What to see in 2016: our picks of the top exhibitions

Make sure you add these shows to your art viewing schedule


Click here to download a PDF of our full Year Ahead guide


Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of Genius

Het Noordbrabants Museum, Den Bosch

13 February-8 May

Bosch: the Centenary Exhibition

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

31 May-11 September

Hieronymus Bosch is one of the most enigmatic and idiosyncratic of the Renaissance masters, with an instantly recognisable style. To honour the 500th anniversary of his death, the Noordbrabants Museum in the artist’s hometown of Den Bosch is staging a major exhibition of his work in conjunction with the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, which will also open a show later in the year.

Twelve panels, recently restored with funding from institutions including the Getty Foundation, will be on view to the public in Den Bosch for the first time, as well as a number of works on loan, such as the Prado’s famous Haywain triptych (around 1516), the Louvre’s Ship of Fools (1500-10) and the four Visions of the Hereafter (after 1486) from Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia.

Best of the rest…

In the Age of Giorgione

Royal Academy of Arts, London

12 March-5 June

Hieronymus Bosch and his Imagery in the 16th and 17th Centuries

Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

31 May-11 September

Adriaen van de Velde: Master of the Dutch Landscape

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

24 June-18 September

Hubert Robert, 1733-1808

Musée du Louvre, Paris

7 March-30 May

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

26 June-2 October

Beyond Caravaggio

National Gallery, London

12 October-15 January 2017


Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds

British Museum, London

19 May-27 November

The recent discovery of two ancient Egyptian cities, Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, both submerged at the mouth of the River Nile for more than 1,000 years, is the subject of the British Museum’s first large-scale exhibition of underwater discoveries.

Around 200 objects excavated off the coast of Alexandria between 1966 and 2012 will go on display with objects from Egyptian museums. A version of the exhibition is at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris (until 31 January) and it is due to travel to the Museum Rietberg in Zurich (2017).

Whereas the Paris and Zurich shows centre primarily on Osiris, the god of the afterlife, the London presentation will explore Egypt’s links with Greece.

Best of the rest…

Roman Mosaics across the Empire

Getty Villa, Los Angeles

30 March-12 September

Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

18 April-10 July

Ctesiphon: Ancient Iran and the Emergence of Islamic Art

Pergamonmuseum, Berlin

29 July-27 November


Foreign Gods: Tribal Art in the Context of Modernism

Leopold Museum, Vienna

23 September-9 January 2017

It is hard to overstate the profound effect that tribal art had on Western art at the turn of the 20th century. When faced with a collection of African masks at the Musée d’Ethnographie in Paris, Pablo Picasso reportedly declared them to be “what painting is really all about”.

Similarly, the German Expressionists were moved by the primeval allure of tribal art from the southern hemisphere, while the Dadaists believed that Oceanic art held the key to accessing the unconscious.

European Modernity, represented by works by artists including Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Emil Nolde, Max Ernst and Max Pechstein, will go head to head with objects from the 200-strong collection of tribal art that once belonged to Rudolf Leopold, the museum’s founder.

Best of the rest…

Theo Van Doesburg: a New Expression of Life, Art and Technology

Palais de Beaux Arts, Brussels

26 February-29 May

Paul Klee: Irony at Work

Centre Pompidou, Paris

6 April-1 August

Kandinsky, Marc and Der Blaue Reiter

Fondation Beyeler, Basel

4 September-15 January 2017

Yves Klein

Tate Liverpool

21 October-12 March 2017


Diane Arbus: In the Beginning

Met Breuer, New York

12 July-27 November

Hers is now a ubiquitous name in the world of photography, but it is easy to forget quite how radical an artist Diane Arbus was when she roamed the streets and took portraits of those considered to be non-mainstream members of society, from disabled people to transgender people. Her work drew praise and criticism in equal measure from leading figures including Robert Hughes, Susan Sontag and Brian Sewell, and her unique aesthetic changed the face of portraiture forever.

Although her work has been exhibited around the world, this show presents around 105 photographs that Arbus took during the first few years of her career (between 1956 and 1962), two-thirds of which have never been published before. Most of the works come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s extensive Diane Arbus archive, which was donated by the artist’s estate in 2007.

