The year 2021 was a weird year! It taught us never to make predictions and reinforced the truth of the old saying, "If you want to make the gods laugh, tell them your plans".
If 2020 left us feeling anxious, 2021 leaves us with the feeling that the state of heightened anxiety may become the new normal.
Of the major public art galleries in Australia, the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, must be regarded as the luckiest. Its blockbuster exhibition, Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London, managed to sneak in between lockdowns and over 200,000 people bought tickets to see the show.
Both the Art Gallery NSW and the National Gallery of Victoria had their blockbuster exhibitions sabotaged by lockdowns.
I understand that, for a while, Botticelli to Van Gogh was the London National Gallery's most visited exhibition, anywhere in the world.
The National Gallery's pioneering Know my name: Australian women artists 1900 to now exhibition (part 2) that continues until June 26, 2022, remains one of Australia's most talked about shows.
The Sarah Lucas show that is linked with the Know my name project and continues until April 2022, is provocative, confronting and popular, while the newly opened Jeffrey Smart should prove popular with an art public in love with Australian art. On balance, one would have to say that 2021 was a stellar year for the NGA despite the lockdowns.
The other public galleries in Canberra, including the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of Australia, have had a more subdued year and only in the past month has the National Museum ventured to stage its major exhibition, Ancient Greeks: Athletes, warriors and heroes.
This British Museum exhibition has been delayed by about a year and after its successful debut in Perth is likely to be an absolute hit with art audiences starved of "ancient masters" that are usually viewed abroad.
How have Canberra's commercial art galleries fared in 2021? Despite the lockdown, and counter-intuitively,, many commercial art galleries in Australia reported a slight increase in sales over 2020.
It appears that homebound workers are spending a bit more money to feather their domestic nests with art.
At Beaver Galleries there was the spectacular sell-out exhibition by eX de Medici, and standout shows by Alex Asch, Sue Lovegrove and Graeme Drendel. The Nancy Sever Gallery highlight exhibitions included works by Marie Hagerty, Cameron Haas and Kerry McInnis.
Some of the publicly funded galleries also mounted significant shows, although COVID played havoc with their programs. The Megalo Print Gallery had a sublime exhibition of the work of Roslyn Kean, while ANCA held a striking and memorable exhibition of the work of Tess Horwitz.
Canberra Museum and Gallery held a significant show of the work of Mandy Martin, who sadly passed from this life this year.
A symbolic event epitomised much of this year in the realm of the visual arts. With great anticipation I was looking forward to the exhibition of Spowers & Syme that was about to open at the Canberra Museum and Gallery.
On the day of the scheduled opening, I heard that Canberra was heading for lockdown and raced off to the gallery to see if I could catch the show before it closed before its opening.
The kind gallery staff, seeing the anguish on my face, let me in and I spent a blissful hour with the exhibition and for many months I was the exhibition's only visitor.
It was scheduled to close in Canberra before it was open to the public, but fortunately a gallery pulled out of its scheduled tour and the wonderful show is on until February 2022.
2021 has been a rough year and may the gods smile on us in 2022.