1. El Anatsui
Royal Ontario Museum, October 2 to February 27
The ROM's Institute for Contemporary Culture scored a coup by bringing in When I Last Wrote To You About Africa, a retrospective put together by New York's Museum for African Art that includes the Ghanaian artist's early ceramics, found-object sculptures and installations and recent glittering bottle-cap "tapestries" that have received international acclaim. Anatsui's work has visual pizzazz and an anti-colonialist message, making this a savvy show that appeals to everyone.
2. Daniel Barrow
Art Gallery of York University, March 31 to June 6
Multiple overhead projectors, turntables and glass trays of water agitated by table fans made low-tech magic for Emotional Feelings. A fabulous queer sensibility's at work, using a children's-book-illustration aesthetic to both celebrate and subtly mock pop culture's obsession with emotional extremity. Barrow's Good Gets Better show at Jessica Bradley was also terrific, making him one of the most productive artists of 2010.
3. Four Directions
Evergreen Brick Works, September 26 to December 31
No. 9 Contemporary Art & the Environment's show of videos in the kiln tunnels of the Brick Works is a fantastic marriage of setting and content. Werner Herzog's film of the Kuwait oil fires from Lessons Of Darkness shows how a feature film that may not work as a whole can still provide a very effective video loop, and the responses commissioned from three Canadian women, Isabelle Hayeur, Val Klassen and Dana Claxton, gently but insistently counter Herzog's pessimistic vision.
4. David Hoffos
Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, September 10 to December 31
David Hoffos transformed MOCCA into a dark labyrinth populated by tiny dioramas and projected ghosts in his stunning Scenes From The House Dream. A monumental effort, nearly a decade in the making, resulted in picture-perfect idylls of lonesome Americana. Shoebox-sized windows opened onto chillingly familiar stagings of North American urban life: hotel rooms, suburban neighbourhoods and even a nighttime beach scene. Urban loneliness and longing never looked so compelling.
5. Shary Boyle
Art Gallery of Ontario, September 15 to December 5
The range of multi-award-winning local artist Shary Boyle was evident in Flesh And Blood, which included ceramic figurines, polymer clay sculptures, installations, drawings and paintings. An intrepid explorer of the psychosexual terrain lurking beneath Celtic folklore, animal hybrids and stereotypical femininity, Boyle more than held her own against the handful of classical paintings from the gallery's collection thrown into the show.
6. Adaptation: Between Species
Power Plant, June 19 to September 12
It was at times an overambitious slog, but the content mining the relationship between art and nature proved so varied and smartly curated that this show merited several visits. Contemporary art neo-pagans Fastwürms enchanted with their corner devoted to their cats, introduced as fierce living personages in their own right. Javier Tellez's black-and-white film pitting eight blind New Yorkers against an elephant was equally striking, as was the video by Brazilian artists Rivane Neuenschwander and Cao Guimarães, which showed carpenter ants wrestling pieces of multicoloured confetti into their tropical nest. Always intriguing and at times dazzling.
7. Terrance Houle
Art Gallery of York University, September 15 to December 5
Terrance Houle's combination of self-deprecating humour and wry social comedy made Givn'r a winning retrospective of this young artist's video and photography. With equal doses of bracing honesty and slapstick, Houle portrays himself as a man stuck in a tragicomic wrestling match between two worlds - the Western culture in which he will always feel absurdly forlorn and the aboriginal culture of his past, rife with its own contradictions and clichés.
Oakville Galleries, September 18 to November 14
The highlight of this jam-packed show of political art from Regina's Dunlop Art Gallery was William Kentridge's perception-bending anamorphic animated film What Will Come (Has Already Come). International names like Shirin Neshat, Nancy Spero, Raymond Pettibon and Jake & Dinos Chapman mixed with Canadians Rebecca Belmore, Balint Zsako, Scott Waters and others to open a window onto the urge toward conflict and bloodshed.
9. HOU CHUN-MING
IndexG, October 13 to November 21
Hong Kong art star Hou Chun-Ming was a bracing international voice at IndexG this year. With his brash, primitive and sexually loaded woodcuts on giant sheets of rice paper, he melded personal narrative, traditional Chinese mythology and a post-punk outsider art sensibility into something palpably vibrant and exciting.
10. The Storyteller
AGO, June 9 to August 29
It had way too many hours of video, but the AGO deserves credit for bringing in this political show put together by New York's Independent Curators International during the G20, an event that the local art scene largely ignored. It included The Battle Of Orgreave, a re-enactment of a Thatcher-era miners' demonstration by Britain's Jeremy Deller and Mike Figgis; Israeli Omer Fast's video about Polish extras in Shindler's List that sent up Holocaust docs; Cao Fei's Chinese factory workers acting out their dreams on the shop floor; Canadian Emanuel Licha's War Tourist series (which also appeared in Diabolique) and more.