Best of the rest…

Daido Moriyama

Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris

6 February-29 May

The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

27 February-30 May

Robert Mapplethorpe

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

20 March-31 July

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

15 March-31 July

Who Shot Sports: a Photographic History, 1843 to the Present

Brooklyn Museum, New York

15 July-8 January 2017



Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

6 March-10 July

The future of fashion increasingly looks set to depend on technological innovations that would have seemed impossible ten years ago. Leading designers around the world, including Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, Hussein Chalayan and the late Alexander McQueen, have been at the forefront of fashion and technology, employing laser, electronics, biotechnology and 3D printing.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is complementing works by these designers with pieces from its own fashion collection and a number of loans, including a digitally printed dress from Plato’s Atlantis (2010), McQueen’s final collection.

The show is in two sections: one explores collaborations between designers, mathematicians and scientists, and the other features interactive clothing that makes use of technology for visual effect.

Best of the rest…

Architecture as Art

Pirelli Hangarbicocca, Milan

1 April-12 September

Living in the Amsterdam School

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

9 April-28 August

Masterpieces of Korean Ceramics

Grand Palais, Paris

27 April-20 June


Marcel Broodthaers

Museum of Modern Art, New York

14 February-15 May

The Museum of Modern Art is giving Marcel Broodthaers (1924-76), the Belgian artist, film-maker and poet, his first retrospective in New York, bringing together around 200 works in a wide variety of media.

Although the artist has enjoyed critical acclaim, he has remained relatively under-appreciated by the public, and the aim of the show is to help him take his rightful place in 20th-century art history.

The late museum director and critic Michael Rush wrote in 2010 that Broodthaers “may be the best known artist you haven’t seen”, citing his influence on a “bevy of contemporary artists”.

Best of the rest…

Peter Fischli and David Weiss

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

5 February-20 April

Georg Baselitz: Heroes

Städel Museum, Frankfurt

30 June-23 October

Moderna Museet, Stockholm

12 November-19 February 2017

Cy Twombly

Centre Pompidou, Paris

30 November-24 April 2017

Robert Rauschenberg

Tate Modern, London

1 December-2 April 2017


Charles Gleyre (1806-1874): the Repentant Romantic

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

10 May-11 September

The Swiss artist Charles Gleyre has never had a monographic show on French soil before, although he is considered one of the leading 19th-

century academic painters. For 21 years, Gleyre’s Parisian atelier was one of the most liberal and creative hubs in the city, and a number of soon-to-be-greats, including Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley, passed through its doors when they were still learning the ropes.

Some critics have associated his crisp, clear painterly style and love of mythological subject matter with an old-fashioned resistance to the forces that were reshaping the world around him, but this show aims to accentuate and re-evaluate the elements of passion, violence and Orientalism that exist in Gleyre’s work, despite its overarching rigour and Helvetic precision. Moreover, his depiction of women as alluring but dangerous goddesses can be seen as a precursor to the Symbolist experiments that followed towards the end of the 19th century.

Best of the rest…

Edgar Degas: a Strange New Beauty

Museum of Modern Art, New York

26 March-24 July

City of the Soul: Rome and the Romantics

Morgan Library & Museum, New York

17 June-11 September

The Birth of Modernity: the Art of Drawing in the 19th Century from C.D. Friedrich to Van Gogh

Kulturforum, Berlin

23 September-15 January 2017


Painters’ Paintings: from Van Dyck to Freud

National Gallery, London

22 June-4 September

We tend to measure the quality of works of art, and their standing in art history, by what critics and collectors have made of them over the years, by the exhibitions they have featured in and by what has been written about them. We rarely wonder which works of art were admired by famous artists.

The National Gallery is drawing on its own collection, as well as loans, to stage a show of around 60 paintings previously owned by artists, including Van Dyck’s Titian, Matisse’s Degas and Lucian Freud’s Corot. By displaying these paintings next to the artist-collectors’ own work, the exhibition explores whether the artists’ artistic preferences were linked to their own creative process.

Best of the rest…

Celebration: 125 Years of Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

8 March-18 september

Venice, the Jews and Europe

Palazzo Ducale, Venice

19 June-13 November

Every People Under Heaven: Jerusalem, 1000-1400

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

20 September-8 January 2017


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