Happy New Year and a happy new year of art! With 2015 just a week in and energies running high, I have been mulling over information about many great art exhibitions opening in the next few months around the world and assembling my fantasy list for the first half of the year. In years past, I have posted lists that try to cover the whole year (see 2011, 2012 and 2014), but I am going to focus in on the spring and summer and add another list later in the year. Ranking them is always difficult and subjective, so here in no particular order for your consideration and enjoyment are my personal selections. Enjoy and happy planning!
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver: March 27-January 24, 2016
As with lists past, I like to start in my own backyard in Vancouver. As many in the art world recognize, the Vancouver Art Gallery has worked very hard to raise the cultural profile of the city through dynamic visual arts programming and an approach to showcasing and curating shows that feature a mix of local and international artists. For the past several years, the VAG has lobbied for a new and larger space for the existing gallery and the winning design for the new building by the internationally renowned architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron will form the central focus and launching off point for this exhibition.
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle: January 10-August 16
Moving just over the border to Seattle, I am delighted to see that an entire exhibition dedicated to the “readymade” will be on show so close to home. This past October, I gave a Tedx talk titled “Emancipating Everyday Genius” unpacking the idea of artistic genius through a case study of Duchamp’s Fountain from 1917, describing how new art objects like Duchamp’s infamous work challenged audiences to reconsider what art was and how to reconceive of the artist and art production at fundamental levels. It struck me then during the research for the talk how seldom the idea of the readymade has been the focus of a single curated show. Well I guess the art gods have answered my prayers!
Art Galley of Ontario, Toronto: February 7-May 10
Having visited Toronto this past fall to co-chair a panel on the intersection of art history and the art market at Universities Art Association of Canada Conference, I also had a chance to finally visit the AGO and experience the newly renovated spaces of the Frank Gehry redesign of the space. The Toronto Art Fair was also on at the same time as the conference and I had a chance to visit a booth with a Jean-Michel Basquiat dealer—Basquiat gained international recognition in the 1980’s in New York when his provocative and challenging paintings foregrounded questions of race, identity, the high-art low divide, and the vision of a postmodern world. Today, his art works sell in the millions of dollars at auction. Ironically enough, my Toronto memories of the art market panel, the AGO, and Basquiat all converge in a new thematic examination of the artist’s work opening next month. This will be the first major retrospective of Basquiat’s work in Canada and will no doubt inspire a younger generation of artists who see the exhibition to continue reinvigorating the direction of contemporary painting and drawing.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.: June 28-October 4
If pressed, I will sometimes answer the dreaded question asked of art historians—“Who’s your favourite artist”— by admitting my true delight for the works of Impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte. And when I say admit, I mean that I reveal my enjoyment of these paintings almost purely at the level of form. Any students who have studied nineteenth century art with me know that I often pause and remark on the incredible skill Caillebotte had to render the spaces of the newly Haussmannized streets of Paris with both realism and a kind of lingering alienation. One of my favourite singular paintings of the nineteenth century is Rainy Day (1877) and I can only imagine I would find many more at this planned retrospective set to open this summer in Washington D.C.
Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid: February 11-July 13
The reconsideration of documentary approaches in both art and film together with the critique of modernism is an ongoing dialogue in the art world. I was excited to see that an exhibition will be devoted to exploring both the social and intellectual context out of which our present interest in all things documentary and “real” emerges. Set to open in one of Spain’s most important contemporary art museums, this show will feature a multi-media approach to the investigation of the documentary tradition within experimental, amateur, and high-art traditions between 1968-1989.
