To write about a year's art exhibitions in review is to write with experience about what you know and what you have seen. To write a preview about as yet unseen future exhibitions in Canberra next year is to write in hope and expectation.
The single biggest event on the national art calendar in Canberra in 2020 is the National Gallery of Australia's Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now exhibition (May 30 - September 13). It is an attempt to redress the gender imbalance in the display of work by Australian women artists in art institutions. The show will bring together more than 150 works by Australian women artists drawn from the gallery's own collection and supplemented by loans. The work by the usual suspects - Margaret Preston, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Destiny Deacon, Tracey Moffatt, Bonita Ely, Jill Orr and Julie Rrap - will be joined by some equally worthy but lesser-known women artists. There will also be a host of specially commissioned projects by Australian women artists, including work by Patricia Piccinini, Tjanpi Desert Weavers and Gemma Smith, who has been commissioned to paint the walls of the galleries.
With the cluster of national collecting heritage institutions in Canberra, it will be interesting to see if others will jump on board and make this into a national event to explore the creativity of women artists held in their collections or if it will be quarantined to the National Gallery.
The National Portrait Gallery will hold a new major exhibition, Love Stories - a 500-year survey of images of couples from the National Portrait Gallery in London. The London gallery is closing for renovations and this is one of its international touring exhibitions to be mounted during its three-year-long hiatus. It is promoted as an exhibition of fame and glitz with artists including Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Cecil Beaton, Annie Leibowitz, Man Ray, David Hockney and Patrick Lichfield.
The couples will include Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Yoko Ono and John Lennon, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, as well as the literary love duos such as Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Lord Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb, and Mary and Percy Shelley. It will open in June.
The Canberra Museum and Gallery is staging what could be an interesting exhibition, Habitat: Ways of Living (August 1 to November 7) that builds on the idea that Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world.
The exhibition examines images of, or alluding to, built environments and the variety of human habitats that we inhabit. Before our eyes, Canberra is rapidly being transformed from a bush capital into a barren urban wasteland, so this may prove to be a timely exhibition.
Beaver Galleries, Canberra's oldest and largest commercial art gallery, has its 2020 exhibition program cemented in place and one of the exhibitions that jumps out is a solo exhibition of the work of Peter Boggs (May 28-June 14), who is one of Australia's leading tonal painters and a champion of slow art.
His beautifully distilled uncanny images of interiors, townscapes and formal garden settings resonate with a growing audience, nationally and internationally.
The National Museum of Australia, building on the success of its British Museum collaborative exhibitions, in December will bring to Canberra Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes. I have not seen a comprehensive object checklist and have no idea if this will be an inspirational eye-opener or a highly commodified collection of eye-pleasing antiquities.
I find it humbling and inspiring that despite Canberra's modest population, its arts scene every year punches well above its weight, something that is particularly important when we have a federal government that deliberately marginalises the arts through chronic underfunding and now even by deleting its name from the list of federal departments.