2017 is going to be a Hull of a year. Really. Humble old Hull – a city once voted among the worst to live in Britain – has had a multi-million pound facelift, cleaned up its act, and is playing open house to the world as UK City of Culture 2017.
Do go. It’s a fabulous place. And not a bit like some other cities one could mention, where a stranger saying “hello” either means you’ve been set-upon by a chugger or a performance artist. They’re a friendly lot over on the blowy east coast of Yorkshire, and have put together a decent and diverse 12-month programme.
The year starts with the city’s buildings being used as vast canvasses on to which images are projected telling the story of Hull, and ends with the Turner Prize exhibition and award. In between, like the sandwiches at Kingston’s Deli on Savile Street, they have packed multiple delights.
David Hockney’s beloved Bridlington is just up the road. Maybe he’ll pop in when he’s on his way down to Tate Britain for the opening dinner celebrating his retrospective show at the Pimlico gallery in February. If so, he might pass fellow artist Tony Cragg on the M1, as he makes his way to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for his March show. Can’t wait. I like Cragg.
And love Richard Long, another senior British artist exhibiting in 2017. He’s on at Houghton Hall, once Robert Walpole’s showy country pad in Norfolk, now home to a smattering of contemporary exhibits and the Cholmondeley family.
If only our inaugural Prime Minister had had the financial acumen to match his impeccable taste in art, we could also have seen the masterpieces he collected by Velazquez, Van Dyke, Rubens and Rembrandt, but he didn’t and Catherine the Great snaffled the lot in a fire sale in 1779.
The Russians will be back in 2017, and in some style. This time at the Royal Academy in London, with an exhibition marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution. That’s its spring show; in the autumn it will present a sure-fire hit with a major Jasper Johns retrospective (his work will also be present in the British Museum’s The American Dream). Don’t expect the retiring 86-year old artist to appear on Graham Norton’s couch (or anybody else’s), but do expect a classic to match Tate Modern’s current monographic of Johns’ old mate Robert Rauschenberg.
The Bankside behemoth will be pulling in more punters in February with its Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition, an artist who rarely disappoints. If I had to pick out the odds-on blockbuster of 2017, it would be Cezanne Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in October. My advice: book early.
If you fancy clocking up a few air miles, the art world has laid on a feast of entertainments. There’s the Venice Biennale running from May till September, with the wonderful sculptor Phyllida Barlow setting up shop in the British Pavilion.
Documenta, the cognoscenti’s favourite once-every-five-years international art event, is back. This time it’s a bi-nation affair: part one takes place in Athens from April, part two kicks off in June at its regular home in Kassel, Germany.
We’re living in an age where museums have joined temples and churches as places to congregate and contemplate. Vast sums of money are being poured into the creation of ever bigger and better art shrines by wealthy folk looking for eternal fame, and city bureaucrats intent on setting a tourist trap. There are far too many to mention opening in 2017, but highlights include Louvre Abu Dhabi (probably December), and Zeitz MOCAA Cape Town (September).
And finally, for the truly intrepid, 2017 offers a novelty not to be missed: the first ever Antarctic Bienniale. Wrap up warm, put a line through your diary for twelve days (27 March to 6 April), and submerge yourself in art.
Happy New Year.