There is only one place to start this 2019 look-ahead and that is by going back 500 years to the death of the greatest Renaissance Man of them all, Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo was 67 when he died on the 2nd May 1519, having produced some of the greatest paintings of all time: The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, The Virgin of the Rocks.
The reason his images were so extraordinarily good was down to his most extraordinary mind (his academic interests included anatomy, mathematics, engineering, botany, geology, and the inner workings of the human psyche), aligned to his most extraordinary ability to draw and colour.
His paintings were the culmination of everything he knew.
They are two major Leonardo exhibitions in 2019 celebrating his genius: the first is in the UK, where the Queen’s unrivalled collection of drawings will be on display at a variety of venues across the country.
- Leonardo da Vinci is going on tour in UK
The second will take place in the autumn at the Louvre in Paris, which hopes to gather together as many of the great man’s 20 or so paintings as possible.
Leonardo isn’t the only Old Master celebrating an anniversary.
It is 350 years since the death of Rembrandt van Rijn, the greatest painter of the Dutch Golden Age.
To mark the occasion, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is holding A Year of Rembrandt, which will start with a show in February called All The Rembrandts.
This “once in a lifetime” exhibition will feature all 22 Rembrandt paintings the museum owns – including The Night Watch – along with 60 drawings and more than 300 of the artist’s finest prints.
- Rembrandt painting to be restored in public
Meanwhile, over in London, there is one Old Master being sent out on a nationwide tour.
Self Portrait as Saint Catherine (c.1615) by Artemisia Gentileschi – one of the few recognised female baroque artists – will be popping up all over the UK.
- National Gallery buys £3.6m Gentileschi masterpiece
Not all dates and locations have been confirmed, but her road trip starts in March at the Glasgow Women’s Library.
While she’s away, the National Gallery will be focusing its attention on a major exhibition of post-impressionist art with its first ever Gauguin Portraits show in the autumn.
It is likely to be a blockbuster.
As is the British Museum’s autumn exhibition, Troy, and Tate Britain’s William Blake show, all of which will be running concurrently.
The Scottish National Galleries also have an excellent programme of exhibitions in 2019, including a major Bridget Riley show in the summer, who will be followed by Paula Rego in November.
The Ashmolean Museum, once a dour, dusty place, is now a splendid place to visit.
Its permanent collection will give you a world tour through the ages, while its energetic temporary exhibition programme regularly presents the modern and contemporary.
And who could be more of-the-moment in our consumer age than the American artist Jeff Koons, whose surreal pop creations will be on show at the Oxford institution this spring.
Also in the spring, you can expect queues in London at Tate Britain’s exhibition Van Gogh in Britain, and Renaissance Nude at the Royal Academy (I predict the RA’s July show of little known Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck will be an unexpected hit).
If you fancy a trip to Venice, and who doesn’t, then maybe wait until the end of May when the art Biennale kicks off its six-month residency.
Flying the flag for Britain is the installation artist Cathy Wilkes, while this year’s Turner Prize-winner Charlotte Prodger is representing Scotland, and sculptor Eva Rothschild will be filling Ireland’s pavilion with a “sculptural environment which engages with current social changes though embodiment, presence, and materiality”.
Talking of sculptural environments, 2019 will see the opening of the new National Museum Qatar in Doha, designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel.
It is constructed from multiple white, interlocking discs inspired, apparently, by a desert rose.
It looks amazing: a modernist, geometric design, which can be traced back to Germany’s famous arts and crafts graduate school, the Bauhaus. Which also has a brand new building in Dessau to celebrate the centenary of its foundation in 1919, by the legendary architect and academic, Walter Gropius.
There are more circular structures being turned into cultural space. This time in China, where a series of disused oil tanks in Shanghai is being converted into a 60,000 square-metre art centre.
On the other side of the world in Los Angeles – the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open in autumn 2019. The building is designed by Renzo Piano and looks great.
But let’s finish at the start of the year in Wales and my favourite art prize, Artes Mundi.
Previous winners include Theaster Gates, Xu Bing and Yael Bartana. This year’s international shortlist has Otobong Nkanga from Nigeria / Belgium, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul from Thailand.
My hunch is he will win (we’ll find out on the 24th January) but all are well worth seeing at the National Museum Cardiff in a show that finishes on 24th February.
Happy New Year.
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