Best Solo Exhibition - 2012
With canvases measuring up to 16 feet by eight feet, British artist Jenny Saville's eponymous retrospective at the Norton was literally the biggest show of the year. But what really makes Saville's art big, aside from its sheer scale, is its emotional content. Her images of haunted, fleshy, sometimes physically battered faces speak to a culture that gorges on itself even as it registers the traumas of the postmodern world. It's no surprise that her work fit in perfectly at the Royal Academy of the Arts' landmark, controversial, 1997 show, "Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection" — Saville's paintings are both sensational, as in creating a sensation, and all about sensation, as in dealing with the senses. The large-scale emotions also extend to her pencil-and-charcoal drawings, which took up two galleries in the Norton exhibition and focused mostly on her mesmerizing obsession with a famous Leonardo da Vinci cartoon of the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus, Saint Anne, and John the Baptist. Saville is only 42, so presumably there's much more to come.