LEADERS OF THE PACK / A veteran with youthful verve: Artist Of The Year

A YEAR of disappointments, leading to a fear that the large formal exhibition is in decline. At the Hayward in January 'Gravity and Grace' was a poor survey of anti-form and anti-art sculpture of two decades ago, dismal throughout. 'Paris Post-War' at the Tate, concentrating on existentialist gloom, told only a quarter of the story of French art after the Liberation. The Barbican put on 'The Sixties Art Scene in London', all very jolly but lacking real force. And then came the fiasco of the RA's 'American Art in the 20th Century' - ill-researched, unhistorical, bigoted and insensitive.

Little wonder that Old Master exhibitions looked more thoughtful and dignified. The National welcomed French paintings from Lille and there were two superb exhibitions of classical drawings, from Chatsworth at the British Museum and from the Getty Museum at the RA. We gained two new spaces, the Tate's outpost in St Ives and the Henry Moore Foundation's extension in Leeds. Museum of the year has been the National Portrait Gallery, which opened new galleries and gave us a choice exhibition of the American master Thomas Eakins.

By contrast, new art was seen in improvised circumstances. Best mixed show was East at the Norwich art school. It showed what talent there is around the country and introduced us to Pete Smith, Gabriel Weissmann, Padraig Timoney and Ben Cook, all names to watch. Peter Doig was a popular winner of the John Moores prize and I spotted future winners in Simon Callery, Jane Harris, Callum Innes and Rosa Lee. But they couldn't compete with the youthful vivacity of Prunella Clough, whose exhibition at Annely Juda has been the talk of the art world. Clough's daring, carefree pictures transform the everyday world into something not quite abstract but seemingly from another sphere. Astonishingly, Clough is in her seventies and first exhibited in 1947. Happy New Year to her, and a happy new century too.

(Photograph omitted)

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