‘Ah’ you cry, tiredly munching on more small chocolates from tubs and loading up another cracker with some cheese. ‘How can it possibly be the end of 2017 already?’. To which we reply: we feel you. It seems mere seconds ago that we were compiling the award-winning* ‘2016 as told through the nation’s art collections’ article, searching for images that would represent the launch of Art UK, that year’s unfortunate spate of celebrity deaths and the election of President Donald Trump.

But the end of this year is, indeed, nigh. As we renew our best intentions and prepare to sally forth on the good ship 2018, let’s take a pictorial trip down memory lane and gaze back on the year we’ve completed with the shock/horror/amusement/glimmers of hope it deserves.

*did not actually win any awards

January: up the women

January was a chilly one, particularly if you were one of the millions of women around the world who took part in a march in reaction to the inauguration of one Donald J. Trump.


Protest 1971

Marjorie Hawke (1894–1979)

Royal Free Hospital

In the art world, Maria Balshaw was announced as the new director of Tate – the first ever woman in the role.

February: monarchy and Moonlight

Queen Elizabeth II became the only British monarch to have reached her Sapphire Jubilee, having been on the throne for 65 years. She surpassed the 64 years on the throne of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Coronation Preparations, Shoreditch

Coronation Preparations, Shoreditch 1953

Philip Hubert Le Bas (1925–2015)

Government Art Collection

At the end of February, Moonlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture, though confusion reigned on the night as La La Land was mistakenly announced as the winner. One of Moonlight’s stars, Mahershala Ali, made history as he became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar.


Moonlight 1840

Sebastian Pether (1790–1844)

The Box, Plymouth

March: the triggering of Article 50

Last year’s referendum was just the beginning of Brexit, and on 29th March Theresa May signed Article 50: the official declaration that we’d be leaving the EU, setting the exit date for March 2019. Tick tock.

Unfamiliar Article

Unfamiliar Article

Deborah Malcomson (b.1977)

Northern Ireland Civil Service

April: going (a bit) greener

In April, the UK spent a continuous 24 period without deriving energy from any coal-fired source, the first time it has done so since the use of fossil fuel began.

Coal Heaps*

Coal Heaps*

Philip Toft (b.1964)

National Coal Mining Museum for England

May: En Marche!

Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris 1924

Leonard Squirrell (1893–1979)

Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service: Ipswich Borough Council Collection

In the spring, France went to the polls to decide who their new president would be. After several rounds of voting, and a final choice between Emmanuel Macron and Marine le Pen, Macron won by a decisive margin and became France’s youngest-ever president.

Later in the year, Macron again increased interest in French politics by adopting Nemo, a labrador-griffin cross. Nemo lives in the Elysée Palace, greets foreign dignitaries, and sometimes pees in awkward places.

'Betty', a Black Labrador

'Betty', a Black Labrador 1911

Evelyn Blacklock (1872–1948)

National Trust, Dudmaston

June: a general election

The snap general election was called by Theresa May in April, and took place on 8th June. The exit polls predicted a hung parliament – and they were right, leading Mrs May to form an alliance with the DUP.

An Election: 3. The Polling

An Election: 3. The Polling 1754–1755

William Hogarth (1697–1764)

Sir John Soane’s Museum

July: all about Austen

This year marked 200 years since the death of Jane Austen. Events took place across the country to mark the bicentenary, and at Art UK we took a look at where we can find Jane Austen's England in art. This portrait is the only confirmed likeness of the author in existence.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen c.1810

Cassandra Austen (1773–1845)

National Portrait Gallery, London

In September, the new ten pound note, featuring Jane Austen, came in to circulation, so now we can see the author every time we spend a tenner.

July also marked 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, which was the start of the path towards full decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.


Queer 1992

Derek Jarman (1942–1994)

Manchester Art Gallery

And we won the World Cup! The women’s world cup. Of cricket. Obviously.

Girl Cricketers

Girl Cricketers 1932

Henry Stockley (1892–1982)

Salford Museum & Art Gallery

August: Big Ben stops bonging and a total eclipse of the sun

As the final chime rang out, the crowds and onlookers cheered. Big Ben’s famous bongs won’t be heard again until 2021 (apart from important occasions like Remembrance Sunday and New Years’ Eve), to protect the hearing of the workers carrying out essential repairs to the clock tower.

Big Ben and the Thames, London

Big Ben and the Thames, London 2004

Giacomo Barbarino (b.1934)

Chester Town Hall

Meanwhile, across the pond, Americans gathered to witness a total solar eclipse. As the moon moved in front of the sun it caused night to fall and temperatures to drop for a few brief moments. Animals acted strangely, the president couldn’t resist looking directly at the sun, and then – back to normality.


September: blowing in the wind

Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee and Maria: the hurricanes whose almighty powers came to bear on the USA, Puerto Rico and numerous Caribbean islands in September, making it the most energetic month for hurricanes in the Atlantic ever recorded.

Windy Landscape

Windy Landscape

William George Gillies (1898–1973)

Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture

October: an homage to Catalonia

Despite a ruling that it was illegal, Catalonians held an independence referendum. While the vote came out in favour of seceding from Spain, scenes of violence from polling stations played out across the media and disputes over the region have been ongoing after Spain’s central government stepped in to impose their rule.

Catalan Blue

Catalan Blue 1967

John McLean (1939–2019)

University of St Andrews

November: Paradise papers

Not quite as seismic a data leak as 2016’s Panama Papers, the Paradise Papers nevertheless shone a light on the tax practices of corporations and individuals alike. 13.4 million documents were leaked from the offshore firm Appleby and indicted pop stars and sports stars, monarchs and politicians.

Trouble in Paradise

Trouble in Paradise 1999

Cecily Brown (b.1969)


December: when Harry and Meghan were photographed

At the end of November, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement to the world. In December, the couple released their official engagement photos – giving royal fans something to look forward to in 2018.

The Long Engagement

The Long Engagement 1859

Arthur Hughes (1832–1915)

Birmingham Museums Trust

Good news

Among the year’s tumultuous events, there are nuggets of good news, including the location and capture of the first ‘cave squeaker’, a critically endangered series of frog, since 1962.

Composition 1 (Frog)*

Composition 1 (Frog)*

Anthony Preston Hillier (1942–2014)

Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge

And Beyonce gave the world not one, but two new babies, announced via some carefully managed Instagram posts.

Happy New Year from Art UK!

Fireworks at Queen's Festival

Fireworks at Queen's Festival

Joseph McWilliams (1938–2015)

Queen's University Belfast

Molly Tresadern, Art UK Content Creator and Marketer