Jonathan Jones’s top 10 art shows of 2014

From Anselm Kiefer’s rotting sunflowers to a rollicking super-show all over Scotland, via Rembrandt, Matisse, Andy Warhol and Egon Schiele … it was an eye-opening year.

From the rusty submarines hanging in a vitrine in the courtyard to bookworks in which photographs and black paint created eerie provocative assemblages, Anselm Kiefer’s retrospective rocked me. In a year of eye-opening exhibitions of old and modern masters, it was something else to encounter a living giant. Like a novel by Thomas Pynchon or a building by Frank Gehry, the paintings of Kiefer make me feel that our time is truly creative. He is at once remarkably serious and riotously pleasurable.

I find him stupendous. When he started nosing in the muck of history, he was forcing Germans to face their own past. That battle may be won now. Today, he makes us all see that no great art can be made without memory and history. Kiefer stands on the blood-soaked soil of Europe and makes something grow in it. A giant sunflower, rotting yet majestic. It is the soul of our troubled continent.


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