a steel volcano sits on a black platform in the middle of a concert hall with dramatic lighting from above

Here Are 8 of the Best Works We Saw Around the World in 2023

Writer Taylor Dafoe chooses a work in ‘Shifting Center’ for Artnet
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As another tumultuous year draws to a close, the team at Artnet News took the opportunity to look back at all the art we’ve seen since January.

As always, the busy art world calendar is filled with a seemingly endless array of gallery shows, museum exhibitions, biennials, and art fairs. But scrolling back through the countless photos and videos of paintings, sculptures, performances, and other pieces that we’ve taken over the past year, certain works stuck out in our memories, be it for their craftsmanship, their meaning, or sheer artistic virtuosity.

Here are our writers and editors’ picks for the best works of the year.

My favorite art experience of the year was “Shifting Center,” which took over the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York this fall. But because answering this question with a whole exhibition feels like cheating, I’ll go with the work of art that best exemplified the ear-and eye-opening ways the show explored psychoacoustics to talk about dislocation: Beatriz Cortez’s Ilopango, the Volcano that Left (2023).

The sculpture, a mountainous hunk of steel the artist shaped by banging it like a drum, was sailed up the Hudson River from the Storm King Art Center to Troy, then installed smack-dab in the middle of EMPAC’s central concert hall. The way it hijacks the music space, spatially and sonically, feels like colonialization. But Cortez—who was inspired by the 6th-century volcano that erupted in what is now El Salvador, her home country—has a more poetic, diasporic framework in mind.

“I became fascinated by the idea that the particles of earth from the underworld were spread all over the planet,” she said. “Indigenous peoples, even contemporary Indigenous peoples migrating right now from Central America to other parts of the world, will be stepping on the sacred particles of their own land.”

—Taylor Dafoe


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Main Image: Beatriz Cortez, Ilopango, the Volcano that Left, 2023. Pictured in Shifting Center, EMPAC / Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer, Troy, NY, 2023 (installation view). Courtesy the artist and Commonwealth and Council. Photo: Kris Qua/EMPAC.

December 22, 2023


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