The year the lights came back – the best of art and architecture of 2021 | Art and design


Adrian Searle’s Best Art Shows of the Year

5. Derek Jarman: Protest!

Manchester Art Gallery until April 10
With Jarman’s paintings at the heart of this retrospective, this retrospective examines the development of that restless mind that first turned to theater and film design, and then to film making. The show also traces his radicalization as an HIV-positive artist in the mid-1980s. Along with clips for the Smiths and Pet Shop Boys, we also revisit his later corus and tarry reliquaries, as well as the garden he has. created at Dungeness. Derek Jarman Demonstration! Comes in conjunction with an exhibition at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton and a film retrospective at Manchester’s Home, from January. Read the full review.

A Restless Mind… a photo from Jarman’s 1990 feature film The Garden. Photography: Liam Danie / Basilisk Communications

4. Jean Dubuffet: brutal beauty

Barbican, London, now closed
The everyday and the extraordinary collided in the exhibition Dubuffet du Barbican, which made us discover the twists and turns of the career of this complex and contrary man. Lively bistros, crowded buses, mad traffic, wobbly people: Dubuffet approached his subjects with hilarity and horror, subtlety and a perversely sophisticated awkwardness. An art brut collector, loners, people driven by a private need (which he called Art Brut), Dubuffet learned and was liberated by these capricious individualists. Read the full review.

3. Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Tate Modern, London, now closed
The Swiss-born abstractist, applied artist, painter and sculptor, creator of humorous puppets, stained glass windows, interior decoration and textiles brought visual pleasure, curiosity, seriousness and joy to everything she did. For a long time, like Sonia Delaunay and Anni Albers, her reputation languished in the shadow of her male partner, the sculptor Jean (Hans) Arp. His applied art has also been relegated to a secondary position. Presentation of an artist whose boundless energies were interrupted by her death in 1943, this exhibition (now at MoMA in New York) is more than a corrective, it is a lesson in openness and freedom. Read the full review.

Remain, Thriving by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, exhibited at Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s – now.
Remain, Thriving by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, exhibited at Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s – now. Photograph: Andrew Dunkley / © Njideka Akunyili Crosby

2. Life between the islands: Caribbean-British art from the 1950s to the present day

Tate Britain, London, until April 3
Windrush and carnival, the rise of the Black Power movement, social injustice, racism and pride are some of the themes of this important and long-awaited spectacle. Looking not only at artists who came from the Caribbean to Britain and those of Caribbean descent, but also at artists who traveled in the opposite direction. Impeccable and fascinating, it is a spectacle of great richness and great impact. Read the full review.

Whitechapel Gallery, London, until January 9
For Gates, working with clay is as much a cultural and body language as it is a parade of useful, decorative, commemorative and sculptural objects. Gates’ show takes us from Han Dynasty storage jars to the work of Dave the Potter, an extremely talented 19th-century slave, and from there to Peter Voulkos, the controversial clay sculptor who died in 2002. In the middle of it all that, Gates’ own ceramics, and a related film, delve into materiality and mourning, pushing clay and ideas to their limits. Marvellous. Read the full review.

The best Jonathan Jones art exhibitions of the year

5. The gold of the great steppe

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until January 30
Nomads have long been considered strangers to history, looters and rovers who never created anything on their own. It is an extremely important exhibition that refutes that. The ancient Saka people of the steppe of East Kazakhstan made dreamlike images of deer, eagles and big cats in gold, and dressed their horses as fabulous dragons. The loans here are so recently dug up that you can almost smell the dirt. A poem for a show that combines emotion and science. Read the full review.

Coat depicting human figures with feline mouth masks holding severed heads from Peru: a journey through time.
A shroud representing dancers with feline mouth masks holding severed heads… Peru: a journey through time. Photography: Museo de Arte de Lima. Prado Family Legacy. Restored with a grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project.

4. Peru: a journey through time

British Museum, London, until February 20
Pottery will never be the same again after seeing how ancient Peruvian people stretched clay into surreal shapes, used it to make panpipes and giant drums, and then painted it with scenes from sex and death. Human sacrifice and drugs are dominant themes. It features unforgettable masterpieces such as a 2,000-year-old funeral shroud embroidered with dancers swinging severed heads and a scene of musicians inspired by hallucinogenic cacti. An overwhelming encounter that changed my artistic map of the world. Read the full review.

Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, now closed
Shonibare is my artist of the year. world event. Shonibare’s pop art cultural mashups consciously allude to Picasso’s mask theft and surreal concept of the marvelous. He is a visionary who knows how to steal the past in order to create the future.

