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12 Days: Highlights of 2016

31 December 2015

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

View the 12 Days series here

My Christmas break will involve some glorious hours by the fire reading catalogues from some of the exhibitions this year. I’m particularly looking forward to savouring The Fabric of India from the V&A, the Charles & Ray Eames show catalogue from the Barbican and Nathan Coley’s wonderful publication to the Bramley Family of Frestonia, which is part of the wider cultural regeneration of this unusual community in Notting Hill.

An extraordinary range of shows across the UK have already piqued my interest for when I emerge from my Christmas respite. They will get me onto a train and out to some of the most dynamic art spaces in the UK.

I wouldn’t be a good director if I didn’t plug some of our own exhibitions. At the Whitworth we continue our ongoing partnerships with Artangel, showing Ben Rivers’ The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (25 February–22 May 2016), and with the Hayward Gallery, presenting a sculptural show curated by the wonderful Elizabeth Price in the summer. Autumn sees a big hitter – a new Warhol show put together with support from Tate and Anthony d’Offay’s Artist Rooms, it will be another great year in our new spaces.

At Manchester Art Gallery we mark Manchester’s status as European City of Science, with a challenging contemporary show exploring the human/robot interface, supported by collaborations with academics at the University of Manchester (13 February 2016–5 June 2016). The summer sees the wonderful ‘Vogue 100: A Century of Style’ (24 June–30 October 2016), put together by the National Portrait Gallery, with Vogue magazine. In our fashion conscious city it’ll be a big hit.

Over in Liverpool, I’m delighted we’re lending the Whitworth’s important early Francis Bacon portrait of Lucian Freud, to Francis Bacon’s ‘Invisible Rooms’ at Tate Liverpool (18 May–18 September 2016). As ever, Francesco Manacorda and his team will offer a fresh – in this case architectural – view on a major British artist.

(detail; 2012–13), Mona Hatoum

Cellules (detail; 2012–13), Mona Hatoum © Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris © Photo Sébastien Normand

At Tate Modern I’m most excited by the prospect of Mona Hatoum’s major survey show (4 May–21 August 2016). Her work never fails to challenge and provoke and this will be a rare chance to assess her radical enquiry across the span of her career.

There are certain artists whose practice consistently intrigues me, often across a long career trajectory. A number of my touchstone artists have been selected for Artes Mundi 7 (exhibition runs 21 October 2016–26 February 2017 at the National Museum Cardiff and Chapter, Cardiff). Though the winner won’t be announced until January 2017, I am relishing the chance this year to see what artists like Bedwyr Williams, John Akomfrah, Nástio Mosquito and Hito Steyerl produce for this important prize.

I was born in Birmingham, and lived there as an adult for more than a decade as the Ikon gallery moved into and owned their old school building on Brindleyplace. It is a gallery I love and in Jonathan Watkins’ programme there always surprises. In 2016 I shall make the trip to see both my family and some art, and expect to be challenged and undoubtedly upset by Janet Mendelsohn’s Varna Road photographs of sex workers in the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham (27 January—3 April 2016), where I used to live. Later I shall love the Dan Flavin show (13 April—26 June 2016) and look forward to Kan Xuan’s show in the summer (6 July—11 September 2016). Jonathan has been one of the most consistent champions of groundbreaking art from across East Asia.

I love a trip to the brisk outdoors of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and I’m keen to see what KAWS do with the inside and outside environments this spring (6 February—12 June 2016).

Silk satin, lace and whalebone corset (1890–95)

Silk satin, lace and whalebone corset (1890–95) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Finally, as I indicated at the beginning, the V&A’s exhibitions and collection are one of my great year-round, non-guilty pleasures. The spring show, ‘Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear’ (16 April 2016—12 March 2017) will undoubtedly be gorgeous, saucy and illuminating in equal measure. But one of the highlights of the year will surely be ‘You Say You Want A Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966–70’ (10 September 2016–26 February 2017). As a child I filched my parents’ Bob Dylan and Sergeant Pepper albums, which they had happened upon in early married life in Brighton. I can’t wait to see how the V&A tell this story of social change and rebellion through objects, and how this spirit of challenging the status quo echoes through to us in 2016.

Lots to see, lots of train journeys across the UK. Just how I like it.

Maria Balshaw is director of the Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester City Galleries.

View the rest of the 12 Days series here

Event details

‘Ben Rivers: The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers ‘ is at the Whitworth, Manchester, from 25 February–22 May 2016.

‘The Imitation Game’ is at the Manchester Art Gallery from 13 February–12 June 2016.

‘Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms’ is at Tate Liverpool from 18 May–18 September 2016.

‘Mona Hatoum’ is at Tate Modern, London, from 4 May–21 August 2016.

The Artes Mundi 7 exhibition is at the National Museum Cardiff and Chapter, Cardiff, from 21 October 2016–26 February 2017.

‘Janet Mendelsohn: Varna Road’ is at Ikon gallery, Birmingham, from 27 January—3 April 2016; ‘Dan Flavin’ runs from 13 April—26 June 2016; and ‘Kan Xuan’ from 6 July—11 September 2016.

‘KAWS’ is at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park from 6 February—12 June 2016.

‘Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear’ is at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, from 16 April 2016—12 March 2017; and ‘You Say You Want A Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966–70’ runs from 10 September 2016–26 February 2017.

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