Exhibitions: Best of 2014

Looking back on Contemporary Art in 2014: 2014 is rapidly coming to an end. Before the New Year strikes I wanted to look back on some of the best exhibitions and exciting new art this year has come to see. There has been some great new contemporary art establishing itself in galleries across the world over the last 12 months. This blog post will explore my particular highlights from the art world of 2014.

Reaching back as far as January, the exhibition which stands out most in mind was the Oxo Tower Wharf’s exhibition Republic of the Moon. A display exploring culture and science through the subject of the moon, this exhibition brought visually stunning works by such artists as Leonid Tishkov and Liliane Lijn to the shores of Southbank. This pop-up lunar embassy worked to educate and inspire, inviting viewers to see the cultural and scientific appeals of the moon in contemporary society.

Other exhibitions early on in the year stood out to me due to their participatory values or what I like to call the ‘entertainment factor’. Martin Creeds blockbuster solo exhibition What’s the point of it? at Hayward Gallery, was clear to be a winner with the general public who funnelled into balloon filled rooms and ducked under vast, rotating neon signs. Goldenroach Unlimited at Műcsarnok Kunsthalle in Budapest was another exhibition I visited where the audience was once again required to participate; here golden cockroach objects were laid out ready to be taken. This project began as a hide and seek game by artist Miklós Kiss, who smuggled Goldenroaches into prestigious exhibition halls and art displays across Europe.

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The absolute highlight for me this year was without a doubt Richard Mosse’s series of multichannel video installations and photographs The Enclave, represented by The Vinyl Factory at Brewer Street Carpark in Soho. Unsurprisingly Mosse won the Deutsche Börse 2014 Photography Prize for his visually stunning series of work. Set amidst the turbulent backdrop of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Mosse’s work was made using discontinued military surveillance film creating an intoxicating range of pink magenta hues in his photographs. The curation of this exhibition was aesthetically breath-taking. The works were displayed in the basement level of a carpark, providing a perfect dark atmosphere for spotlighting the images on display, dramatizing the effect of each artwork and the journey it took to arrive on public show.

There are several other exhibitions that are worth mentioning too at this stage. Haim Steinbach’s exhibition Once again the world is flat at the Serpentine was an enchanting display of objects and ‘things’ which remained curious, unexplained articles placed upon a never-ending shelf. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From Sidewalk to the Catwalk was a monumental exhibition at the Barbican this year, pulling thousands of fashion students and a-list glitterati through the doors. The clothing and set design for this display were exquisite, I particularly liked the boudoir themed room. However, the jolting moving catwalk and high-pitched singing mannequins somewhat let the otherwise wonderful display down.

I was lucky enough to travel across Europe this summer and was therefore able to visit several other notable exhibitions on display throughout the different capitals. In July I visited Athens on the NEON Curatorial Exchange, here I visited Kunsthalle Athena, an incredible visuals arts space focusing on the social role of contemporary art. The exhibition This Is Not My Beautiful House was a refreshing view of contemporary art reflecting on the current social and economic climate of Greece, housed within a crumbling, independent art house. I also visited Barcelona and was able to see The Immaterial Legacy Exhibition at MACBA. This exhibition explored the gallery’s permanent collection through a critical view point of the cultural, social and political climate MACBA has seen since its founding in the early 1990s.

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I cannot forgo mentioning Berlin Art Week in my exhibition highlights of 2014. During September’s Berlin Art Week, I saw many exhibitions which were both beautiful and inspiring. My top picks for Berlin were Haus am Waldsee B-Side where Michael Sailstorfer transformed everyday objects into powerful installation works, and Kate Cooper’s video installations An Unknown Species at KW Institute for Contemporary Art. This display investigated computerised human behaviour through digitalised self-image.

October saw the landing of art giant Frieze London in Regents Park. This year was a definitive improvement on the previous two years, however each annual visit I see less skill and more ‘entertainment for the masses’. Nonetheless, there was much to see, including many live performances which added a certain za-za-zoo to the whole Frieze love affair our world has delved into.

Coming towards the end of the year and back to the present, I was delighted to discover Yoshitomo Nara’s work on display at the Dairy Art Centre in Russell Square throughout November and December. Greetings from a Place in My Heart displayed the intimate works of Nara through hundreds of chronologically placed drawings and several charming sculptural works focusing on his drawings portraiture. The space in itself is worth mentioning, as an old Dairy Farm the exhibition space retains the original flooring of the temperature controlled rooms, and has a warehouse, white-cubesque feel which is just right for displaying contemporary art today.

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Finally I’d like to finish of this review of 2014 with my most recent gallery visit. Ritual is an exhibition organised by the collective World Wide Women, which features the photographic work of several very talented contemporary female artists. Based in The Cob Gallery in Camden, this exhibition is aesthetically inspiring, using the female figure as the central focus for much of the work, to create unfulfilled narratives on the alternating stages of ritual: memory, sacrifice, reverence, and longing.

Ultimately 2014 has been an astounding year for contemporary art and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for 2015.

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