The 10 Most Important Art Exhibitions of 2020

View of Patrit Halilaf's "To a raven and hurricane that from unknown places bring back smells of human love"
View of Patrit Halilaf’s “To a raven and hurricane that from unknown places bring back smells of human love”

The year 2020 was a year of cancellations and postponements within the art world! Across the globe, art lovers have had their usual means for celebrating art stripped away. This is, of course, the exciting art exhibition. However, there were a selection of art exhibitions that did manage to take place in between confinements and changing governmental restrictions! To round off this turbulent year, Artsper has gathered some of the treasured art exhibitions that took place during the madness of 2020!  

1) A Retrospective of Cindy Sherman, Louis Vuitton Foundation

Cindy Sherman Untitled #584, Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures
Cindy Sherman Untitled #584, Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures

First opening its doors in September 2020, this was the first retrospective to focus solely on the iconic photographer, Cindy Sherman, since 2006. Housed in the impressive Louis Vuitton Foundation, the art exhibition showcased some 300 of her images, all on the theme of identity, that were taken between 1975 to 2020. For those lucky enough to attend, the exhibition offered a true celebration of her works, with a unique, unabridged access to her stylistic and mental evolution throughout the different stages of her life. Also, as the cherry on the top (literally…) the rooftop of the iconic building was opened up, granting the public access to a spectacular view across the suburbs of Paris!

2) Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Paris!, Centre Pompidou

Plans for wrapping Pont Neuf in 1985, displayed at The Centre Pompidou
Plans for wrapping Pont Neuf in 1985, displayed at The Centre Pompidou

This art exhibition was bitter sweet. Beginning on July 1, 2020, just a few months after Christo’s death in May 2020, it served as a sort of tribute. The exhibition looked back on his and Jeanne’s life as a duo and their hugely ambitious installations. Part one of the exhibition covered the New York years, 1958 – 1964, when the couple first arrived in the city. Part two covered between 1975 – 1985, the time leading up to the iconic Pont Neuf Wrapped project. With 300 pieces on display, from original drawings to photos, the exhibition was a true celebration of this imaginative pair!

3) Andy Warhol, Tate Modern

Marilyn Diptych on display at the Andy Warhol exhibition
Marilyn Diptych on display at the Andy Warhol exhibition

This was one of the most exciting art exhibitions of the year! For the first retrospective on Andy Warhol in 20 years held at the Tate Modern, curators Gregor Muir and Fiontan Moran wanted to strip Warhol back to the man instead of the a-lister artist. The exhibition focused on what drove Warhol’s artistic decisions, such as his immigrant background, his queer identity or the infamous shooting that altered his entire life philosophy. Ultimately this art exhibition offered an exclusive look into the fascinating life of Warhol. Visitors were treated to firm favorites such as Marilyn and Campbell’s Soup as well as some lesser known creations…

4) Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life, Tate Modern

View at the "Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life" exhibition
View at the “Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life” exhibition

Olafur Eliasson is an artist known for opening up discussions related to the environment and tackling the issue through his engaging artworks. This exhibition was no exception, as it covered topical issues of the climate crisis, energy and migration. Eliasson drew inspiration from natural phenomena for this exhibition, using kaleidoscopic rainbows and experimentations with reflections and shadows to explore our relationship with our surrounding environment. Exciting visuals and light play captured the imaginations of children and adults alike!

5) Yayoi Kusama: The Vision That We Have Never Seen Is This Splendour, The Yayoi Kusama Museum

View at Yayoi Kusama: The Vision That We Have Never Seen Is This Splendour
View at Yayoi Kusama: The Vision That We Have Never Seen Is This Splendour

An art exhibition displaying works that have never been seen before, the Yayoi Kusama Museum truly put on a spectacle for visitors! The exhibition included works from the past decade including the wondrous infinity room that transported viewers to in and amongst the stars. A new installation titled “Flower Obsession” also made its debut. This represents one of Kusama’s hallucinatory visions where flowers cover the entire room from the floor to the ceiling. The exhibition was an invitation from Kusama to experience her current visions and enter her view of the universe around us.