A wild and passionate rebel… Poussin and the Dance, National Gallery, London 2021.
A wild and passionate rebel… Poussin and the Dance, National Gallery, London 2021. Photograph: The National Gallery Photographi / © The Trustees of the Wallace Collection

2. Chick and the dance

National Gallery, London, until January 3
It takes a brilliant curatorial acumen to transform one of canon’s most distant, coldest performers into a wild, passionate rebel who you’d love to have a few glasses of wine with. I finally saw Poussin’s interest in this exciting and brutally executed recast of his early career which is also a beautiful poem to the Rome he loved – a city of classical learning, clerical largesse and plentiful sex. , at least judging by his Bacchic art. . Read the full review.

Barbican, London, now closed
This phenomenal exhibition changed the history of modern art. The true revolutionary of the twentieth century who paved the way for all of today’s most exciting impulses turns out to be neither Duchamp nor even Warhol but this champion of graffiti and children’s art whose cult of ” brut ”shatters all conventions. From his grotesque but moving portraits to landscapes covered in mud and stone to abstractions rivaling those of Pollock, he has become a great artist as well as an incendiary prophet.

Oliver Wainwright’s Best Architecture of the Year

A whimsical journey… La Maison Cosmique.
A whimsical journey… La Maison Cosmique. Photography: Oliver Wainwright

5. The cosmic house

From the first entry into the Cosmic Oval Hall, lined with disorienting mirror-panel doors, to the ascent of the monumental Solar Staircase, each step marking a week in the solar calendar, the Charles Jencks home takes visitors on a whimsical journey of cosmological enlightenment – with a healthy dose of postmodern kitsch. The home of the late architectural theorist opened to the public this year, sparking a marvelous world of historical ornaments, symbolism and jokes, a temple to the man who championed eclecticism and the spirit in the built environment. Who else could have ordered a baroque domed hot tub upside down? Read the entire article.

4. Becontree forever

The largest inter-war communal estate in the world, Becontree in Barking & Dagenham celebrated its centenary this year. It wasn’t your usual local council anniversary jamboree, but a series of ongoing, carefully curated interventions across the estate, led by the Create arts group. It included a pair of new colorful play areas designed by Yinka Ilori and Eva Rothschild, as well as new public plazas (coming soon) on the estate’s corner plots, by architects Nimtim. One of the most revealing projects was that of Verity-Jane Keefe, whose exhibit at RIBA recreated several of the estate’s custom facades, featuring crazy cobblestones and pebbles alongside Doric columns and golden cement lions. . Read the entire article.

Young visitors enjoy a creative space at East Quay, Watchet.
Young visitors enjoy a creative space at East Quay, Watchet. Photography: Joseph Horton

3. East Quay, Watchet

Standing like an anarchic, pirate encampment on the front of the windswept harbor of Watchet in Somerset, the East Quay Arts Center shows how coastal regeneration can be done differently. Many of the shiny new arts hubs have been airlifted to struggling seaside towns, but this one is different. Initiated by a group of local mothers and developed in partnership with the city’s community, it offers a series of airy studio spaces for artists and designers, as well as a gallery, a classroom, a restaurant and a boutique, as well as a geology workshop, a printing and paper studio. mill – all topped with a cluster of original vacation rental pods. Read the entire article.

2. Serpentine summer pavilion

Just as the 20-year annual commission seemed to come to the end of its useful life, a largely unknown young South African architect came to show why she still has the power to inspire. Rather than conceiving of a singular object, Sumayya Vally has assembled a fascinating landscape of ghostly architectural fragments. It was a dreamlike collage of stairs, plinths, columns and niches, sampled from places in London that were all significant to migrant communities. It was one of the few recent pavilions that made you want to sit back, relax or lie down and spend a few hours lazing around. Read the entire article.

1. Sara Cultural Center, Skellefteå

While building regulations in England may make it increasingly difficult to use timber in construction, Sweden is leading the way with timber, showing what a bold new future of ‘plyscrapers’ could look like. The Sara Culture Center and Hotel in Skellefteå presents itself as a 20-story lighthouse made of pine and spruce, glued and laminated to form heavy-duty beams, columns and floor slabs, making it stronger than the steel and concrete, relative to its weight. With all the trees harvested within a 60 km radius of the site and processed nearby, the project shows what low-carbon, locally-sourced architecture can be like. Read the entire article.


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