soundtrack — Lennon, Creedence and Jefferson Airplane guided us around this extensive show.

They even ran out of lead in this country when putting this immersive exhibition together.

4. Anselm Kiefer: Walhalla at White Cube, Bermondsey

This pristine gallery space was transformed into a lead lined internment camp in this reflective heavyweight of an exhibition. It was a fantastic year for the White Cube in Bermondsey as it also hosted excellent exhibitions by Gormley, Raqib Shaw and Georg Baselitz.

This is the closest we'd ever like to be to venturing inside the Overlook hotel.

3. Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick at Somerset House

An orange lit corridor with the tiling from the Overlook hotel ends with a video screen of a chicken's eye staring at back at us. This trippy homage of an exhibition doesn't let up with a flaming sculpture and an infinite tunnel. A brilliant group show that transported us into Kubrick's world.

These underwater treasures wowed us. © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation. Photo: Christoph Gerigk

2. Sunken Cities at The British Museum

These treasures from the deep are remarkably well preserved, and they were presented in an informative exhibition that really made these two lost cities spring back to life. Towering statues to little trinkets, this was an amazing collection of items presented beautifully. One of the best British Museum exhibitions we've seen in several years.

A very lengthy kiss on a rowing boat was part of this irreverent and brilliant exhibition.

1. Ragnar Kjartansson at Barbican Art Gallery

A 60-minute music video; the same song sung over and over; men just lounging about in the exhibition playing the guitar and singing. This bizarre set of performances were made even better by the fact the artist really didn't care whether you took them seriously or not. Several of these works will stick in our memories forever and that's what made this our favourite exhibition of 2016.

... And the Worst

Despite the majority of the exhibitions we visit being great, there were a few major letdowns through the year and we've highlighted two here.

You can take an orange but it won't help you through this mess of an exhibition. Image courtesy Aspen Art Museum, 2015 © Roelof Louw

Conceptual Art in Britain at Tate Britain

Conceptual art isn't actually that difficult to understand, though some people would like you to think otherwise. It's this type of person who seems to have pulled this show together and tried to make it as deliberately confusing as possible. It just gave more fuel to those who dismiss conceptual art, and we found it unforgivable.

Old school 3D technology didn't cut it with us. Image copyright Cyprien Gaillard.

The Infinite Mix at Hayward Gallery offsite

Yes, all the other art critics loved it and it was a a very popular exhibition. The building and the setting were great but the actual artworks were often pretentious, boring, using poor technology and of very little artistic merit.

Last Updated 23 December 2016