Yes, there were many more great shows, large and small, in galleries and museums – but these are my 13 favorite that rose to the top. As much complaining as there is about the art world and how it functions, there’s still plenty of great work to see. Some of these exhibitions are still around for the viewing:
1. Rain Room – Thousands of visitors lined up at MoMA to see this exhibition by Random International, so they could walk through rain without getting wet (and take Instagrams!). A constant downpour from the ceiling paused the moment it detected a body underneath. The lines created a six-hour wait – and people waited… and waited.
2. Mike Kelly Retrospective – One of the most talked about shows of the year, there wasn’t a medium that Kelley didn’t touch. He never saw this work all together as he committed suicide last year, which makes the work and its psychological components all the more poignant. At MoMA PS1 through February 2, 2014.
3. Dutch Masters – Touring the world while its permanent home undergoes renovations this exhibit includes amazing works from the Dutch Golden Age, including Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earringand Rembrandt’s Susanna. At the Frick in New York until January 19, 2014.
4. Banksy in New York – He is known as the anonymous graffiti artist that plasters walls around the world with his satirical street art and he took over the whole city and created a new work of art every day for a whole month. This exhibit touched the most people without ever walking through a door.
5. Yayoi Kusama – While the entire exhibit, I Who Have Arrived in Heaven, focused on a new body of works contemplating life and death, the main attraction was Infinity Mirrored Room — The Souls of a Millions of Light Years Away, which boasted hundreds of pulsing LED lights within a dark, mirrored room. David Zwirner Gallery, New York.
6. James Turrell Retrospective – Instead of a traveling exhibition, three museums, LACMA, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Guggenheim, decided to open three separate shows simultaneously giving visitors of each something different and unique. These exhibits were widely attended, but not universally loved.
7. Cecily Brown – Recent paintings by one of today’s pre-eminent painters, Cecily Brown. The work continues her career-long exploration of representing the female nude with varying degrees of abstraction and representation with broad sweeps of paint. Masterful. Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills.
8. ‘Masculine/Masculine’ – The female nude has always been the prevalent theme throughout the history of art but thankfully, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris gives us a complete retrospective of the male nude. Drawn from the museum’s extensive collection as well as other French collections. On view until Jan. 12, 2014.
9. Jean-Michel Basquiat – Featuring over fifty works the exhibition spanned Basquiat’s brief but meteoric career, which ended with his death at the age of twenty-seven. Astounding to see this kind of exhibit in a gallery but shows like this and Picasso have established Gagosian (with 11 galleries worldwide) as a defacto private museum – i.e., free to the public.
10. Ragnar Kjartansson – Kjartnasson staged a single-take video production in which musicians performed each in their own room at Rokeby Farm, in upstate New York, playing The Visitors, derived from Abba album of the same name. The video below was shot in the gallery installation and gives you a crude idea of the experience was like. Luhring Austine, New York.
11. Wangechi Mutu – The Kenya-born, Brooklyn-based artist’s large-scale collages are not to be missed. She uses the female body as the centerpiece while mixing organic elements to create unique abstractions. “A Fantastic Journey” at The Brooklyn Museum thru March 9, 2014.
12. Marco Brambilla – The third video in his series, Megaplex, Creation uses the movies to take us through the 3D worm whole of our world. To me, Brambilla is the 21st century art world Spielberg to Kjatnasson’s Lars Von Trier. At the now shuttered Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery.
13. Alex Pager – I once dismissed her early work as an imitation of Cindy Sherman’s, but several amazing exhibits in the last few years have me eating my words. (My pal Michael Pollack was an early collector and championed her work to the Corcoran) The opening party, sponsored by W and Botega Venetta, was every bit as glam as the women in her work (on the surface) can be. At the Corcoran through March 15, 2014.
(From top, Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room — The Souls of a Millions of Light Years Away; Pierre et Gilles; Girl with the Pearl Earring at The Frick; Jean Michel Basquiat and Cecily Brown at Gagosian; Alex Prager at the Corcoran; Marco Brambilla, still from the 3D video, Creation (Megaplex)