Anthony Haden-guest's Top 10 Shows Of 2009

ANTHONY HADEN-GUEST writer, reporter and cartoonist who writes regularly for Saatchi Online’s magazine, as well as for Esquire, GQ (UK) the Guardian and Britain’s Observer Magazine


1. Pop Life, Art in a Material World, at the Tate Modern
A subversive, provocative show, filled with “tainted” work. Quite delicious! Okay, guys, now do I get my catalogue?


2. Liftoff: John McCracken’s gleaming Brave New Artworld-ready apparition, temporarily on its pad in the Messeplatz during Art Basel.


3. Lucas Samaras in the Pace space at the Venice Biennale
Woefully underseen because of the tyranny of time-based art in the various pavilions, the great loner was, as always, hallucinatory and compelling.


4. Pascale Marthine Tayou’s evocation of a Cameroon village, also at the Biennale, complete with bags bursting with cement, planks, kitchen utensils, and fetish-like figures to suggest the inhabitants, lots of video and a deafening soundtrack. Maximalism at its maxiest.


5. Marnie Weber’s ‘The Truth Speakers, the Sea of Silence’ at London’s Simon Lee Gallery. Most video is a yawn. This one is a haunting look into a yawning abyss of femaleness.


6. Vanessa Beecroft at Deitch Projects. And, speaking of femaleness, a Beecroft piece initiated by this usually terrific dealerdom. Here she was back with more unearthly delights.


7. ‘The Age of the Marvellous’ at the Holy Trinity Church, Marylebone, during Frieze week. A group of works put together by All Visual Arts – Joe La Placa and Mike Platt – which oscillated between art, science and neo-Victorian obsessiveness.


8. Vicky Wright in the Josh Lilley Gallery space at Volta, New York, in March. A young artist from the North of England, her canvases are rawly painterly and resonate with intelligence.


9. The Museum of Everything. Finally, thanks to James Brett, London has the public collection of Outsider art it deserves. It’s an appropriately GK Chesterton touch that it should be housed in a one-time dairy and recording studio on Primrose Hill.


10. Okay, now I am cheating. I wasn’t at ‘A message for you’ by Guy Bourdin at the MuBE, the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture in Sao Paulo, but they are photographs, I know Guy Bourdin’s work well and I have been studying these largely unseen images. They are thrillingly beautiful and as dangerous as fairy tales. Conjuring these out of commercial projects was photo-alchemy.

About the author

Anthony Haden-Guest is a writer, reporter and cartoonist. He has published in leading magazines in Britain and America, most recently in Esquire, the Financial Times, GQ (UK) and Britain's Observer Magazine. In 1979 he was awarded a New York Emmy for writing and narrating a documentary, The Affluent Immigrants (sometimes less politely known as Eurotrash) for PBS. His most recent books are True Colors: The Real Life of the Art World (Grove Atlantic), The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night (William Morrow & Co,) and a book of cartoons, The Chronicles of Now (The Allworth Press). His website is: You can email him directly with your comments at

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