Critic's Picks for 2011
Cuts or no cuts, 2011 is shaping up as a wonderfully rich year for anyone with a love of the visual arts. British modern art remains relatively undervalued, but the Royal Academy’s "Modern British Sculpture" aims to set the record straight. From the world of the late Victorians to the vitrines of Damien Hirst, this promises to be a thoroughly engrossing survey of an insufficiently appreciated tradition.
The National Gallery’s own blockbuster offering is "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan". With a scholarly catalogue most definitely not written by Dan Brown, the show will aim to decode the work of Leonardo’s Milanese period, when he was the not so humble servant of the Sforza dynasty. The gallery has been trumpeting "the most complete display of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings ever held", and tantalising reference has been made to "sensational loans never before seen in the UK". The million-dollar – sorry, billion dollar – question is whether the Louvre be lending its well-known but much-in-need-of-a-clean portrait of a woman smiling, otherwise known as The Mona Lisa. According to information obtained exclusively by the Sunday Telegraph at the very highest levels of French cultural bureaucracy, the answer is: "non". But there will be plenty of other Leonardos to savour.
The British Museum’s "Treasures of Heaven" promises to be a morbid but must-see show. Its subject is the medieval world of saint’s relics, and the rich but in many cases little-regarded art designed to house these myriad fragments of sacred bone, or hair. I have been making a film about the subject for BBC4 and can vouch for the strength and depth of the British Museum’s collections in this particular department. Some truly haunting objects will be on display, including the birth amulet of a thirteenth-century...