The Observer’s Best Art, and Best Art Criticism, of 2015

From the Russian avant garde to the Yale MFA class of 1986, a dozen highlights

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) Jacqueline aux Fleurs (Jacqueline with Flowers). (©2014 Estate of Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy Pace Gallery)

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) Jacqueline aux Fleurs (Jacqueline with Flowers). (©2014 Estate of Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy Pace Gallery)

This year, thousands of art shows again took place in New York City, and a handful were either exceptionally interesting, or worth writing interestingly about, or both. Here’s a look back at some of the 2015 highlights:

David Ebony muses on the muses behind Cézanne and Picasso masterworks at the Met and Pace, respectively—and explains the curiously angular Mrs. Cezanne.

Robert Gober, Untitled, 1992, from "The Heart Is Not A Metaphor" at the Museum of Modern Art. (Courtesy the Museum of Modern Art)

Robert Gober, Untitled, 1992, from “The Heart Is Not A Metaphor” at the Museum of Modern Art. (Courtesy the Museum of Modern Art)

Walter Robinson, on the occasion of Robert Gober’s MoMA retrospective, wrote on the sexuality of the sculptor’s work and how his art became synonymous with the AIDS crisis.

Linda Yablonsky discussed the emotional power—the “grief and tenderness”—of Robert Gober at MoMA.

Bruce Nauman, Animal Pyramid, 1989. (Photo courtesy © 2015 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

Bruce Nauman, Animal Pyramid, 1989. (Photo courtesy © 2015 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

Ryan Steadman discussed the Yale MFA class of 1986—John Currin, Sean Landers, and Richard Phillips—as a way of getting into their classmate’s Lisa Yuskavage’s foray into male subjects at David Zwirner Gallery.

Alexandra Peers offered an appreciation of a single-sculpture show of Bruce Nauman at Gagosian Park Avenue.

Jesus Rafael Soto at Galerie Perrotin

Jesus Rafael Soto at Galerie Perrotin.

Ryan Steadman explored the forgotten brilliance of Jesús Rafael Soto at Perrotin.

Walter Robinson on the dark American promise of the new Whitney Museum. 

Flaming June, 1895, by Frederic Lord Leighton. (Courtesy: The Frick)

Flaming June, 1895, by Frederic Lord Leighton. (Courtesy: The Frick)

Piri Halasz reconsidered the 1895 painting by Frederic Lord Leighton, Flaming June, as “high camp and high art”   at the Frick.

Cary Loren, Mermaid and Angel (Niagara on Set), 1975/2011. (Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery)

Cary Loren, Mermaid and Angel (Niagara on Set), 1975/2011, from the exhibition “What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to Present.” (Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery)

Ryan Steadman praised the timely weirdness of the What Nerve! exhibition at Matthew Marks.

Stanley Whitney, Aura of the Sandfall, 2014. (Photo: Courtesy of Team Gallery)

Stanley Whitney, Aura of the Sandfall, 2014. (Photo: Courtesy of Team Gallery)

Piri Halasz extolled the virtues of abstract Painter Stanley Whitney at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Walter Robinson talked perceptively, even brilliantly, about how Communism coopted the brilliance of the Russian avant garde in the early 20th century, courtesy of “The Power of Pictures” show at the Jewish Museum.

Nearing 80 years, Frank Stella is about to become the Next Hot Thing. (Johannes Simon/Stringer/ Getty Images)

Frank Stella became the Next Hot Thing (again) with his Whitney Museum Show. (Johannes Simon/Stringer/ Getty Images)

David Ebony sussed out the sprawling Frank Stella show at the new Whitney Museum.

The Observer’s Best Art, and Best Art Criticism, of 2015