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Potter power, Banksy for sale, the US embassy and critics' picks of 2017 – the week in art

Detail of a painting of Professor Dumbledore by Jim Kay, part of the British Library’s Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition.
Detail of a painting of Professor Dumbledore by Jim Kay, part of the British Library’s Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition. Photograph: Niklas Halle'N/AFP/Getty Images

Exhibition of the week

Harry Potter: A History of Magic
This is a perfect festive treat that not only opens (gothic) windows on how Hogwarts was dreamt up but is also a richly illustrated exploration of the supernatural in art and culture, from an ancient Roman text including the word abracadabra to Joseph Wright of Derby’s painting The Alchymist.
British Library, London, until 28 February.

Also showing

A scary and fascinating journey through some of nature’s most dangerous evolutionary branches, from cobras and kraits to spiders and Britain’s very own weever fish. Better than a science kit from Santa.
Natural History Museum, London, until 13 May.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year
Follow the magi to this exhibition of outstanding astrophotography by scientific artists of all ages.
Royal Observatory, London, until 22 July.

Peter Doig
New paintings by the modern master so acclaimed he can afford to open an exhibition when everyone is distracted by the festive season.
Michael Werner Gallery, London, 19 December to 17 February.

Waqas Khan
Don’t miss this magical mystery tour through drawings whose waves of suggestiveness open up realms measureless to man.
Manchester Art Gallery, until 25 February.

Masterpiece of the week

Rembrandt, Pupil of (1606 - 1669) The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1646

The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1646, by pupil of Rembrandt
This painting is credited to one of Rembrandt’s pupils but it is inspired by the master’s own version of this same scene from the Christmas story. Anyway, there is no mistaking its emulation of Rembrandt’s shadowy style. There’s something achingly poignant and evocative about the way the wooden beams of the stable are suspended in gloom while golden light emanates from baby Jesus. The shepherds, having put down a lantern whose light pales by comparison with the revelatory light of Christ, kneel before the miraculous child. The use of darkness and illumination to dramatise the magic of Christmas was a longstanding technique of north European artists such as Geertgen tot Sint Jans, whose 15th-century Nativity at Night is another winter wonder worth checking out at the National Gallery. The Rembrandtesque softness and soulful simplicity of this painting make it the visual equivalent of a Christmas carol echoing through a snowy night.
National Gallery, London.

Image of the week

New US Embassy, London, by Philadelphia architecture firm Kieran Timberlake

New US Embassy, London, by Philadelphia architecture firm Kieran Timberlake
This week US ambassador Woody Johnson gave the first tour of the $1bn (£750m) glass citadel in Nine Elms, south-west London, that aims to be a fortress without walls. The building will have its grand opening in January.

What we learned this week

On the first day of Christmas, Baron Willem van Dedem gave the National Gallery four master paintings

One church’s Christmas bauble is a plea to remember refugees

#MeToo is dominating Art Basel Miami Beach

Navid Kermani sees warped beauty in bad Christian art

From Bangladesh to Brazil, the best agency photographers are celebrated by the Guardian

Museums can get family-friendly right sometimes

Commerce is an art form in Nigeria’s Balogun market

Wolfgang Tillmans was Adrian Searle’s number one art show of 2017

… while my take on the year picked Cézanne Portraits

A social housing renaissance topped Oliver Wainwright’s best architecture of the year

… and Sean O’Hagan focused on 2017’s best photography shows

Observer critics picked their best art of the year, too

Prince Philip has a new portrait

Brutalism is falling down

Iggy Pop makes a fine model

There’s an award for comedy wildlife photography

Gordon Parks is a big influence on Kendrick Lamar

The Wellcome bought a picture of a bearded lady

France is one big facade to Zacharie Gaudrillot-Roy

Lyon has let in the light

The Catalan city of Lleida had disputed artworks seized

Banksy is going to auction

US-Mexico border markers are potent symbols

Minor White chronicled an America that has faded from memory

Qatari artists are on show in Berlin

Azzedine Alaïa is putting his designs on show

Urban photographers turn their beady eyes on buildings

The British Museum’s south Asian sculptures can be seen anew

We put art gallery restaurants on a pedestal

Get involved

Our A-Z of Art series continues – share your art with the theme Z is for zero. And check out the entries we selected for the theme Y is for yearning.

Don’t forget

To follow us on Twitter: @GdnArtandDesign.

This article titled "Potter power, Banksy for sale, the US embassy and critics' picks of 2017 – the week in art" was written by Jonathan Jones, for on Friday 15 December 2017 01.01pm

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