The best art exhibitions of 2020


This year’s exhibition calendar sees a return for some of the biggest names of the Renaissance – and Andy Warhol.

Last year, major old master exhibitions seemed an endangered species. After a brief flurry of Leonardo it was 19th- and 20th-century artists, from Gauguin and Lucian Freud to Keith Haring and Lee Krasner, who held sway. This year the roles have been decisively reversed: there is a quite extraordinary array of art’s great names on offer and it is the 15th to 17th centuries that will have their moment in the sun.

Take the National Gallery, whose curators clearly have an unsuspected taste for BDSM since they have devised a rod-for-their-own-back schedule of important shows that ensures they will go without rest in 2020. They have conjured miracles to make “Titian: Love, Desire, Death” (16 March – 14 June) happen. The exhibition reunites for the first time in 400 years the six pictures known as the Poesie that the great Venetian painted for Philip II of Spain. The works, treating scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, show the painter at the peak of his vertiginous powers: replete with colour, humanity, drama, tactility and eroticism, the series is one of the great artistic endeavours of European culture.

Drama is the leitmotiv of Artemisia Gentileschi, who overlaps at the gallery (“Artemisia”, 4 April – 26 July). Her beheadings and self-portraits as female martyrs have long been overshadowed by her rape by the painter Agostino Tassi and subsequent role in his prosecution. But this exhibition hopes to prove that she was not just a famous/infamous woman who happened to be a painter, but a major early 17th-century artist per se.

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria, 1615-17

The National ends the year with all trumpets blaring. Raphael (3 October – 24 January 2021), who died 500 years …read more

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