Tate Modern, London; October (runs until 12 March 2023)
Epochal show of mesmerising paintings by this revolutionary Frenchman – golden apples, monumental card players, the shimmering pyramid of Mont Sainte-Victoire, a Provençal winter as spare as a Japanese watercolour. No matter how often you go, their beauty remains irreducibly radical and mysterious.
National Gallery, London; April
First ever exhibition outside Italy of the Renaissance prodigy, and what a revelation it was. Tactile, seductive, amorous, dazzlingly intelligent in every medium from chalk to paint, wool and bronze. Best of all: the informal portraits of friends, male and female.
3. Van Gogh: Self-Portraits
Courtauld Institute, London; February
Almost half of the 35 painted self-portraits, all made in the last four years of his life. Elated, sleepless, brutally shaven, apocalyptically dynamic, transcendent, at least once unrecognisable: a forcefield of genius, Van Gogh’s signature in every stroke.
4. A Century of the Artist’s Studio: 1920-2020
Whitechapel Gallery, London; February
Iwona Blazwick’s swansong as Whitechapel director, this was a fantastically dramatic evocation of studios, from freezing log hut to film set, laboratory, suitcase and kitchen table. Eighty artists, five continents and a true sense of the creative mind in situ.
A still from Stop Playing In My Face!, 2016 by Rashaad Newsome, from In the Black Fantastic. Courtesy of Rashaad Newsome Studio and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco
5. In the Black Fantastic
Hayward Gallery, London; July
A fizzing knockout festival of contemporary African diaspora art that turned the gloomy Hayward inside out with music, sculpture, movies, paintings and self-portraits in gold, bronze and papier-mache. Its climax was Kara Walker’s shadow-play film, using paper silhouettes to tell the narrative of black history with unforgettable delicacy and tragedy.
6. Postwar Modern: New Art in Britain 1945-65
Barbican Art Gallery, London; March
The force of two decades of British art born out of the immediate horrors of the second world war came as a shock, not least because so many of these artists were lost or forgotten. I shan’t forget the eerie paintings of Polish refugee Franciszka Themerson, nor the blood-red encaustic canvases of Magda Cordell.
Franciszka Themerson’s Eleven Persons and One Donkey Moving Forwards, 1947. Photograph: © Themerson Estate 2021
7. Howardena Pindell: A New Language
Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; July
Delicate and ghostly abstractions, exquisite collages, devastating videos: all concerned with American racism. Never has rage been more powerfully transmuted into beautiful art.
8. A Taste for Impressionism
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh; August
World-famous paintings from Scottish collections would have been enough – Monet’s haystacks, Degas’s portraits, Van Gogh dazzled in Arles – but there were so many overlooked surprises. Strangest of all, Courbet’s fierce …….