Art in 2015: A look ahead

Rubens 1617 oil on panel Pan and Syrinx The Royal Academy's Rubens exhibition showcases the paintings which inspired Van Dyck and Cezanne

After all that Christmas cheer and mince pies topped with lashings of double cream there is only one place to start your art year, and that is with the baroque master Peter Paul Rubens and his delightfully fleshy creations.

Rubens and His Legacy at the Royal Academy (24 January - 10 April) is a timely riposte to our uptight, narcissistic age of manicured physiques and 5-2 diet regimes. The Flemish master shows us how much more enlivening it is to let it all hang out. His swirling masterpieces have a flamboyance and freedom that is largely absent in the mannered nature of modern art.

Claude Monet, Poplars in the Sun, 1891 Monet's poplars, which he painted on the banks of the Epte River, will feature at the National Gallery

The exhibition also looks at the artists his full-blooded pictures went on to inspire from Van Dyck to Cezanne, the grumpy but brilliant Provencal artist who will also be featuring in another of the year's stand-out shows, Inventing Impressionism at the National Gallery (4 March - 31 May).

It will be a sort of Now That's What I Call Impressionism greatest hits type of show. All the big names of the period 1865-1910 will be represented: Edouard Manet, Alfred Sisley, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, and Cezanne.

But the real star of the show is the man that made it all happen, the Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. He risked personal humiliation and financial ruin in his determination to support this group of young exciting artists and their anti-establishment innovations.

Durand-Ruel and his Impressionists were responsible for creating the vibrant international commercial gallery scene we know today: a commercial and artistic legacy of which the South-African born, Amsterdam-based painter Marlene Dumas is a contemporary beneficiary.

The 60-something artist has been given a spring retrospective at Tate Modern (5 Feb - 10 May), in which the art world favourite is likely to gain a much broader following. Portraiture is her thing, but not necessarily as you know it.

Many of her famous subjects are dead and in certain respects controversial. Jesus, Princess Diana, Phil Spector, Amy Winehouse and Osama Bin Laden all feature. Dark undercurrents are ever-present.

Dumas also paints the unknown and unknowable. Her images are impressionistic, a thin veil of atmosphere gives them a slightly opaque quality: you sense uneasiness and suffering. They're very good.

Sarah Lucas in her famous self portrait Sarah Lucas will take her British humour to Venice in May

As was the British sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth. A major exhibition of her work is being held at Tate Britain in the summer (24 June - 25 Oct), the first in the capital since 1968. Which seems incredible, given she is - in my opinion - our finest ever sculptor.

Her friend Henry Moore is the more famous of the two great modernists, but she was the superior artist. She could turn lumps of stone and blocks of wood into sensual, haunting, beautiful pieces of visual poetry.

I'm not sure the same could be said of Sarah Lucas, the one-time YBA ladette, who produced that famous self-portrait, in which she is slouched in an armchair with a couple of fried eggs placed strategically on the front of her black t-shirt.

That was nearly 20 years ago. She's now in her 50s but has lost none of her lewd, crude, bawdy humour that feels particularly British, in a seaside postcard sort of way. Which will make it all the more interesting to see how the designer-clad international art elite will respond to her British Pavilion show at the Venice Biennale (22 May - November).

It will be just as interesting to see what happens to the Turner Prize when it sets up shop in Glasgow in the autumn (1 Oct - 4 Jan 2016).

We've now all heard of the Glasgow Miracle, the name given to describe Glasgow's resurgence as a powerhouse in global contemporary art (three of the four of this year's Turner Prize shortlisted artists were taught at the Glasgow School of Art).

Cornelia Parker Manchester's Whitworth Gallery will reopen in February 2015 with an extensive exhibition of Parker's career

We also know that he Turner Prize has gone a bit flat. Glasgow could be just the place to get it fizzing once more.

I expect to see artist Cornelia Parker sipping a glass of fizz at The Whitworth in Manchester in February where an exhibition of her work will form part of the gallery's reopening programme after a £15m revamp.

Ms Parker will then hot-foot it down to London in time for the British Library's exhibition celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta (13 March - 1 September), for which she has been commissioned to make a new artwork.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Entertainment & Arts stories



Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.