It had to happen. Sooner or later someone had to devise an exhibition to include the 19th-century painter Augustus Egg alongside modern masters Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. "The Art Treasures of England", as they have called it - I can't help but think of it as "Freud Egg and Bacon" - gathers some 450 artworks from 100 museums around the country in celebration of the richness of our regional collections and ought to be the first unmissable show of the year. It opens at the Royal Academy (0171-300 8000) at the end of this month and runs through to the middle of April.
Meanwhile, there's plenty more Bacon at the Hayward Gallery (0171-921 0600) in February and March in the first major showing there of his work for 10 years while at the Tate Gallery (0171-887 8000) from February to May an exhibition devoted to the altogether gentler pleasures of Pierre Bonnard will include several amazing pictures of his wife Marthe in the bath.
1998 is the centenary of Henry Moore's birth, so we can expect a host of anniversary exhibitions around the country. One of the simpler and more intriguing tributes is at the National Gallery (0171-747 2885) in April where the sculptures by Moore will be placed alongside a selection of his favourite works from the National Collection. Come the summer the Tate swaps the high-coloured brilliance of Bonnard for that of Patrick Heron. He's 78 this year and as time rolls by he looks like one of the major British artists of the last 50 years.
On a rather different note, if, like me, you missed the once-in-a-lifetime Vermeer exhibition a couple of years ago, there is a small consolation at Dulwich Picture Gallery (0181-693 5254) in August and September in the shape of a Pieter de Hooch exhibition, apparently the first ever devoted to this subtle second master of the 17th century.
Other highlights of the autumn include a show of new work by Will Maclean at Art First (0171-734 0386) in October and back at the Tate, an exhibition of the great late 19th-century stylist John Singer Sargent runs from November into January 1999. It looks as if we're in for a good year.