6) Patrit Halilaf: To a raven and hurricane that from unknown places bring back smells of human love, Palacio de Cristal

View of the exhibition at Palacio de Cristal
View of the exhibition at Palacio de Cristal

This was the first temporary exhibition by Museo Reina Sofia since closing due to COVID-19 and was also Patrit Halilaf’s first solo exhibition. And what an exhibition it was! Halilaf explored a range of subjects close to his heart, such as; home, nation, love and cultural identity. To do this, the space, blessed with natural light from the greenhouse-like building, was transformed into a giant bird’s nest. The aim was to bring the outside world inside. To encourage this, there were little touches, such as feeding stations that were dotted around in order to attract birds. The huge metal and canvas flower structures were created by Halilaf and his partner, celebrating their union. In the words of Halilaf; “I wanted to conceive Palacio de Cristal as a place of love”. It was an uplifting exhibition that was definitely welcome in the uncertain year of 2020.

7) Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life, The MoMA

Niki de Saint Phalle, "Tarot Garden" drawing
Niki de Saint Phalle, “Tarot Garden” drawing

Although this art exhibition did not necessarily happen in 2020, any exhibition from Niki de Saint Phalle deserves a mention. Known for addressing subjects ranging from women’s rights to climate change to HIV and AIDS, Saint Phalle’s work is infamous. However, this exhibition, now scheduled for Spring 2021, will come as the first exhibition at a New York museum solely showing her works. The exhibition is set to highlight the path to her large scale sculptures. It will include the major project Tarot Garden. Photographs, drawings and sculptures created just for this special event will be shown!

8) Fantastic Women – Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo, The Schirn Kuntshalle

Dorothea Tanning, Voltage, 1942, as shown in the exhibition "Fantastic Women - Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo"
Dorothea Tanning, Voltage, 1942, as shown in the exhibition “Fantastic Women – Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo”

As the title would suggest, this exhibition celebrated the women of surrealism, from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo. It extracted women from their usual position as a moldable entity, subjected to the male artist’s imagination. Instead, unlike in other art exhibitions, we saw how women, when given the opportunity, represent themselves. With over 260 works from 34 artists from 11 countries this exhibition was a fantastic tribute to the women of surrealism. But equally, it was a celebration of the connections and friendships that existed between these women across the globe.

9) Laurent Grasso: Future Herbarium, Perrotin Shanghai

View of Laurent Grasso's "Future Herbarium" at Perrotin Shanghai
View of Laurent Grasso’s “Future Herbarium” at Perrotin Shanghai

For the past few years Laurent Grasso and his studio have been investigating the evolution of the natural world. Specifically, they looked at man’s impact on the environment and how we are irreparably damaging the planet. From this research, “Future Herbarium” was born. This exhibition consisted of both paintings and sculptures of flowers in the style of 19th century herbariums. The flowers themselves were inspired by mutated flowers following the Fukushima disaster. Also in the exhibition was a video installation inspired by solar storms and space. To create this part of the exhibition, Grasso worked alongside the CNS (France National Centre for Space Studies). This was to enable him to track solar activities. Using these findings, Grasso created different colors that made up the exhibition! A unique artistic experience, this exhibition followed solar activity as it happened, allowing visitors to surround themselves with the visual symphonies of space!

10) Shaun Leonardo: The Breath of Empty Space, MoCA

Image on display in the exhibition "The Breath of Empty Space"
Image on display in the exhibition “The Breath of Empty Space”

Shaun Leonardo, a Brooklyn based artist, aimed to open up a dialogue with this exhibition. His focus was on the media’s portrayal of Black and Brown young males, and how this has influenced our memory and understanding of events. In this exhibition his works (drawings of frequently shared photographs in the media) forced the viewer to remember the lives of those depicted in the pieces. In wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, Leonardo’s aim was to create space. This was space in both the exhibition but equally in the images themselves, in order to create more room for visitors to address the issues brought to the forefront by Black Lives Matter.

2020 was certainly a year of curveballs for the art world. However, we are happy to have been able to summarise some art exhibitions that managed to take place! What are the art exhibitions you are most excited to see in 2021?