Let’s start in Bath at the Holburne museum, for an exhibition of Grayson Perry’s early work in a show with the Adrian Mole-ish subtitle, The Pre-Therapy Years. Should be good. Planning for it started with a public appeal in 2018 to source the Turner Prize-winning potter’s early ceramic works made between 1982 and the mid-1990s.
The artist visited and inspected the haul, sorted the fakes from the legit originals, added some pieces from his own collection and “hey presto!” Showtime begins on 24 January, running until 25 May.
Further west, down on the south coast in Plymouth, a major new cultural space will open in the Spring. The Box describes itself as “a museum for the 21st Century” and will mix collection displays with temporary exhibitions ranging from the latest contemporary art to a celebration of the Mayflower’s 400th anniversary.
Even further west is the city of Galway in Ireland, which is taking up the mantle as European Capital of Culture 2020. For its year-long celebration, Galway is using the old Celtic calendar with four distinct seasons: Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasa, and Samhain.
It starts in February with a “fiery, festive” opening ceremony and ends in January 2021 with a Lumiere Galway closing event. Sandwiched in between will be a packed programme put together by artists who embody the spirit of the city.
From west to east, and to Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. This intimate, homely gallery space has been in splendid form of late, and looks set to continue its purple patch into 2020. Starting with Linderism on 15 February, an exhibition dedicated to the work of Linder Sterling, an artist who made her name as a Manchester graduate in the mid-70s.
Having attended that legendary Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in June 1976, her jigsaw puzzle photomontage artworks became synonymous with the punk movement. Expect to see her cover for the Buzzcocks’ Orgasm Addict album together with more recent performance pieces.
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino – that’s Raphael to you and me – didn’t have a punky bone in his body. He was the grand master of the High Renaissance who died at just 37 years-old having expended too much energy chasing ladies.
That was 500 years ago, a landmark that will be celebrated with a major – and unmissable – retrospective at the National Gallery in London starting in October. If you simply can’t wait to see his magnificent work, then it’s off to Rome with you in the Spring to see the Raphael show to end all Raphael shows at the Scuderie del Quirinale.
When in Rome… think about hitch-hiking to Ghent in Belgium for a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of the great master of the Early Northern Renaissance. There are only around 20 extant works by Jan van Eyck, over half of which will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts. The star exhibit will be the restored outer panels of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, otherwise known as the Ghent Altarpiece. If you like art, you’ll love this show.
Rembrandt had his big anniversary last year, marked by a sensational show at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which celebrated the work of Golden Age painter. If you didn’t get there then all is not lost, your FOMO can be tempered by a visit to the Ashmolean museum in Oxford this spring for its Young Rembrandt show, imported from the Dutch master’s home town of Leiden.
If your taste leans towards the ultra-modern, then maybe plan an autumn visit to Cardiff and the National Museum Wales for the bi-annual Artes Mundi. It is rapidly overtaking the Turner Prize as the most vital award for the art of our time, and this year has a shortlist of six exceptional international artists selected from more than 500 nominations that covered 60 countries.
Another group show well worth noting is We Will Walk at the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate. It opens in February, and will feature pieces by 20 African American artists who were working in the 1950s and 60s in or around Alabama where they were shaping and responding to the Civil Rights movement.
If you’re after something completely different but utterly wonderful, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has the exhibition for you in May. Ray Harryhausen was a pioneering, brilliant special effects film-maker whose credits include movie masterpieces such as Jason and the Argonauts and One Million Years BC. His work inspired Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and many other leading directors – it will inspire you too, when you see his designs and creations laid out before you in glass cases and picture frames.
If magical worlds of make-believe are your bag, then you’re in for a treat down at the V&A museum in London, which has a summer exhibition dedicated to the art and artefacts connected to Lewis Carroll’s classic fantasy novel Alice in Wonderland.
That’s not the only blockbuster in the capital in 2020. Big hitters Titian (National Gallery) and Andy Warhol (Tate Modern) will be slugging it out for your attention in March. I’d go to both. In fact, why not take the day off and pop over to Tate Britain to see an early career exhibition of one of the best painters working today, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.
Other delights coming to London in 2020 include a show in April dedicated to the magnificent baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi (National Gallery) at the same time as the British Museum is exploring Tantras, sacred Indian texts from the 6th Century. And, in June, the one-and-only Marina Abramovic (Royal Academy) will be in-da-house staging a full retrospective of her performance art masterpieces.
And finally, why not finish the year in style, with a visit to the Design Museum in Kensington, which will be hosting an exhibition dedicated to the life and work of the fashion superstar Miuccia Prada.
Happy new year.