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The best and the worst of art in 2015

By Martin Coomer
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Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor held hands, ceramics was on fire and clothing was optional; here's our round-up of the best and worst art had to offer throughout 2015.

Birthday suits

As much as the art world loves putting on its freakum dress, 2015 was all about stripping off. At Maureen Paley in April, legendary artist and healer AA Bronson presented himself naked and painted bright red as a kind of devilish sprite in a Fire Island forest. For her Stephen Friedman show in September, Jennifer Rubell disrobed and got into the saddle for an update of the traditional equestrian portrait – inviting viewers to go starkers to watch a video of the work in progress. No stranger to balls-out performance art, Eddie Peake didn't disappoint with a show featuring a pair of naked dancers (above) and a rollerskater in a see-through onesie at the Barbican Curve, which runs until January 10. On a scholarly note, the British Museum's spring blockbuster 'Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art' provided historical context for all this creative exposure, revealing the important distinction between the 'naked' and the 'nude' while shoving plenty of buff marble booty and antique junk in our faces.

Town planning

The annual Bold Tendencies at Peckham's multi-storey car park isn't just a must-see event, bringing almost a million visitors to Frank's rooftop bar over the years, it's also a huge money spinner for the area. So, we were dismayed to learn that Southwark Council has rejected plans by the Bold Tendencies team to turn the venue into 800 affordable artistsí studios in favour of a less artist-friendly proposal.

Clay play

The hottest art trend in 2015 involved rims, cracks and letting slippery protuberances
 grow in your hands. And We’re not just talking ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’. You couldn’t move for shows featuring conceptually augmented coil pots, raku-fired geegaws and slip cast whatnots. Hot young Brits Jesse Wine and Aaron Angell (‘Flower and Bread Knife’, below) led the way with shows at Limoncello and Studio Voltaire, respectively. Ceramics was also strongly represented by The Grantchester Pottery, Emma Hart and Salvatore Arancio at the London Open at the Whitechapel Gallery during the summer. Austrian collective Gelitin, meanwhile, conflated three of this year’s hottest trends by getting their collective tackle out and getting stuck in, quite literally, to lumps of clay for their Massimo De Carlo show in September.

The market

Was 2015 the year the fizz went out of the art market? While auction records continued to be set for the biggest names, the picture was less rosy further down the ranks – particularly for former market darlings such as US painters Lucien Smith and Parker, whose brand of banal abstract painting has been dubbed 'crapstraction' and 'zombie formalism' by an unusually sniffy art press.

Togetherness

If you weren't doing it with friends in 2015, you weren't doing it right. From Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor walking hand-in-hand with blankets through the streets of London to show solidarity with refugees, to LA multimedia star Doug Aitken calling up all his mates for his epic, month-long 'Station to Station' series of happenings at the Barbican, this was the year of conspicuous collaboration. The spirit of solidarity reached a climax in early December when, in scenes not witnessed since So Solid Crew picked up their 2002 Brit Award, community-minded collective Assemble stormed the stage of Glasgow's Tramway art centre to accept the 2015 Turner Prize. It's not about the money, the 18-strong architect gang said, which is just as well since we've worked out that they'll each walk away with £17.26.

Kidult art

We jumped into a ballpool to watch Jon Rafman's Zabludowicz Collection show and got winched high above Waterloo Bridge for Carsten Höller's Hayward Gallery extravaganza. And, frankly, we were underwhelmed. In 2016, we're all about sitting down in front of art that doesn't move.

Big birthdays

Yes, we're aware that birthdays occur every year, but 2015 has been a Hatton Garden heist's-worth of gem stone and precious metal anniversaries. Mile End trailblazer Matt's Gallery turned 30, Vauxhall's Beaconsfield celebrated 20 years of bravely ambitious programming, Tate Modern turned 15 and north London star Camden Arts Centre bathed in the golden glow of its fiftieth birthday. Congratulations!

Take a look at the best art shows of 2015.

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