In no particular order, these were my favourite art exhibitions this year. And some are still on!
Anish Kapoor, Royal Academy
Most memorable for a cannon that fired crimson wax pellets at a wall, spattering wax everywhere, and a 40-ton block of red wax that moved very slowly on a track through five galleries oozing wax on the walls and floor. A riot of the senses. Just how the RA is going to get the wax off its previously pristine white walls is a mystery.
Mark Wallinger: The Russian Linesman, Hayward Gallery
Curated by Wallinger, this fascinating exhibition brought together a motley collection of artworks that have inspired him, as well as some of his own works, loosely tied together by the theme of frontiers and thresholds. (The show was named after the football official who allowed England’s disputed third goal in the 1966 World Cup. He was actually from Azerbaijan.) There were stereoscopic photographs; a couple of rocks, one real, one a painted bronze cast; previously unseen footage from the Balkan wars in the 1990s where it is impossible to tell which side is which; a video of a dancer performing in an empty theatre; and Tacita Dean’s Foley Artist sound and video installation, which followed the technicians creating radio and TV sound effects.
Altermodern, Tate Britain
Curator and art critic Nicolas Bourriaud’s theoretical spin on the exhibition was a bit over the top, but it was an engrossing selection of contemporary art, including old faves like Tacita Dean’s The Russian Ending, as well as Marcus Coates’ hilarious video ‘Firebird, Rhebok, Badger and Hare’. It showed the artist in a meeting with the mayor of an Israeli town where Coates tries to solve the problem of youth crime by contacting animal spirits during a shamanic trance. It started with him walking into the mayor’s office, wearing a badger on his head and a hare poking out of his light blue Adidas tracksuit top and said, ‘Please ask me any question you like’, whereupon the mayor asked him how he should tackle youth crime. Soon enough Marcus is making the most incredible animal sounds while the mayor looks on.
Miroslaw Balka, How It Is, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern (until 5 April)
Wander up the ramp into the huge dark steel container and experience the darkness for yourself.
Anthony Gormley’s One & Other, Trafalgar Square
Thousands signed up to take their turn on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square (pictured). As one critic wrote in the Guardian: ‘There was something very poignant about the sight of a single human on a space designed for a massive statue.’
Ed Ruscha: 50 Years of Painting, Hayward Gallery (until 10 January)
A retrospective of the 72-year-old American artist, famous for Standard Gas Station (where the building is squeezed into a narrow diagonal perspective).
Turner Prize show, Tate Britain
A good and largely uncontroversial show this year. Enrico David made me laugh and I loved the other three – Lucy Skaer’s whale, Roger Hiorns’ atomised jet engine (and his magical grotto Seizure for which he got nominated) and the surprise winner Richard Wright’s Rorschach blot-like wall paintings.
Grayson Perry, Victoria Miro Gallery in Islington
It turns out the self-declared ‘transvestite potter from Essex’ also produces amazing etchings, such as Print for a Politician. And his Walthamstow Tapestry was amazing – it encapsulated so much of life today.
Colour Chart: Reinventing Colour, 1950 to Today, Tate Liverpool
A feast of colour. Outside the exhibition, a video showing the making of a Sol Le Witt wall painting was even more impressive.
Isa Genzken, Whitechapel Gallery
The enlarged Whitechapel Gallery reopened with a retrospective of the German sculptor. I liked her early work best – radios and receivers made from concrete and massive coloured resin windows.
Turner and the Masters, Tate Britain
Many of Turner’s paintings were actually a new version of an old master – and he usually came out on top. I loved the fact that he once sneaked into the Royal Academy summer show just before it opened to add a red buoy in a seascape – which showed off his subtlety against a rival painting full of reds next to his.
Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism, Tate Modern
Two of the main artists of Russian constructivism in the early 20th century demonstrating their way of thinking in paintings and drawings. It is a shame that there weren’t more actual pieces alongside the drawings showing their clothes and furniture designs.