The Best Art Shows of 2010

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From David Hockney’s iPad drawings of freshly cut flowers to Szabolcs Veres’ nightmarish canvases of grotesque characters, 2010 saw established and emerging artists utilizing new technologies and ancient means to express their inner realms and comment on the ever-changing world around them. Takashi Murakami transformed the Château of Versailles into a manga-inspired fantasyland; Ryan McGinley shot thousands of pictures of youthful nudes on seamless paper; and Edward Burtynsky documented the BP oil spill from an aerial point of view to reveal both the horror and beauty of manmade disasters. After the jump, click through to learn more about these exhibitions, as well as shows by Catherine Opie, Erik Parker, Pieter Hugo, and others that complete our top ten art picks of the year.

Murakami at Château de Versailles

Takashi Murakami, Flower Matango, 2001-2006. Fiberglass, iron, oil paint and acrylic, 315 x 204.7 x 263 cm / 10.33 x 6.7 x 8.63 feet ©2001-2006 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Cedric Delsaux – The Hall of Mirrors/Château de Versailles

Following on the heels of celebrated exhibitions by Jeff Koons and Xavier Veilhan, Japanese Pop artist Takashi Murakami took the Château of Versailles by storm with a show of manga-inspired sculptures earlier this year. Grandiose in scope and scale and seductive in the masterful use of materials, Murakami’s comical cast of characters was perfectly matched with the rooms and gardens of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette’s ornate palace.

Catherine Opie at Gladstone Gallery

Catherine Opie, Jenny (Bed), 2009. Chromogenic print, 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm). © Catherine Opie, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York

Last spring at New York’s Barbara Gladstone Gallery Catherine Opie delved into her archive of unprinted black-and-white images of girlfriends to uncover portraits that complemented her recent color photographs of butch-dykes, both famous and unknown. Shot from the heart, Opie’s powerful images include Madonna and Angelina Jolie’s ex-girlfriend Jenny Shimizu in black leather boots on a white bed; sultry singer k.d. lang with a guitar strung over her shoulder on a country road; author Eileen Myles sitting atop a stool in a plaid shirt; The L Word‘s Katherine Moennig blowing smoke rings; and Le Tigre’s JD Samson sporting a stache.

David Hockney at at the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent

David Hockney, iPad drawing © David Hockney

Pop artist David Hockney’s use of the iPhone and iPad to make drawings of flowers and sunrises that he shares with his pals has been widely publicized over the past two years, but our friends at ARTINFO.com recently reported that Hockney’s whimsical works can now be seen in a Paris exhibition, titled Fleurs Fraîches (Fresh Flowers). “The British artist achieves stunning effects of texture and light on the iPad,” writes AI’s Grégory Picard about the show. “The iPhone images, while less detailed and more stylized, also present intriguing explorations of color and line.”

Ryan McGinley at Team Gallery

Ryan McGinley, Eduardo, 2010. Gelatin silver print, 18 x 12 inches, Edition of three. Courtesy Team Gallery and the artist

For his show at New York’s Team Gallery, Ryan McGinley shifted gears from his last solo outing in London, where he exhibited spectacular color photographs of naked youths in underground caves across America, to an equally compelling new series of black-and-white photographs of bold young souls, shot nude in his studio. Capturing every move his diverse mix of models made on stark, seamless paper, McGinley chose the best shot from thousands of poses to represent each expressive sitter.

Pieter Hugo at Yossi Milo Gallery

Pieter Hugo, Rose Njoku, Enugu, Nigeria, 2008, from the series Nollywood. Digital C-Print, © Pieter Hugo, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

The Nigerian film industry, aka Nollywood, is the second-largest movie biz in the world, with 500 to 1,000 films going straight-to-video and a nearly $250 million yearly gross. Film production in the African nation, which also boasts a lively music scene, trails India’s Bollywood yet exceeds America’s Hollywood. South African photographer Pieter Hugo recently turned his lens on its actors, portraying typical but haunting Nollywood characters in the Southern Nigerian film production centers of Enugu and Asaba.

Asger Carlsen at V1 Gallery

Asger Carlsen, Wrong ©2010

Does Asger Carlsen‘s camera capture a hallucinatory dimension or is he toying with us? The Danish-born, New York-based photographer has a twisted view of the world, which he exhibited at Stockholm’s V1 Gallery this spring, and shares in his new book, Wrong. Recently released by Morel, the savvy British publisher that previously put out books by Ryan McGinley, Ed Templeton, and Stella Vine, Wrong offers a surreal selection of Carlsen’s seamlessly doctored images. Through the artist’s digital manipulation, ostriches become part human, people sport stick legs, and dogs attack funky sculptures.

Erik Parker at Faurschou CPH

Erik Parker, Adapt, 2009, Acrylic on canvas, 198 x 167 cm. Courtesy Faurschou CPH

A visionary painter inspired by underground comics, graffiti, hip-hop, noise music, and conspiracy theories, as well as the art of Picasso, Bacon, and Basquiat, Erik Parker makes portraits of fantastical characters that are frightening in physical appearance and visually compelling in color and form. Biomorphic and surreal, Parker’s canvases both enchant and repulse. They mix chaos and order, while reflecting the deep inner thoughts of an artist who never really stops thinking — especially not while painting.

Edward Burtynsky at Nicholas Metivier Gallery

Edward Burtynsky, Oil Spill #5, Q4000 Drilling Platform, May 12, 2010, chromogenic print, Courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto, and Hasted Kraeutler, New York

Photographer Edward Burtynsky knows a lot about oil and our uncontrollable dependency on it. The 2005 TED prizewinner traveled the world for more than a decade photographing polluted oil fields, crisscrossing highways, manufacturers’ lots overflowing with new cars, and wastelands of discarded tires and junked vehicles. Edward Burtynsky: Oil, a traveling exhibition that documents the effects of oil on our lives was on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC earlier this year, and opened at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Canada in September. Adding to this body of work, Burtynsky journeyed to the Gulf of Mexico in May to capture amazing aerial views of the BP oil spill as it seeped into our lives.

Szabolcs Veres at Spencer Brownstone Gallery

Szabolcs Veres, Porthunt 3, 2009. Oil on canvas, 47.24 x 55.12 inches / 120 x 140 cm. Courtesy Spencer Brownstone Gallery, New York

Szabolcs Veres’ canvases are ridiculously grotesque — and that’s what makes them so fascinating. The 27-year-old Transylvanian artist, whose work was on view at New York’s Spencer Brownstone Gallery earlier this year, turns the genre of portraiture on its head with wild, expressionistic, and monstrous works. Hundreds of vibrant colors and layers of luscious brushstrokes come together to compose horrific beasts that look like they just crawled out of a warm, wet grave. Mixing elements of animals, humans, and murky landscapes, Veres constructs a nightmarish vision of humanity that’s truly sublime.

Cedric Delsaux at Galerie ACTE 2

Cedric Delsaux, Dark Lens, Dubai. Courtesy Galerie ACTE 2, Paris

Using his own pictures of cityscapes as the backgrounds for sci-fi fantasies, French photographer Cedric Delsaux digitally inserts Star Wars film characters into his urban realms. The artist’s Dark Lens series started out with his views of warehouses, harbors, and industrial spaces in the suburbs of Paris. Finding the pictures too ordinary, Delsaux added Darth Vader, R2-D2, Jabba the Hutt, and other Star Wars figures and vehicles to the settings and presto: they were suddenly fantastic! On view at Galerie ACTE 2 in Paris through January 2.