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12 Days: Highlights of 2016

1 January 2016

Over the 12 days of Christmas, Apollo contributors and guests select their highlights of 2016

View the 12 Days series here

Robert Rauschenberg is one of my favourite artists. Yet for all his achievements, all the importance that is rightly attributed to him, he hasn’t had a major show in the UK in over 30 years. Small wonder. Much of his oeuvre is seriously hard work. It is so dense with meaning, reference and different processes, all of which need to be considered before it gives anything away. To a newcomer, it can seem all but impenetrable. I’ve certainly had my difficulties – and sometimes still do.

‘Retroactive I’, 1963, Robert Rauschenberg. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut

It’s brave, then, that Tate Modern is mounting a major Rauschenberg show. As far as I understand, the exhibition (1 December 20162 April 2017) is set to be a full scale retrospective, with a particularly fine selection of his Combines, the heady sculpture-painting free-for-alls that he pioneered in the 1950s. Quite how Tate Modern will put together a show that ticks the accessibility box, I don’t know. But even if something goes awry on the curatorial side, seeing a large amount of his work will be a treat anyway.

I’m also keen on the sound of BOZAR’s ‘Art in Europe 1945–68’, a show created in collaboration with Moscow’s ZKM and Pushkin Museum, which will bring together work by post-war artists on both sides of the Iron Curtain, comparing techniques, materials and themes in some depth (24 June–25 September 2016). I’ve seen a few displays with a similar premise before, but all have been remarkably silly. There are some exciting loans lined up for this one, though, and I’m hoping it will be the show that bucks the trend.

On the face of it, you couldn’t find two artists more pointedly different than Hieronymus Bosch and Bridget Riley. Yet for me at least, the work of both is a sensory overload, characterised by the same succession of reactions: initial fascination; gradual hypnosis; stomach churning vertigo. And I mean all that in the best way possible.

‘Burn’, 1964, Bridget Riley. Private collection; © Bridget Riley 2015. All rights reserved, courtesy Karsten Schubert, London

I’ve yet to figure out how I’m going to do it, but the plan is to visit the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s ‘Bridget Riley: Paintings, 1964–2015’ (15 April 2016–16 April 2017) and then head straight to the Bosch fifth centenary show at the Museo Nacional del Prado (31 May–11 September 2016) for the legal high to end all others. Can anyone tell me how much it costs to fly direct from Edinburgh to Madrid?

Digby Warde-Aldam is an art critic and regular contributor to Apollo magazine.

View the rest of the 12 Days series here

Event Details

‘Robert Rauschenberg’ is at Tate Modern, London, from 1 December 2016–2 April 2017.

‘Art in Europe 1945–68’ is at BOZAR, Brussels, from 24 June–25 September 2016.

‘Bridget Riley | Paintings, 1964-2015 is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, from 15 April 2016–16 April 2017.

‘Bosch. The Centenary Exhibition’ is at the Museo del Prado, Madrid, from 31 May–11 September 2016.