Manuel Borja-Villel & João Fernandes

Chiefs of the radical Reina Sofia

The director of the Reina Sofía, and his deputy Fernandes, typically resist the lure of the blockbuster show – though 2018 saw a William Kentridge survey that concentrated on the South African artist’s stage work. Under the duo, the Madrid institution has a more radical intent (Fernandes was a high-profile communist activist in his youth) at a time, Borja-Villel noted this year, when capitalism risks reducing audiences to ‘consuming and obedient automata’. Consequently, alongside the 21,000-strong collection (including, in keeping with the insurrectionary rhetoric, Pablo Picasso’s Guernica), the museum boasted an eclectic programme of names whose work is not necessarily ubiquitous on the national-museum circuit. Historical surveys this year included the early-twentieth-century American cartoonist George Herriman (best known for Krazy Kat, 1913–44), Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, Spanish kinetic art pioneer Eusebio Sempere and the phenomenon of Russian Dada; on the contemporary side, the work of conceptualist Dora García, formalist Nairy Baghramian and activist Artur Barrio were also profiled in solo exhibitions.