A Review of 2023’s Top Art Exhibitions

Best of Contemporary Art 2023. Source: Zarastro Art

2023 has been an exceptional year, marked by a constellation of extraordinary exhibitions worldwide. Meticulously curated and thoughtfully presented, these five exhibitions go beyond mere showcases, immersing audiences in a profound dialogue with the artists, their subjects, and the evolving tapestry of global culture.

Henry Taylor: B Side (installation view). All photos by Zarastro Art

Henry Taylor: B Side | Whitney Museum of American Art

The exhibition showcases the work of the Los Angeles-based artist, depicting a diverse array of individuals, from family and friends to celebrities and politicians, with a genuine and unfiltered affection.

Taylor draws inspiration from memory, newspaper clippings, snapshots, and in-person sittings, employing a varied tone in his works—ranging from light-hearted and intimate to somber. His paintings exhibit a blend of flat, vibrant colors, intricate details, and loose brushwork, creating a vivid and lifelike quality.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (2020) acrylic on canvas.

Driven by a profound empathy for people and their life experiences, Taylor emphasizes their humanity, social context, and emotional states. The close-up, often life-sized images intensify the presence of the subjects in his work.

Curated by Bennett Simpson, the exhibition is organized thematically and includes Taylor’s paintings, rarely displayed early drawings, assemblage sculptures, a substantial grouping of painted objects on recycled cigarette packs and other everyday materials, and two new installations.

Africa Fashion | Brooklyn Museum

Originating in London and making its North American debut in Brooklyn, the exhibition transcended the boundaries of traditional fashion showcases, offering a compelling experience in historical and political narratives through the lens of Africa.

As much of Africa gained independence in the mid-twentieth century, the continent experienced a liberated surge of creative expression, with the evolution continuing to the present day. Africa Fashion celebrated this rich history, featuring over 180 works, including iconic pieces from the Museum’s collections.

The exhibition, organized thematically, presented a multisensory experience with immersive displays of haute couture and ready-to-wear apparel, accompanied by music, visual art, literature, sketches, film, catwalk footage, textiles, and jewelry.

The inclusion of works by more than forty designers and artists from twenty African countries, spanning generations from pioneers like Kofi Ansah and Shade Thomas-Fahm to contemporary visionaries like Thebe Magugu and Gouled Ahmed, made this exhibition an unprecedented showcase of global African culture.

Judy Chicago: Herstory (installation view). All photos by Zarastro Art.

Judy Chicago: Herstory | New Museum

The retrospective exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of Judy Chicago’s influential six-decade career. Chicago, best known for her groundbreaking work “The Dinner Party,” dedicated her art to overcoming sexism and feminizing the artistic landscape.

The exhibition covers Chicago’s formative years, highlighting her early experiments with art influenced by minimalism and movements such as “Light and Space,” including her use of unique mediums like spray-painting car hoods.

A significant focus is placed on Chicago’s “smoke sculptures” or “Atmospheres,” captured in the California desert, showcasing her avant-garde approach to art. The exhibition delves into the conceptualization and execution of these feminist performances.

Herstory showcases Chicago’s diverse techniques, ranging from embroidery and ceramics to appliqué, screen printing, and spray paint. Her exploration of profound subjects such as birth, motherhood, toxic masculinity, and the Holocaust is a crucial aspect, revealing her ability to tackle intense themes with emotional resonance.

Carrie Mae Weems, Reflections for Now installation view. Source: Barbican Art Gallery

Carrie Mae Weems: Reflections for Now | Barbican

The exhibition in London paid homage to the artist’s bold confrontation of historical monuments and her own creation of a monumental body of work over five decades.

Curated by Raúl Muñoz de la Vega and Florence Ostende, the retrospective spanned five decades of Weems’s art, with a focus on her recent series “Painting the Town,” which transformed images of boarded-up buildings in Portland into abstract paintings with political commentary.

Reflections for Now showcased iconic works like the “Kitchen Table Series” from the 1990s, highlighting Weems’s formal perfection and her ability to draw connections with the history of photography. It emphasized the consistency of Weems’s artistic vision and the significance of reflecting on the politics of display.

All images in the article: Marina Abramović at the Royal Academy (installation view). Photos by Zarastro Art

Marina Abramović | Royal Academy

Marina Abramović’s retrospective at the Royal Academy marks the first time the organization has dedicated an exhibition solely to a female artist. The showcase spans five decades of Abramović’s career, highlighting her groundbreaking contributions to art through sculpture, video, installation, and live performance.

The retrospective features key moments in her artistic journey. It is organized into sections such as “The Communist Body,” “Body Limits,” “Absence of the Body,” and “Coming and Going,” providing a comprehensive narrative of her life and work.

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Notable sculptures and installations add depth to the exhibition, showcasing Abramović’s lasting impact. The retrospective actively engages the audience through live performances of iconic pieces like “Imponderabilia,” “Nude with Skeleton,” “Luminosity,” and “The House with the Ocean View,” ensuring a dynamic and unique experience with each visit.

The retrospective reinforces Abramović’s indelible mark on contemporary art, ensuring that her influence will continue to resonate for generations to come.


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