In 2015 I saw the best piece of art of my entire life (Filthy Lucre, AKA Peacock Room Remix at the Freer|Sackler). At the end of the year, this inspired me to write a list of the Best Art [I Saw] Of 2015, and I've continued the tradition each new year since. This year I thought I'd make the list public.
I go to a lot of museums, and this year alone I took over 1500 pictures of art I liked. I know this because Google would not let me add more than 500 to an album at one time.
This list is the best of the best.
1. Nike of Samothrace
I spent a solid 6 hours at the Louvre on my first trip to Paris this year. I saw so much amazing art that it was almost criminal. But Winged Victory here has long been one of my all-time favorites, and seeing it on the plinth at the top of the marble stairs was just fantastic. Epic.
[no picture, it's a pitch black room y'all]
2. James Turrell blackout room at the Mattress Factory (Pleiades)
When’s the last time you were disturbed by a work of art? Before this, mine was the Sagmeister poster I saw last year where his assistant carved the words into his torso. This does not even compare to the profound discomfort I felt being in that pitch black room. So simple, in that signature Turrell way, and still it was such a profound experience that I sat down in the tiny lobby afterward, pulled out my laptop, and wrote 500 words about it. Takeaway: It makes me lament that museums don’t ever let people take risks.
3. Anselm Kiefer at the Louvre (Athanor)
I saw SFMoMA’s Kiefers last year and instantly fell in love with that dark, gothic, beautiful chaotic thing he does. The commissions he did for the Louvre fit in perfectly with the architecture, and manage to live up to the weight of being in That Building. Abstraction with a sense of deep history is not easy to achieve.
4. Obliteration Room by Yayoi Kusama at the Hirshhorn
Whatever about the infinity mirrors (FYI the ones at the Mattress Factory are a way better experience). I rushed through the Kusama exhibit in order to spend my limited time putting dots all over white furniture and fixtures. I’m a sucker for colorful things and also circles so you can imagine my delight here. My only regret is they only give you one sheet of stickers. I legit would have spent several hours dotting up the whole spot.
5. Michelangelo at the Met
The dude was good. And, it turned out, his teachers and many of his followers were good too. They don’t draw like that anymore.
This year at my museum we had big names like Rodin, O’Keeffe, and Hassam. But our best show is an under-the-radar hit that Janey Winchell brought to the Art and Nature Center. For months leading up to this show, I was looking at the black and white promotional photos and wondering “what is this?” It’s algorithmically generated interactive digital art, that’s what. A joyful experience all around, and not at all difficult to understand when you’re in it. I love the high contrast, the typography, the playfulness. It’s extremely fun to watch people twirling around and stomping and sweeping their hands at floating shapes. Bring the kids.
7. Farhad Moshiri at The Warhol Museum
No one, seeing this show, would ever question “why is this at the Warhol Museum?” It was a sparkly, Liberace funfest of excess. Massive amounts of sequins. Found object knives impaling the walls.
8. Basquiat at Yale University Art Gallery (Diagram of the Ankle)
This was the first Basquiat I’ve seen in person, and it was shortly after another of his works broke the auction record. A composition like this could easily devolve into gibberish but instead it’s a feast of wry, hilarious discoveries. I especially giggled at the art school S and the word ASS.
9. Vsevolod Miklhailovich Garshin by Illia Efimovich Repin
It’s easy to miss any given work in the Met’s rooms and rooms and rooms of European paintings. But poor Garshin here, he has such a human expression, I couldn't not look. (Much like the Desperate Man, which is unfortunately in a private collection so who knows if I’ll ever see it.) Garshin, a Russian author, committed suicide in 1888, but I feel like, in 2017, we all know that look of being overwhelmed with prosaic despair.