Best exhibitions of 2021

Yayoi Kusama, Bronx Botanical Gardens

The rare kind of exhibition where the way the art was displayed made a big (positive) difference to how you perceive it and how you perceive your surroundings.

Albion Farm

The initial display at this new sculpture park was excellent — it’s a really lovely venue and was a good selection of artists (David Adjaye’s pavilion was the highlight.)

Rachel Whiteread, Gagosian

Some of the most technically impressive art I’ve seen in a long time: the “cardboard” box above is made of metal.

Honourable mentions: Jasper Johns (Whitney), Surrealism Beyond Borders (Met), Idris Khan (Victoria Miro)

Waste of time and money: Louise Bourgeouis (Jewish Museum)

Jasper Johns at The Whitney

An enjoyable retrospective which made me appreciate Johns more than I did before. The exhibition shows just how versatile he is, though putting all the works together highlights both his strengths (conceptual flag/map art) and weaknesses (‘traditional’ painting).

The map/flag room is particularly good, both in terms of the works chosen and the way they’re displayed. It’s quite impressive to see just how different an effect his maps have, depending on the colours/styles chosen (see two examples below). I also enjoyed seeing his surrealist works, which were new to me and pretty good.

The only criticisms I have is that the exhibition is too long (go when you are neither hungry nor tired!), and in general The Whitney isn’t very good at creating defined pathways through exhibitions, which annoys completionists like me.

(Sidenote: I wonder how many visitors to the NYC exhibition will also go to the Philadelphia exhibition? I assume it’ll be significantly fewer than Philly-to-NYC visitors.)

Book tickets here.