The Centre Pompidou, Paris: April 29-August 3
Speaking of critiquing modernism, what better exhibition to see and experience the spaces of modernity as one centered on one of the most important modern architects and urban planners of the twentieth century—Le Corbusier. The summer retrospective of the famed architect is sure to be a blockbuster for the Pompidou in Paris. What I really like is that the theme of the show—human actions—will delve more fully into Le Corbusier’s obsession with the human body and the quest to improve the function and appearance of architecture through the golden ratio of human proportion.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: September 29, 2014-February 16
Thomas Struth’s large-format photographs present the compelling subject matter of the art audience to the art audience. And for the past two decades, Struth’s Museum Photographs series have documented the world of art institutions as a site of both consumerism and active history making. I remember my first encounter with these dynamic images in a group exhibition in Vienna sometime in the mid-2000’s and since then I have used Struth imagery in my own lectures and have even attempted to create Struth-like photos on my visits to art galleries. Luckily, I will be in New York in mid-February giving a paper at the CAA Conference and can catch this exhibition before it closes—if they have a catalogue, this is one I will certainly purchase!
MoMA PS1, New York: October 26, 2014-March 8
In 2012, artist Martha Rosler created her Meta-Monumental Garage Sale at MoMA where she filled the atrium of the museum with a classic American garage sale featuring second-hand items donated by her, the museum staff, and members of the general public. An important conceptual underpinning to the work was the buying and selling of everyday objects within the privileged spaces of a museum setting. Every transaction was loaded with this context and thus served to highlight the typically effaced reality of what goes on with the economic side of the art world. I sense something of a similar flavor with the Art Amnesty project currently on exhibition at MoMA’s PS1.
Instead of donating used objects, the call here is upon artists to dispose of their old art works in provided dumpsters after exhibiting them one last time, and then consider pledging never to make art again. The idea here is highlighting both the promise and dream of what it is to be an “artist” in the world today, but also raising questions such as the ones posed by the Smiths (a clever pseudonym for artist and art education advocate Patrick Brill): “Why are some people artists while others are not? Was Joseph Beuys an idiot when he said everyone is an artist? Do artists think they are a cut above the rest of us? Are the arts a good in themselves, or is it much, much, more complicated than that?” I could write so much more about the concept of this show (and I may do so in a future post), but for now I am once again grateful that I can see this project in February before it closes.
Museum of Modern Art, New York: March 8-June 7
Over the last several years, New York’s art institution ground zero for all things modern and contemporary has been pushing the envelope and exhibiting more women artists, performance artists, and shows that examine lesser known and more politically and socially fraught episodes in the history of modern art. I am along with what I imagine are a great majority of the art world intrigued with the choice of Björk for a MoMA retrospective. More than just a woman in a swan dress—the cultural image most people have of her from the 2001 Academy Awards—Björk is a very difficult to categorize yet incredibly talented artist, moving between the worlds of alternative music, acting, performing, and education. This retrospective will be taking place in the very coveted spring/summer program of the museum and will also fall within the dates of the planned New York/Venice Biennale Field School that I am helping to organize and run through Kwantlen Polytechnic University this May/June. I will be blogging more about this trip in the coming week, but for now, I cannot wait to see how this exhibition will be put together. Experiencing it with the field school students will certainly make it even more memorable!
Venice Biennale 2015, Venice: May 9-November 22
This year’s Venice Biennale, the 56th Annual version of the event, was the inspiration for the planned KPU Field School—a chance to see the Olympics of the contemporary art world curated this year by one of the true juggernaut curators of the art world, Okwui Enwezor. Much like our visit to Documenta with the Paris Field School in 2012 the experience is all about full immersion in a city taken over by art practitioners from around the world.
Each event has a theme, and this year’s Biennale is titled “All the World’s Futures” and plays on some of the themes of pluralism, cross-cultural and global inclusiveness Enwezor made famous as the first non-European curator of Documenta in 2002: “This exhibition will focus on the plurality of visual language and models, as objects and environmental representations that since 1851, the year of the first Expo in London, have to date revolved around food, nutrition and eating together. It is a global panorama of the interwoven aesthetics and design of eating rituals. It is also an international exhibition that uses a variety of media to offer a view across time, from the historical to the contemporary, of all levels of expression, creativity and communication from all areas of culture”. Simply put, I cannot wait to get to Venice to see this (see my past review of the Biennale here), and for those students accompanying us on the Field School, this event will be one of those once in a lifetime opportunities that will forever shape your experience and approach to contemporary art.