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2012 looks set to be a lively and memorable year on the exhibition front. Seeing as Trivial Pursuits’ readership hails predominantly from the London area I’ve come up with my top 5 Capital-based must-see shows for your diary this year. In chronological order:

1. 26th January – 15th April. The Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam, British Museum

In accordance with the five pillars of Islam, Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim must make at some point in his lifetime if physically able. Through historical and contemporary art, textiles and manuscripts, this exhibition explores the history of the Hajj since the time of Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century AD. It will allow non-Muslims a chance to see an area of Islamic practice, which they are not able to witness.

2. 9th February – 27th May. Lucian Freud: Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Following his death last year, this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery can be seen as a memorial to one of the most important portraitists of his time. With over 100 of his works on display including past lovers, friends and family, the exhibition was produced in close collaboration with Freud before he died and features a number of paintings never seen before.

3. 15th February – 15th July. Picasso and Modern British Art, Tate Britain

Picasso’s influence on the course of modern art was practically unrivalled in the 20th century. With over 60 of his works including Weeping Woman 1937 and The Three Dancers 1925, this show at Tate Britain charts his British connections and influence on UK artists, bringing together over 150 artworks from artists such as Wyndham Lewis, David Hockney, Francis Bacon, and Henry Moore.

4. 4th April – 9th September. Damien Hirst, Tate Modern

Like him or loathe him, with his works selling for £111 million in his early forties in the 2008 auction at Sotheby’s, Damien Hirst is the most successful living artist in the world. This is the first large scale biography of his works in a major gallery, including the installations that originally brought him success such as The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

5. 28th June – 14th October. Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye, Tate Modern

Munch’s frenetic style has always made him a tricky one for art historians to assign to any particular label. The Norwegian’s lively and troubled character is cathartically expressed through his paintbrush. But, documenting his interest in photography and modern life, this exhibition promises to show how as well as describing him as a Symbolist or pre-Expressionist we might like to consider him as an exponent of the 20th century in his own right.

It was quite tricky making this into a top 5. People may point out several notable omissions and the fact that all my picks feature in the first half of the year. So here are some shows that just missed out as well as a couple that will give you more than your fill of culture towards the year-end:

16th February 20th May. Mondrian and Nicholson: In Parallel, Courtauld Gallery

14th March – 5th June. Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude, National Gallery

31st March – 12th August. British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age, V&A

12th September – 13th January 2013. Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde, Tate Britain

31st October – 20th January 2013. Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present, National Gallery

By Edward Lines