The tragedy of war
We were hardly settled into 2022 before the biggest attempted invasion in Europe since the Second World War began, as Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine. Many artists spoke out against the invasion but it was the words of the Ukrainian artist and photographer Boris Mikhailov that struck home, cutting through any ideas of this being anything but an utter tragedy.
“They say a man can get used to anything. A house collapses and a new one is built in its place,” he told The Art Newspaper in our September issue Artist Interview. “But it is impossible to rebuild broken, destroyed lives. I cannot forgive this treacherous attack on my country. I cannot get used to this war.”
Many people were still reeling from the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, with artists being no different. The Kenyan painter Michael Armitage told us how he began creating work en plein air in Nairobi, ahead of his exhibition at the Kunsthalle Basel.
The experience of lockdown can be seen in the recent works of the Montserrat-born British sculptor Veronica Ryan who became the oldest artist to win the Turner Prize. And there was some “major pandemic art” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Big shows, big impact
Big shows around the world made a big impact of the reviewers of our Big Review section.
Charles Moore exalted “[Faith] Ringgold’s revolutionary impact” in her show at New York’s New Museum, while Alison Cole, editor of The Art Newspaper, highlighted how the curator “[Francesco] Caglioti’s excitement at presenting Donatello’s transgressive spirit and extraordinary achievement in all its delicate and dramatic cadences is palpable throughout the exhibition” in Florence. The latter show will travel in modified form to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (11 February-11 June).
Meanwhile in Paris the first major survey of the US artist Alice Neel saw our reviewer give it five stars, quoting Neel herself: “‘One of the reasons I painted was to catch life as it goes by, right hot off the griddle.’ That is exactly how these paintings feel,” wrote our reviewer Matthew Holman. Those unable to make it will get another chance to see the show when a slightly altered version, retitled Hot off the Griddle, opens at the Barbican Art Gallery in London (16 February-21 May).
The Venice Biennale 2022
And of course, 2022 was a Venice Biennale year. The main exhibition was “one that honours its artists by letting them dictate its paths, while providing a perfectly judged structure to allow their thoughts to percolate, and their imaginations to soar”, according to the art critic Ben Luke.
The Golden Lion award was won by Sonia Boyce for the British Pavilion, Tinie Tempah mixed with Tintoretto, there was protest art (featuring Putin as a yob) and even the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky made an appearance, of sorts.
And there were our round-ups of the must-see pavilions in the Giardini and Arsenale, the top collateral shows and the most popular of all on our website… the worst art on show during the Venice Biennale 2022.