Get the new year off to an angry start with this exhibition about art, popular culture and protest. Peter Kennard’s classic CND photomontages of the 1980s and a raw, intimate recording of The Internationale by Susan Philipsz are among the political artworks in a survey of how art is inspired by dissent, resistance and rebellion. Yet can protest art really change anything? The most pungent political art of modern times includes Picasso’s Guernica and John Heartfield’s anti-Nazi photomontages, but neither stopped Hitler.
• 6 January-15 April, Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Britain’s most political and most mystical artist saw himself as a radical prophet crying out against war, poverty and enslavement. Blake’s passion for liberty and human fulfilment blazes in his illuminated books. He spent some of his most introspective years at a cottage in Felpham, Sussex, and this exhibition explores how that part of England infuses his vision of Albion, in which the whole of history plays itself out amid stone circles and village greens.
• 13 January-25 March, Petworth House, West Sussex.
Italy at the start of the 20th century was an old country desperately seeking a future. This made it one of the most fascinating laboratories of modernist art, and this exhibition lent from the Emilio and Maria Jesi collection at Milan’s Brera Art Gallery is packed with works by such giants as Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico. The energy and aggression of futurism collides with the melancholy of De Chirico’s empty piazzas.
• 24 January-8 April, Estorick Collection, London.
The only British king to provoke a revolution and get his head chopped off was also our only truly imaginative royal art collector. This exhibition sets out to reunite art treasures that were sold by the Commonwealth after the execution of Charles I in 1649. If it works, it should be stupendous, for Charles owned Leonardo da Vinci’s John the Baptist and Caravaggio’s Death of the Virgin among other drop-dead masterpieces that are today spread through Europe’s museums.
• 27 January-15 April, Royal Academy, London.
The 1959 Italian pop hit Il Cielo in Una Stanza is the raw material for this Icelandic artist’s latest surreal experiment on the borders of theatre and art. Originally performed by Mina, The Sky in a Room – as it translates into English – is a fragile, nostalgic gem that is here played continually for five hours a day, by a team of alternating musicians, on an 18th-century organ made for the wealthy Welsh arts patron Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn. A music lost in time.
• 3 February-11 March, National Museum, Cardiff.
TS Eliot did crucial work on his great poem The Waste Land while staying in Margate. Some might say partially inspiring the bleakest literary work of the 20th century is nothing to boast about, but it’s a good excuse for this intriguing survey of Eliot and art. The fractured aesthetic of The Waste Land owes something to Wyndham Lewis and the vorticists with whom Eliot was familiar, yet it also anticipates surrealism. When you read it, the images that come to mind can range from Magritte’s painting The Menaced Assassin to the dusty landscapes of Salvador Dalí and Yves Tanguy.
• 3 February-7 May, Turner Contemporary, Margate.
British writing in the early 20th century was a lot more inspired than British art. Virginia Woolf is clearly one of the great pioneers of modernist fiction, while artists of her Bloomsbury circle pale beside the European revolutionaries of their time. Perhaps that is why it is Woolf, rather than her painter sister Vanessa Bell, is the subject of this Tate show promising ambitious feminist perspectives on literature, art and modern history. You can also see the lighthouse that inspired To the Lighthouse off nearby Godrevy Beach.
• 10 February-29 April, Tate St Ives.
This retrospective of Dion’s archeological and environmentalist installations showcases a tasteful and intellectual answer to Damien Hirst’s art of collecting. Dion explores rainforests and organises digs to gather arrays of objects that he displays in cases or rooms that pay homage to the cabinets of curiosity created by Renaissance princes. The results of a mudlarking experiment on the bank of the Thames and an enquiry into the idea of the surrealist object are among the wonders here.
• 14 February-13 May, Whitechapel Gallery, London.
Many pioneers of modernism were banned by National Socialism as makers of “degenerate art”, but not many were themselves Nazis. Nolde was the exception. He had to endure Hitler’s condemnation of expressionist art like his, even though he had supported the Nazi party since the 1920s and saw his style as Aryan. His paintings are rightly admired now in spite of his vicious beliefs. Fierce and lurid, they see the sky, sea and sunflowers through delirious eyes drugged by a vision of the north.
• 14 February-10 June, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.
The frail and suffering human figure was British art’s most powerful theme in the middle of the 20th century. In the wake of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, paintings of people reduced to a fleshy essence of solitude, fear and survival made the art of Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach truly serious. At a time when abstraction ruled elsewhere, the “conservatism” of British painting gave it unique human immediacy. This could be a mighty exhibition.
• 28 February-27 August, Tate Britain, London.
The paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo can be hard to take seriously, let alone love. This 17th-century Spanish artist specialised in soft-edged religious tear-jerkers and lachrymose portraits of street children that look, today, sentimental rather than radical. Yet when he looked at himself in the mirror, he suddenly dropped all the greasy-lens stuff and pictured himself with metaphysical gravity. This may be a comeback for an artist who fell out of fashion more than a century ago.
• 28 February-21 May, National Gallery, London.
Two American artists fascinated by technology hold simultaneous shows at the Serpentine’s two galleries. For Sondra Perry, the digital age offers new ways to see black American lives and history. Her videos and performances show how technology shapes identity and reclaims it as a tool of liberation. Ian Cheng creates gaming scenarios inspired by nature. There’s an optimism about these artists, who look to the science-based future at a time when American politics is governed by backwards-looking irrationality.
• 6 March-3 June, Serpentine Gallery, London.
What a thrill – Picasso at his mightiest and most stunningly imaginative rocks Tate Modern in a dazzling collection of works from just one explosive year. The best way to see Picasso’s creativity is up close and from day to day, which is why this collaboration with the Musée Picasso in Paris is a must. It lets you see Picasso’s changing moods and impulses in works he dated so they can be “read” like a diary. His passion for Marie-Thérèse Walter and unhappy marriage to Olga Picasso dominate. In France, the show is subtitled Année Erotique, so be warned.
• 8 March-9 September, Tate Modern, London.
Since the late 1960s this pioneering New Yorker has mixed up media, played with gender and puzzled over identity. Some of her earliest works use mirrors to frame the simple question of who we are. By the early 1970s, she started using a video camera, one of the first artists ever to do so, to capture her performances. Works like her 1976 installation The Juniper Tree, in which a Japanese kimono, silk paintings, mirrors and video come together in a sinister fairytale, create rich, unsettling atmospheres.
• 14 March-5 August, Tate Modern, London.
Poetry and soulfulness fill the art of Tacita Dean, whatever form it happens to take. From big bold drawings to even bigger photo-based pictorial works, from filmed portraits to romantic quests for lost sailors, she is one of the most imaginative and intelligent artists around. This remarkable event sees her take on three of art’s oldest genres – the portrait, landscape and still life – across three major institutions in a way that shows how everything changes, yet stays the same. A sublime vision.
• 15 March-28 May, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, London; dates tbc, Royal Academy, London.
Pioneering performance and video legend Joan Jonas joins Turner winner Mark Leckey in this annual exhibition – or is it a festival? – of live art. Installations by Jonas can be seen all day in the atmospheric subterranean setting of The Tanks, along with a piece by Jumana Emil Abboud based on Palestinian folktales. Evening events, inspired by the work of Jonas, include performances by Sylvia Palacios Whitman and Jason Moran. It’s all happening, here and now.
• 16-25 March, Tate Modern, London.
“I saw the figure 5 in gold,” wrote the poet William Carlos Williams in a vision of a fire engine hurtling through a New York street with its glittering numeral against its red body. Charles Demuth visualised this mighty modernist image in one of the classic American paintings making a rare transatlantic journey for this exciting exhibition. Abstract urban nocturnes by Georgia O’Keeffe, the industrial art of Charles Sheeler, the alienation of Edward Hopper – welcome to the Jazz Age.
• 23 March-22 July, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Legendary punk photomontagist Linder Sterling has recently been the first resident artist at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. It may sound an unlikely combination, but she has been sounding out its spirits and seeking the skeletons in its ornately carved closets. The results inform this exhibition, which is partly a retrospective of her surrealistic images since the 1970s, when they first appeared as record covers for the Buzzcocks and others, and partly a curated show in which she explores her influences.
• 24 March-17 June, Nottingham Contemporary.
When you think of the art of Claude Monet, you may not immediately connect it with architecture – but think again. The great facade of Rouen cathedral with its knobbly carvings and dark glass swims into view like a building in a dream in his series of paintings of this medieval marvel. The skyline of Venice similarly hangs in an ether of light in the paintings he did there. For Monet, these old buildings are ghostly shadows and silhouettes that seem to embody time itself.
• 9 April-29 July, National Gallery, London.
The human body was reinvented by Rodin as a poetic arrangement of expressive, loosely connected surfaces. He was attacked by contemporaries for the apparent chaos and anatomical emptiness of sculptures like his Monument to Balzac that seem to possess no inner solidity. What had happened to the tradition of anatomical accuracy that went back the nude statues of ancient Greece? Yet this exhibition argues that Rodin was entranced by Greek art and revered the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum. It is an insight into the ancient soul of the first modern sculptor.
• 26 April-29 July, British Museum, London.