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Art in 2013 - the year of the blockbuster

The exhibitions to look out for this year.

After 2012’s artstravaganza (was its official name the Cultural Olympiad or the Twenty Twelve parody? I was never sure), you might expect an art hangover in 2013, but there are bounteous riches to tempt you outside.

At the end of January, the Royal Academy mounts “Manet: Portraying Life”, the first major retrospective of the master French Impressionist’s portraits alone. It brings together works from across the world, including celebrated pictures of his wife, Proust and Zola, and Manet’s moody yet lively canvases of characters in the Tuileries and on the streets of Paris will temporarily transport you (by steam train) from the London gloom.

Along with Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein is one of the most parodied pop artists: his instantly recognisable imagery co-opted by a million admen and greetings cards makers – which can all add to a feeling of superficiality. That’s a shame because, though camp and – literally – comic, Lichtenstein is not merely kitsch. Tate Modern’s extensive reassessment of his paintings and sculpture (opens 21 February) shows how he pioneered a style of painting, using signature cartoony dots to examine mass-media culture in paintings such as Whaam!. Yet you’ll also see lesser-known and rarely shown work, such as his later female nudes, landscapes, and ceramic and brass sculpture.

Also in February in London, the National Portrait Gallery has “Man Ray Portraits”, positioning him at the centre of all things Dadaist and surrealist. His revolutionary solarising technique renders faces of subjects such as Lee Miller and Picasso ethereal and painterly; they are also a record of many of the best-known faces of the early 20th century.

If this is all a bit blockbustery, visit the Henry Moore Foundation’s “Moore and Rodin: Giants of Modern Sculpture” (opens 28 March) at Perry Green. It’s the first time another artist has been displayed at Moore’s former home and shows the profound debt he owed to the older sculptural master, with many great pieces from Paris on display.

Meanwhile, Michael Landy (of destroying all his possessions fame) will bring his “refuse” art to the National Gallery in London in “Saints Alive” (opens 23 May). Using old junk machinery he will re-create some of the gallery’s paintings of saints in kinetic 3D form. Finally, “Artists Rooms” continues to circulate around the country – a fantastic way to see the likes of Ed Ruscha, Louise Bourgeois, Martin Creed and Diane Arbus.

Thomas Calvocoressi is a sub editor at the New Statesman and writes about visual arts for the magazine.

This article first appeared in the 07 January 2013 issue of the New Statesman, 2013: the year the cuts finally bite