Themes surrounding light as sensory deception, punk values, pop art’s mass-production and the proliferation of the digital aesthetic in art dictated the art landscape in 2013.
An increased focus on light and its potential to alter our sensory perceptions of space, time and colour has catapulted American artist James Turrell to the top of the art influencers list in 2013. His large-scale exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York (June to September 2013) and the Hayward Gallery’s blockbuster Light Show in London (January to May 2013) featured immersive environments, disorientating artworks and serene, light-filled spaces.
This growing fascination with light and its transformative qualities is driving consumer tastes. See Light Show, Catching the Light, and Play of Light for more on how this is influencing the pattern and material qualities of everything from large interior spaces to small decorative objects.
The punk era was revisited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. While the success and authenticity of the Punk: Chaos to Couture (May to August 2013) was debateable, its influence on fashion, advertising and graphics in 2013 cannot be overlooked.
In the UK, our celebration of punk came in the form of a large-scale Victoria & Albert museum exhibition dedicated to British artist and musician David Bowie. David Bowie Is (March to August 2013) featured a staggering collection of the star’s avant-garde costumes, which echoed the punk aesthetic. See Punk, Revisited for more.
Pop art also had its time in the spotlight, with two major reviews of the 1960s movement in London. The Barbican’s Pop Art Design exhibition in London (October 2013 to February 2014) showcases the exchange between artists and designers in the pop age. British Went Pop! British Pop Art: The Early Years (October to November 2013) was held at Christie’s auction house in London, exploring Britain’s contribution to the scene.
Digital art became more of a viable and bankable art form in 2013 when Phillips auction house in London teamed up with micro-blogging site Tumblr for the first ever online and live auction of digital art. For more, see Tumblr Curates Digital Artists.
Work in this digital aesthetic, which features pixels, rifs, glitches and raw CMYK colour palettes, influenced design throughout the year – see Digital Chromatics and Engineered. As the analogue and digital worlds begin to blur, a new visual direction we called Synthetic Aesthetics – defined by a mash-up of web-based imagery, collaboration, reappropriation and subversion – will shape design to come.