Adrian Searle’s best art shows of 2022
5. Hew Locke: The Procession
Tate Britain, London, until 22 January
Locke’s 2022 Tate Britain commission was by far the most accomplished, ambitious and fascinating work I have seen by the 62-year-old artist. About 150 figures progressed the length of the Duveen Galleries, many on foot, some on horseback, some carried, one in a wheelchair. There were guys in sharp suits and characters who might have stepped out of a Velásquez painting of the Spanish court. Others wore ferocious animal heads or faces like the creature from the Black Lagoon. Locke turned the Duveen into a dreamlike, carnivalesque space for encounters across time and borders.
Enigmatic … Vivian Maier, Self-portrait, New York, 1953. Photograph: Estate of Vivian Maier; courtesy of Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, NY
4. Vivian Maier: Anthology
MK Gallery, Milton Keynes
All but unknown during her lifetime, Vivian Maier was an enigma. She wandered the streets on what she called “shooting safaris”, in New York and Chicago and beyond, capturing the life about her, leading her peculiar double life as a children’s nanny and street photographer. Taking us from the early 1950s to 1986, Maier left more than 15,000 photographs, many undeveloped in her lifetime. She called herself a spy, and like any good spy she frequently changed the spelling of her name and gave herself different backstories. With more than 140 black and white and colour images, as well as a number of films and audio recordings, the first large-scale show of her work in the UK, at the Milton Keynes Gallery, was a delight.
3. Venice Biennale: The Milk of Dreams
This was the first Venice Biennale whose main exhibition was predominantly devoted to women, transgender and non-binary artists. Yet gender alone did not drive The Milk of Dreams, whose title is borrowed from British surrealist Leonora Carrington, who imagined a world where people transform themselves into someone or something else, whether human, animal or machine, and identity becomes mutable. Carrington’s paintings occupied one of various thematic displays or time capsules within curator Cecilia Alemani’s generous-spirited exhibition. Both cabinet of curiosities and a response to crisis, there was hope and dark humour, and lots of surprises, here too.
2. Van Gogh: Self-Portraits
Courtauld Institute, London
During the three and a half years before his death in 1890, Van Gogh painted about 35 self portraits. The artist appears bearded or clean-shaven, his hair clipped short or unkempt, looking ill or on the mend, confident, withdrawn, on or off the drink – or recovering from poisoning himself by eating paint; or he can be sunken-cheeked (he had 10 teeth removed in Antwerp, making him look older than a man in his 30s), or wearing his vulcanised rubber dentures. It’s an at-times harrowing and unflinching parade of images that provides an index of his artistic …….