The best of visual art in 2018

Our choices for the best visual art that 2018 had to offer

The best of visual art in 2018

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, essentially meaning that it is completely subjective. Art too, is very subjective. Sometimes you might think a piece of art is great, other times you might think it's trash. And, on (not so) rare occasions, you might even ask how something is even considered art?!

Well, we've waded through the art world and, with a liberal dose of our own subjectivity, compiled a list of the best that visual arts offered the world in 2018. Disagree with the list? Let us know in the comments!

The Boom: Basquiat

484247a1bb8d0eef666e42b62189f782299aac57.jpgRed Kings, 1981

The Barbican kicked off 2018 by hosting the UK’s first large-scale exhibition of the artist Jean Michel Basquiat. The long awaited retrospective ‘Boom for Real’ showed the largest selection of Basquiat’s work ever on display to a European public. Footage of the iconic artist dancing and hanging out with Warhol formed a backdrop for the art itself, giving a visceral sense of the Basquiat’s life and work.


The Historic: Kettle’s Yard

8a5e4d2fa4d06e434df876f2110e984b4b7db3e0.jpgKettle's Yard House
The much loved Cambridge institution Kettle’s Yard house and gallery reopened earlier this year following its closure in 2015 for a major redevelopment project. Already dubbed ‘one of the country’s most intimate and spell binding museums’, the new space, designed by Jamie Fobert architects – the team also responsible for the Tate St Ives – stands in stark contrast to old house. A welcome revamp to the much-loved gallery. 


The ‘not really art’ art: Forensic architecture

Turner prize runner up ‘The long duration of a split second’ sparked controversy and raised a series of ethical questions regarding the nature of art and evidence. The interdisciplinary team that is Forensic Architecture, which includes architects, lawyers and scientists, used the built environment as a starting point for their exploration of human rights violations.

Video: Tate YouTube

The Money Maker: Jenny Saville

jenny-saville-propped.jpgPropped: Jenny Saville

 (1992) sold for an eye-watering £9.5 million, making it the most amount of money paid at auction for the work of a female artist. A big step for women in art, albeit part of the gradual process of public alienation from the commercial art world.

Image: Sotheby's

The Nostalgic: Bye Bye to the Liverpool Giants

2d81158046e2bd1ec184ab8a21f835fcf668a65a.jpgLiverpool Sea Oddyssey - Girl Giant
As Liverpool marked its 10 year anniversary as a European Capital of Culture, it also said farewell to the last of the Liverpool and Wirral giants. The third and final parade in a trilogy of events beginning in 2012 drew crowds of up to 1.3 million people. As a part of his emotional farewell to the puppets, artistic director Jean-Luc Courcoult told the crowd that: ‘Liverpool is bleeding and will always bleed in our hearts. From the heart of this company I hold you in my giant arms.’

Image: CorkyWirral

The Establishment Vote: Charlotte Prodger wins the Turner Prize

This year Glasgow based artist charlotte Prodger claimed the notorious Turner Prize with her film Bridgit. The film, shot entirely on her iPhone, interweaves personal explorations of queer identity within a timeless context, and is mesmerizingly haunted by the Neolithic.

Video: Tate YouTube

The Zeitgeist: Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt at the V&A

This year the V&A held an exhibition exploring the cultural journey of video games – with mixed reviews. Taking The Guardian’s word as gospel, we feel its 5 star in the leftist rag (and 4 stars from Voice) is enough to award it a spot in this coveted list. That, and its recognition of the revolutionary potential of video games as form of artistic expression.

Video: V&A YouTube

The AI Experiment: Pierre Huyghe’s UUMWELT at the Serpentine

This innovative exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, composed with the help of neuroscientist Yukiyasu Kamitani, heralds a new chapter for the ongoing participation of technology in art. Featuring 5 free-standing LED screens, Huyghe combined technologies such as AI, fMRI with his own conceptualizations of human consciousness to generate an absorbing series of images – demonstrating the potential of the co-production of humans and machines.


The PR stunt: Banksy

The shredding of Banksy’s ‘Girl with Balloon’ at Sotheby's this October was seen by many as another of his trite responses to the rampant commercialism of the art world. A number of questions were raised regarding the spectacle – did Southeby’s know about the mechanism built into the frame? Did Banksy intend for its value to go up? Why does anybody still care about Banksy in 2018?

Video: The Guardian

The Act of Remembrance:  at the Imperial War Museum

Still taken from Mimesis: African Soldier by John Akomfrah© John Akomfrah Still taken from Mimesis: African Soldier by John Akomfrah

Marking the centenary of the end of the First World War, John Akomfrah’s multimedia installation remembers the millions of Africans and people of color who fought and took part in the war to end all wars. Projected onto three screens, the artwork combines newly created footage shot by Akomfrah with a sound score and historic footage evoking the African experience of the First World War. It’s on until April 2019.

Image: Imperial War Museum 

*Emma Snell contributed to this report*


Polly Bindman

Polly Bindman

Recent graduate and writer, interested in visual arts, culture, politics, technology. Contribute to my unimpressive twitter following: @pollybindman.

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