The Best Art Shows of 2023: A Year of Captivating Exhibitions

From Vermeer to Emin, a look at the most compelling art exhibitions of the year

The art world has witnessed an array of remarkable exhibitions in 2023, showcasing the talent and creativity of renowned artists from different eras and genres. From the intimate scenes of Vermeer to the thought-provoking works of Tracey Emin, these exhibitions have captivated audiences around the world. In this article, we will explore the highlights of some of the best art shows of 2023, providing an insight into the diverse range of artistic expressions and the impact they have had on viewers.

Vermeer’s Intimacies at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Johannes Vermeer, a master of the Dutch Golden Age, mesmerized audiences at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam with his exhibition of quiet intimacies and domestic mysteries. The largest ever showcase of Vermeer’s work, this exhibition presented 28 of his mostly small, interior scenes and occasional street views. Despite producing only 37 known paintings over a 20-year period, Vermeer’s ability to capture the essence of everyday life continues to resonate with viewers.

Laura Poitras’s Documentary on Nan Goldin at Serpentine Galleries, London

Filmmaker Laura Poitras delves into the life and fight of artist Nan Goldin to remove the Sackler name from museums. Poitras’s poignant documentary not only sheds light on Goldin’s activism but also provides an intimate look into her work and the depth of her connection with her subjects. The film serves as a powerful reminder of the impact art can have on society and the personal stories behind the artist’s lens.

Philip Guston’s Retrospective at Tate Modern, London

Philip Guston’s major retrospective finally arrived at Tate Modern, showcasing his socially committed early work, meticulously crafted abstractions, and deceptively cartoonish later works. The exhibition explores Guston’s exploration of themes such as race, violence, and self-reflection, making it a must-see for art enthusiasts. Despite being postponed due to the murder of George Floyd, this exhibition stands as a testament to the enduring relevance of Guston’s art.

Alice Neel’s Portraits at Barbican Gallery, London

Alice Neel, a painter known for her fearless and tender portraits, takes center stage at the Barbican Gallery. Neel’s depictions of New York’s bohemia, art critics, and street life offer a unique perspective on the dynamics between the artist and her subjects. Her portraits serve as poignant appraisals of vanities and vulnerabilities, capturing the essence of the human experience with deliciously wonky brushstrokes.

Nicole Eisenman’s Exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, London

Nicole Eisenman’s exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery is a wonderfully queer sprawl of drawings, paintings, and sculptures. Eisenman’s work is characterized by social observation, sexual candor, and a medley of styles and manners. Through her art, she explores New York lesbian life, the creative process, and shifts in the political landscape. This exhibition is a testament to Eisenman’s ability to find new ways to describe the world and provoke thought.

Katy Hessel’s Best Art Shows of 2023

Katy Hessel, an art critic, highlights some of her favorite exhibitions of the year, offering a fresh perspective on the art world.

Kimeze’s Debut Solo Show at White Cube, Paris

Kimeze’s debut solo show at White Cube showcases her incredible ability to create tender scenes that straddle the line between reality and imagination. Through dazzling hues of oil pastel, Kimeze’s paintings evoke a sense of quiet power and are adorned with speckles of glowing light, adding depth and texture to her work.

Keith-Roach’s Exhibition at Ben Hunter Gallery, London

Keith-Roach, a former art historian turned set designer, presents a thought-provoking exhibition centered around relic-like basins adorned with casts of everyday objects. Her work blurs the lines between ancient and surreal, and offers a pertinent commentary on the commercialization and idealization of the female body.

Gwen John’s Intimate Portraits at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester

Gwen John’s intimate portraits of girls on the cusp of adolescence take center stage at the Pallant House Gallery. Working in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, John captured the newfound freedoms offered to women and provided insight into their private worlds. This exhibition reaffirms John’s status as a key player in modernity and showcases the power of understated paintings to make a lasting impact.

Carrie Mae Weems’s Exhibition at Barbican, London

Carrie Mae Weems’s spellbinding exhibition at the Barbican brings together her visionary work that connects the baroque with the present day. Through photography, Weems addresses urgent issues and explores the construction of power in Western civilization. Her photographs of erased signage from the Black Lives Matter protests and her self-portraits in front of Roman monuments challenge viewers to confront the complexities of history and the present.

Jonathan Jones’s Best Art Shows of 2023

Jonathan Jones, an art critic, shares his top picks for the best art shows of the year, offering a unique perspective on the exhibitions that have made an impact.

Catholic Relics and Contemporary Art at the National Gallery, London

The National Gallery in London presents an exhibition that juxtaposes Catholic relics with contemporary art, offering new ways of seeing religious art and its evolving significance in the modern world.

Rubens’s Depictions of Women at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Rubens’s baroque energy comes to life in an exhibition that explores his depictions of women. From charismatic portraits to religious theater and nude flesh, Rubens’s art inspires and liberates viewers, showcasing his mastery of capturing the female form.

Tracey Emin’s Astonishing Prints at Counter Editions, London Print Fair

Tracey Emin’s astonishing new series of nude prints, And Everything was Full of Love, captivates audiences with its gory, sexy red ink and electrifying portrayal of the female body. Emin’s prints establish her as a figurative artist of our time, leaving a lasting impression on viewers.

Joana Vasconcelos’s Wedding Cake at Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire

Joana Vasconcelos’s Wedding Cake, a soaring sculpture that combines art and architecture, offers a joyful escape from the darkness of the world. Covered in folk ceramics and inspired by Paula Rego’s paintings, this artwork symbolizes love, hope, and the celebration of life.

Mat Collishaw’s Enthralling Exhibition at Kew Gardens, London

Mat Collishaw’s exhibition at Kew Gardens explores the intersection of nature and the human mind. Through evil blooms, imitating insects, and ghostly trees, Collishaw creates a mesmerizing experience that delves into the mysteries of the natural world.


The best art shows of 2023 have provided audiences with a diverse range of artistic expressions, from the quiet intimacies of Vermeer to the thought-provoking works of Tracey Emin. These exhibitions have showcased the power of art to transcend time, evoke emotions, and challenge societal norms. Whether through intimate portraits, socially committed works, or immersive installations, these artists have left a lasting impact on viewers, reminding us of the enduring relevance of art in our lives.

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