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The 10 most significant exhibitions of the last decade
Get inspired 16 Dec 2019

The 10 most significant exhibitions of the last decade

As 2019 becomes 2020, another chapter closes and a new one begins: we’re entering a new decade! To mark the occasion, and pay homage to a part of the art world that is so important to us, Artsper takes a look at the 10 most significant exhibitions of the last decade.

1. 2010 : MONUMENTA: Personnes, Christian Boltanski at the Grand Palais

Exhibition view, Christian Boltanski, Personnes, for Monumenta 2010

Ten years ago, Christian Boltanski exhibited at the Grand Palais. Monumenta is a major artistic event that each year invites a world-renowned artist to take over the building’s 13,500m² Nave. The 2007 and 2008 editions, entrusted to Ansemm Kiefer and Richard Serra respectively, were met with great success. In 2010, Boltanski created an immense visual and audio work, through which he examined themes of memory, spirituality, human life, the singularity of our existence, and death and chance. He gave this spectacular installation the evocative name ‘Personnes’, meaning both ‘people’ and ‘no one’ in French.

2. 2011 : Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye at the Centre Pompidou 

Edvard Munch, Stjernenatt [Starry Night], 1922-1924

In 2011, the Centre Pompidou showed us that Edvard Munch was entirely ‘modern’. Through 140 works, including paintings, photographs, drawings, films and even one of his rare sculptures, the exhibition highlighted that the famous Norwegian painter had indeed a very ‘modern eye’ for his time. Far from the idea of a reclusive artist, depressed and tormented, he actually seemed to be an enlightened person, whose work was engaged with contemporary events and new forms of representation such as theatre, cinema and photography.

3. 2012 : Dalí at the Centre Pompidou 

Poster for Salvador Dalí at the Centre Pompidou, 2012

The unmistakeable Dalí, the talented Dalí, Dalí the clown, Dalí the paranoid, Dalí the pioneer, Dalí the activist, Dalí the star: they were all at the Centre Pompidou in 2012 for the largest retrospective of the artist since 1979-1980. Thanks to a close collaboration with MoMA (New York), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid), the Fundació Dalí in Figueres and the Dalí Museum in Saint-Petersburg, the exhibition included over 200 works including masterpieces such as “La Persistance de la mémoire”. It was an exhibition that, much like the artist himself, was the talk of the town!

4. 2013 : Keith Haring: the Political Line at the Musée d’Art Moderne

Exhibition view, Keith Haring: the Political Line at the Musée d’Art Moderne, 2013

Keith Haring‘s work often depicts dancing men, bright colours, his pop style and other distinctive aspects of his ‘brand’, which he reproduced on merchandise and sold across the world, and which is still sold today. This exhibition highlighted the importance of the unmistakably political dimensions of his work. Haring fought against racism, illiteracy, AIDS and drugs. He defended homosexual rights incredibly early on and fought against the destruction of the environment, particularly with regards to nuclear power. In 2013, the Musée d’Art Moderne shone a light on such dedication, with a collection of 250 works retracing his artistic career of activism.

5. 2014 : Niki de Saint Phalle at the Grand Palais  

Poster for Niki de Saint Phalle at the Grand Palais , 2014

In 2014, the Grand Palais hosted the largest ever exhibition dedicated to the work of Niki de Saint Phalle. The Franco-American artist was a socio-politically engaged woman who overturned art’s traditional boundaries. The only woman amongst the New Realists, she wasn’t afraid to challenge the patriarchy and male-dominated field of painting, as evidenced by the exhibition’s poster. Most often known for her Nanas series, she also experimented with multiple different media throughout her life. This retrospective represented every aspect of Niki de Saint Phalle; a painter, assemblagist, sculptor, engraver, performer and experimental filmmaker, who beautifully expressed her beliefs through her art.

6. 2015 : “Kapoor Versailles” in the gardens of Versailles

Anish Kapoor, Dirty Corner, Versailles Gardens, 2015

We could’t talk about most significant exhibitions of the last decade without mentioning Anish Kapoor‘s provocative installation. Indeed, in 2015 the Indian plastic artist took over the gardens of Versailles, with one sculpture entitled Dirty Corner, nicknamed The Queen’s Vagina. The work consisted of a large steel horn, 60 metres long and 8 metres high. Immediately criticised and vandalised, the installation created a media scandal that is still remembered in 2019.

7. 2016 : Bentu at the Louis Vuitton Foundation

Exposition Bentu, Fondation Louis Vuitton
Exhibition view, Bentu, Fondation Louis Vuitton, 2016

This exhibition was created around the word Bentu, which means ‘native soil’. After a mass exodus of the Chinese population to countries around the world, Chinese artists felt they could return to their ‘native soil’ with an strengthened sense of self, a new perception of their environment and different positions within society. Today, their art has gone back to a more traditional style, but one that is still rooted in contemporary themes. This exhibition deliberately presented a limited number of 12 Chinese artists in order to draw real differences and singularities between them. Among them were Cao Fei, Yang Fudong, Liu Chuang, Liu Shiyuan, Liu Wei and Xu Zhen.

8. 2017 : David Hockney at the Centre Pompidou

David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, 2011

In 2017, the Centre Pompidou, in collaboration with London’s Tate Modern and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, presented the largest retrospective to date of David Hockney‘s oeuvre. 160 of his works were exhibited to celebrate the artist’s 80th birthday. From paintings to photography, engraving, drawing and even video, the exhibition recreated David Hockney’s entire artistic career up to his most recent works. A joy to behold.

9. 2018 : Artists and Robots at the Grand Palais

Poster of the exhibition Artists and Robots, 2018. Photo credits : Grand Palais
Poster of the exhibition Artists and Robots, 2018. Photo credits : Grand Palais

2018 saw a real revolution in the art world. Firstly, it witnessed the first sale ‘painted’ by artificial intelligence. Then, it welcomed the first interactive exhibition Artists and Robots in Paris. Over various months, the Grand Palais exhibited artistic research using robotic techniques from 1956 until today. This exhibition posed three major questions: can robots create? What is a robot’s place in human lives? And are we moving towards the emancipation of artificial intelligence?

10. 2019 : Francis Bacon: Books and Painting at the Centre Pompidou

Catalog of the exhibition Bacon: Books and Painting, Boutique du Centre Pompidou, 2019

And finally 2019! It has been a wonderful year, and we were able to enjoy exhibitions of an incredibly high quality. Francis Bacon at the Centre Pompidou stands out amongst them for its superb scenography; original and well-crafted, it mixed painting and literature. The exhibition explored relations between the 20th-century expressionist painter and some of the writers that inspired him; Eschyle, Joseph Conrad, TS Eliot, Nietzsche, Bataille and Leiris. Thus, you could reflect on Bacon’s taste in reading, his imagination, emotions and obsessions, all the while appreciating his works even more.

So there you have it: the most significant exhibitions of the last decade. And now the winds of change are coming! If like us you’re still a little nostalgic for our lovely previous year, check out our favourite exhibitions of 2019.