2020: The Year Ahead in Visual Art, by Susan Mansfield and Duncan Macmillan

Scotsman art critics Susan Mansfield and Duncan Macmillan select the shows they are most looking forward to in 2020
Work by Hardeep Pandhal, whose solo show at Tramway in Glasgow runs from January until MarchWork by Hardeep Pandhal, whose solo show at Tramway in Glasgow runs from January until March
Work by Hardeep Pandhal, whose solo show at Tramway in Glasgow runs from January until March

Hardeep Pandhal | Confessions of a Thug: Pakiveli, Tramway, Glasgow, 25 January until 22 March: Glasgow-based Hardeep Pandhal takes on the biggest exhibition space in Glasgow in January. Known for his streetsy style and fresh, clever approach to issues of race, heritage and identity, the artist, animator and rapper takes on the word “thug,” which originated in British India where it was the name of a religious cult. Thanks to what may have been political sensationalism on the part of the British, it took on a much wider usage, popularised by works like 19th century potboiler Confessions of a Thug by Phillip Meadows Taylor. This gives Pandhal plenty to work with, in a wide range of media. SM

Mary Quant, V&A Dundee, 4 April until 6 September and Mid-Century Modern: Art & Design from Conran to Quant: Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh, from 4 April: The V&A provides a great excuse to get out the miniskirt and shift dress in the spring with the first international retrospective (made for the V&A in London in 2019) of the work of fashion designer Mary Quant. Quant could rightly be called the mother of high street fashion, not only nailing the spirit of the 1960s youth with rising hemlines, hot pants and trousers (still revolutionary for women in those days) but for her commitment to making her designs available to everyone. Meanwhile, Dovecot’s Mid-Century Modern exhibition looks at the ground-breaking designs of the same period not only in fashion but also in furniture, textiles, lighting and ceramics. SM

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Douglas Gordon, k.364, Dundee Contemporary Arts, 11 April until 19 July: Douglas Gordon’s 55-minute film installation about two Jewish musicians travelling from Berlin to Warsaw by train gets its first public museum showing in the UK. Gordon’s multi-screen film intercuts the journey of Avri Levitan and Roi Shiloah across a desolate landscape rich in buried history with a performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major (or Kochel composition k.364) at the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall. It has been described as a subtle conversation between the immovable facts of history and the ephemeral (but enduring) beauty of music. And you get to hear a Mozart masterpiece. What’s not to like? SM

Glasgow International, various venues, Glasgow, 24 April until 10 May: Glasgow’s biennial festival of contemporary art returns this year with new funding from the Scottish Government’s Expo Fund. Director Richard Parry curates his second festival, promising a mix of international artists, grassroots projects and exhibitions by some of those who have helped shape the city’s artistic identity. Highlights include American artist Martine Syms, a survey of drawings and paintings by Glasgow artist Carol Rhodes, the utopian townscapes of Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez fresh from a show at MOMA in New York, and new work by Duncan Campbell, Sarah Forrest, Ilana Halperin (who is also at Mount Stuart this summer) and Graham Fagen. SM

Charles H Mackie: Colour and Light, City Art Centre, Edinburgh, 16 May until 11 October: Charles Hodge Mackie does not generally figure as one of the leading lights of Scottish art towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th alongside the Colourists or the Glasgow Boys. He was, however, a highly versatile and inventive artist. Through his friendships, he was also a personal link between Scottish artists and their contemporaries in France at a moment of dramatic innovation in French art with the birth of Symbolism. In Edinburgh, he was associated with Patrick Geddes and the Celtic Revival that Geddes led. Marking the centenary of his death, Charles H Mackie: Colour and Light at the City Art Centre will be the first major retrospective of this remarkable artist and will include over 50 works from public and private collections. DM

Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 23 May until 25 October: It might not be what you’d expect from a summer show at National Galleries, but Modern Two is to host the largest ever exhibition of the work of seminal stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen elevated stop-motion animation to an art form in the 1950s-1980s, working on films such as Jason and the Argonauts, Mighty Joe Young and Clash of the Titans. Showing original models and drawings from his unique archive, this is a rare chance to experience the work of a man whose name is still uttered in reverential tones, and who inspired a throng of film-makers including Steven Speilberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam. SM

Marine: Ian Hamilton Finlay, City Art Centre, Edinburgh, 23 May until 4 October: Ian Hamilton Finlay was a concrete poet, but few concrete poets were quite as visual as he was, or at least as he was working in collaboration with other artists and craftsmen and women as he always did. He explored many different themes in his art-poetry and in his famous garden at Little Sparta in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh. The pastoral tradition that goes back to Virgil and classical literature was a major inspiration to him, but he also saw our relationship with the sea as akin to the pastoral. It is still elemental, however cosy our lives might seem. Through it we are perhaps still in touch with nature in the way that the pastoral describes. Consequently, ships, boats, fishing, the tides and the stars to sail by – indeed everything to do with the sea – were constants in his art. Marine at Edinburgh City Art Centre will explore this central theme in works ranging from stone, wood and neon sculptures to tapestry, prints, postcards and booklets from his Wild Hawthorn Press. DM

Bright Star: The Art and Life of King James VI and I, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 20 June until 21 November 2020: The story of the United Kingdom began when James VI of Scotland rode south in 1603 to London to become also James I of England. A Scot taking the top job was never going to go down well in the south and a bit of that suspicion has hung around James’s reputation ever since. Unlike his unhappy son, Charles, he made it work however, no small achievement in troubled times. A major exhibition at the National Gallery will be a chance to get a bit closer to James’s real story and especially to the cultural flowering under the reign of a king who was patron of Rubens, Shakespeare, Inigo Jones, Nicholas Hilliard and many others. DM

Titian: Love, Desire, Death, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, from 9 July 2020: This exhibition will bring together the six mythological paintings that Titian painted for Philip II of Spain towards the end of his life. These pictures stand at the fountainhead of modern art. Indeed, modern painting begins with them. Nothing can compete and all the greatest painters from Rubens and Rembrandt to Cézanne and Picasso acknowledged them. Although they were painted to hang as a group, they have not been seen together for 400 years. We are familiar with Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto. The other four are Danaë, Perseus and Andromeda, Europa and Venus and Adonis. To see them together will be a unique experience. DM

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George IV: Art and Spectacle, Queen’s Gallery, Edinburgh, from 16 October 2020: When George IV visited Edinburgh in 1822, Scotland had never before seen such pomp and ceremony. As Prince Regent and then as king, he liked that sort of thing. He also had good taste, however, and both his love of spectacle and his taste are the subject of George IV Art and Spectacle which will open at the Queen’s Gallery in July. One label given him in the show is “Our most exuberant king.” Magnificence suited his lifestyle. Buildings he commissioned, and also the interiors of Windsor Castle and Brighton Pavilion, certainly demonstrate this. He was a collector too, however, both of old masters, including Rembrandt, and of the best among his contemporaries such as David Wilkie and George Stubbs. DM

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