Five art exhibitions you must see this year

Art lovers, take note, 2010 is shaping up to be a great year for exhibitions. Here are five of the best, but there are plenty more than these!

It’s hard to beat Japanese art for sheer naturalistic beauty, and the Tokyo National Museum has an extensive collection of the best. See the work of one of the great Japanese masters in Hasegawa Tohaku: 400th Memorial Retrospective. This painter, who died in 1610, specialized in nature and Buddhist subjects, and you can see an example of his work in this post. The delicacy and ethereal quality of Japanese landscapes always gives me goosebumps. The exhibition runs from February 23 to March 22.

Spain’s famous Museo Nacional del Prado is hosting The Art of Power: Arms, Armour and Paintings from the Spanish Court. This is a collection of weapons and armor from Spain’s Golden Age, along with paintings by important Spanish artists emphasizing Spain’s military might at a time when the country ruled most of the New World. Many of the suits or armor were the personal property of important kings such as Philip II. The show will be on from March 8 to May 16.

From March 4-June 6 the British Museum will have Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures from West Africa. Ife was an important kingdom from the 12th to the 15th centuries in what is now Nigeria. Its artists specialized in creating human sculptures in brass, terracotta, and stone. I caught this when it was in Madrid last year and it was amazed at the level of artistic achievement in a civilization I’m ashamed to say I knew almost nothing about. The thing that most impressed me was how lifelike the sculptures were. I felt like I was staring into the faces of priests and kings who have been dead for five hundred years. My kid preferred the statue of the crocodile god.Paris
For something a bit more grim, go to the Musée d’Orsay between March 15 and June 27 for Crime and Punishment: 1791-1981. The dates refer to the year of the first call in France to abolish the death penalty and the year it was actually abolished. The exhibition is a series of paintings with crime as their theme, by famous artists such as Picasso, Goya, and Magritte. There are also paintings of capital punishment, showing that crime does not pay, at least some of the time. This show is disturbing enough that it comes with a warning label, a bit like the Eros exhibit of ancient erotic art in Athens, which you can still catch until April 5.

New York City
If you want to see something right now, The Museum of Modern Art is showcasing the work of director Tim Burton until April 26. It’s a collection of more than seven hundred drawings, storyboards, puppets, and other items from his films. There’s also a large collection of his personal artwork that even most of his fans have never seen. They’re showing his movies too!