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Whaam! 1963 by Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997

Hirst, Munch, Leonardo, Picasso, Freud; such was the strength in competition for 2012’s shows that picking my top 5 was tough. This year, it’s even tougher; missing out on my cut to name a few are Man Ray, J.S. Lowry, Dürer, Holbein, Klimt, Schiele, Klee and some 40,000 year old sculptures. All of whom are due in our nation’s capital in the coming year. Yes, you might say 2013 looks set to be something of an annus mirabilis for art lovers living in our capital city.

Here, again in chronological order, are my Top 5 London Art Exhibitions for 2013.

1. Manet: Portraying Life (26 January – 14 April 2013, The Royal Academy)

Manet_BertheMorisot1872The Royal Academy well and truly kick-starts the year with not so much a bang and more an explosion from one of those TNT plungers made famous by Wile E. Coyote. It’s the first time that ‘Father of Modernism’, Edouard Manet’s work has been assembled to present his approach to portraiture. Expect paintings of social realism on Haussmann’s boulevards of Paris and in the newly accessible countryside. Opening to the public this weekend and five star reviews already from The Times and The Telegraph, this has all the hallmarks of a classic. It’s probably too early say something like “If you see one show in 2013…”, especially as I haven’t seen it yet, but go on, this is probably it.

2. Murillo & Justino de Neve: the Art of Friendship (6 February – 19 May 2013, Dulwich Picture Gallery)

murillo-1In light of the shows that haven’t made my top 5, this is perhaps the most controversial selection, but for those fans of the Spanish Golden Age, this show brings together 30 paintings that explore the relationship between Baroque painter, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, and his friend and patron, Justino de Neve. The reason it makes my top 5 is because it offers something different to the standard art gallery experience. The entire Dulwich Picture Gallery is currently closed for two weeks whilst they turn it into a mock 17th century Sevillian church, windows and all, allowing you to see Murillo’s impressive lunettes and other paintings ‘in situ’, hung at their intended height and with their appropriate light settings.

3. Lichtenstein: A Retrospective (21 February – 27 May 2013, Tate Modern)

lichtenstein_jeffWith reproductions of his iconic, comic-strip canvases adorning the walls of student bedrooms the Western world over, this is the 2013 crowd-pleaser from Tate. 125 paintings and sculptures by Benday dot enthusiast, Roy Lichtenstein, will span the walls of Tate Modern and bring in the pop art loving public in their droves. This retrospective will be as good a chance as any to see his instantly recognisable work irrespective of varied materials which he used. For a couple of quid, those of you with iOS and Android phones will be able to download a Lichtenstein App dedicated to the exhibition featuring commentary on 24 key works and insights from the curators.

4. Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (28 March – 29 September 2013, British Museum)

pompeiiFrom TNT explosions to volcanic eruptions; when Vesuvius famously blew its lid in AD79 it buried the city of Pompeii and seaside town of Herculaneum, casting them and their inhabitants in a millennia-long preservative of volcanic rock and ash. Between March and September, The British Museum will put together 250 artefacts unearthed 1700 years later in states of near perfect preservation, many which have never left Italy. The exhibition will show how people operated in everyday life, but the highlight will surely be the plaster-cast models on display made by filling the voids in the rock left by those shielding themselves from death (pictured) as the ash enveloped them.

5. Vermeer and Music: Love and Leisure (26 June – 8 September 2013, National Gallery – Free admission)

vermeer-guitar-playerMusic, Love and Leisure? It sounds like a day in the life of our editor-in-chief, but in fact, these subjects form the basis of the NG’s flagship show this year. A bit like the Murillo exhibition at the DPG I think this show featuring paintings by the Dutch master, Vermeer and his contemporaries, will offer something a little different – beautiful Virginals. That’s right, on display amongst the paintings will be innocent, young ladies dressed in period costume 17th century harpsichords. I’m secretly hoping for a glimpse of a sackbut too (an early form of trombone) but perhaps I should be careful what I wish for.

Anyway, suggestively-named instruments aside, music was a popular theme in Dutch painting and so the exhibition promises to incorporate music of the era in ‘various ways, enriching our experience of the serene and elegant ambiance created in Vermeer’s painting’. And what’s more, it’s free. Hoorah.

So that concludes my top 5 for the year ahead. “What?” You may cry. “What about…”

A list of the nominees who finished outside the top 5 is here for your convenience:

The Northern Renaissance: Dürer to Holbein

The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

2 November 2012 to 14 April 2013

Light Show (Dan Flavin et al.)

Hayward Gallery

30 January – 28 April

Man Ray

National Portrait Gallery

7 February – 27 May 2013

Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind

British Museum

7 February – 26 May

J.S. Lowry

Tate Britain

26 June – 20 October 2013

The Portrait in Vienna (Klimt, Schiele et al)

National Gallery

9 October 2013 – 12 January 2014

Paul Klee

Tate Modern

15 October 2013 – 9 March 2014

And it would be rude not to say that a trip to Tate Liverpool for Chagall: Modern Master would be well worth it (8 June – 6 October 2013)

As stated earlier, there wasn’t room for everyone. If you disagree with my top 5 do write in the comments section below and let the world know what they really ought to be seeing.

By Edward Lines