The vaunted, long-forgotten era of the blockbuster exhibition made a return in2023. It’s not every year, after all, that 28 Vermeers are displayed in one place, nor is it commonplace for Manet’s “Olympia” to be sent on loan from Paris to New York.
Both happened this year, and both shows were unforgettable in the very best ways. But other exhibitions achieved greatness by coming at their subjects from more oblique and modest angles: shows devoted to works on paper by Georgia O’Keeffe and Ruth Asawa, for instance, and one dedicated to the landscapes of Edvard Munch. Both kinds of exhibition excited critics and public alike. Here are our picks for the year’s best.
10. ‘Van Gogh and the Avant-Garde: The Modern Landscape’
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How many Van Gogh shows have been staged in my lifetime? Too many. But “Van Gogh and the Avant-Garde: The Modern Landscape” at the Art Institute of Chicago eased off the usual romanticized narratives, placing the Dutchman in the context of his fellow avant-garde painters before his storied move to the South of France.
The show displayed dozens of paintings made in Asnières, on the outskirts of Paris, not just by Van Gogh but also by fellow Post-Impressionists Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Émile Bernard and Charles Angrand. It changed forever my sense of how Van Gogh became Van Gogh. Better yet, it introduced me to the brilliance of the little known Angrand. — Sebastian Smee