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The year seemed normal enough when it started, with the typical slate of major openings in January and February and a laundry list of more big things for the year ahead. But who could have imagined a year like this? Over many months of pandemic disruption, museums closed, re-opened, and some closed again this month, pitching in to stanch the rising second wave we were all warned about. Before and in-between, they gave us what we needed: Joy, relief, and reflective moments to consider a world seemingly transformed in a flash — but one that was really festering with discontent all along. In no particular order, my favorites of 2020 were:

Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip Hop Generation. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Tschabalala Self. Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

J.M.W. Turner: Watercolors from the Tate. Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, Conn.

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem

Panel 10 from Jacob Lawrence's "American Struggle" series. This one is titled: "We crossed the River at McKonkey's Ferry 9 miles above Trenton . . . the night was excessively severe . . . which the men bore without the least murmur . . . -Tench Tilghman, 27 December 1776, 1954."
Panel 10 from Jacob Lawrence's "American Struggle" series. This one is titled: "We crossed the River at McKonkey's Ferry 9 miles above Trenton . . . the night was excessively severe . . . which the men bore without the least murmur . . . -Tench Tilghman, 27 December 1776, 1954."© The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Walls Turned Sideways: Artists Confront the Justice System. Tufts University Art Galleries, Medford

Norman Rockwell: Murder in Mississippi. Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge

Blane de St. Croix: How to Move a Landscape. Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams

From Blane de St. Croix's "How to Move a Landscape" at Mass MoCA.
From Blane de St. Croix's "How to Move a Landscape" at Mass MoCA.Kaelan Burkett

Reckoning with ‘The Incident:’ John Wilson’s Studies for a Lynching Mural. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Adam Pendleton: Elements of Me. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

Wendy Red Star: Apsáalooke: Children of the Large-beaked Bird. Mass MoCA, North Adams


Murray Whyte can be reached at murray.whyte@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheMurrayWhyte.