Each year in January and August, ahead of the new academic semester, I take time out to browse the web and check back on bookmarks from art journals, critic's blogs, and other social media feeds to research upcoming exhibitions at some of the leading modern and contemporary art museums around the world. I love dreaming up fantasy itineraries that have me traveling on an open airline ticket and visiting these shows (in fact, I would be very happy to be the Anthony Bourdain of the art world!). Back in January, I wrote about my selections for spring and summer as I have in years past on my blog, and I was fortunate to visit a number of these exhibitions as part of the New York/Venice Biennale field school back in June. Alas, I will be sticking much closer to home for fall and winter, but I haven’t given up the dream planning. And so I present to you, in no particular order, a list of 10 exhibitions worth visiting for fall and winter 2015. I hope some of you will be able to check out any number of these shows if your travels find you at the right place at the right time (and if you do, please report back and let me know what you thought)!
Museum of Modern Art, New York : September 5-January 3, 2016
My dissertation work focused very heavily on the emergence of modernism and the avant-garde in Budapest and Vienna in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and it is for this reason I am very intrigued by MoMA’s exploration of the comparisons between the art movements of Eastern Europe and that of Latin America in the latter part of the century. The time frame of 1960-80 is set within a loaded historical context—the challenge of artists and critics from these regions of the world to Western art historical paradigms, together with ways of thinking of international exchange, experimentation, and institutional critique was profound, and remains for the most part misunderstood by many North American scholars. I especially look forward to seeing the catalogue that emerges from this exhibition, and hope that alternative accounts of this period of art history are made better known.
Guggenheim Museum, New York: June 26-October 12
I recall being awestruck when Columbian artist Doris Salcedo created the temporary 2007 installation Shibboleth in the floor of the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern museum in London. The dramatic piece took the form of a 548 foot long crack or “scar” in the floor—an artwork she created to symbolically address a long legacy of racism and the fractures in modernity itself, especially with respect to truths about the dark side of colonialism and the excluded underclasses of the world. It is wonderful that she is being given a much-deserved retrospective at the Guggenheim. I cannot wait to see how her sculptural work and projects are installed in that most iconic space.
Tate Modern, London: September 17-January 2016
Pop art began as a mid-twentieth century art movement in the U.K. and not in the U.S.A. as many people mistakenly believe. Blame Andy Warhol for this historical oversight (perception is everything as he would have us believe), but trust the Tate Modern to set the record straight with this very bold and groundbreaking exhibition looking not only at the British roots of pop, but more importantly, the global story of pop art. As the Tate website states: “The exhibition will reveal how pop was never just a celebration of western consumer culture, but was often a subversive international language of protest – a language that is more relevant today than ever.” The show will also be coinciding with a number of high profile pop art themed exhibitions set to open around the world in 2017.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles: September 13-March 20, 2016
I have been wearing different kinds of Frank Gehry torque rings on my right hand for many many years. When people comment and ask about the jewelry, it allows me a moment to share my love of architecture, but also to share in my admiration for the experimental and organic architectural style of architect Frank Gehry. Both loved and hated in the architectural world, Gehry’s buildings have largely defied easy categorization and have consistently broken the rules. My kind of artist! Gehry will be featured in a much-anticipated retrospective in his home town of Los Angeles this fall with the focus on two main themes in his practice—urbanism and digital design.
Orsay Museum, Paris: September 22-January 17, 2016
Each year when I teach about the French Impressionists, I get to the point in the syllabus when I discuss the role of the prostitute in both the representation and symbolic associations with class/social mobility in the subversive works of the Impressionists. Manet’s Olympia has become the iconic painting associated with this chapter of art history, and the painting, more than just a portrait of one prostitute, relates to a larger world of emerging modernity and the shifting social contexts of mid to late nineteenth century urban Paris. The Orsay Museum in Paris will be launching the first major show ever to take up the subject of prostitution, and the exhibition promises to include both documentary materials and cover the broader history of the prostitute as subject, from traditional salon painting to the art of the modern movements.
Museum of Modern Art, Vienna: October 10-January 24
Some of my favourite modern art museums are in Vienna. They never fail to excite with their programming, and they have housed many of my favourite shows over the years. This fall MUMOK will tackle a relatively recent but very rich period in contemporary art history—the global art activities of the 1990’s. This was a time of growing identity politics, a turn to questions of gender and class, and the rise of institutional critique together with the broader question of how and why art should be exhibited to audiences. It will be interesting to see how this period of art history – a period that I studied as truly contemporary and “of its moment” in the early to mid 2000’s—is captured in a retrospective way.
National Gallery of Berlin, Berlin: September 19-until further notice
Allan Kaprow makes me happy. It is that simple. And his approach to art production—one that is rooted in making everyday events into art and involving audiences in the creative process—is one that literally transformed art practices of many key art figures from the 1960’s onwards. Kaprow passed away in 2006, and since then a number of art institutions have been recreating his famous Happenings in one way or another. This fall, the city of Berlin will play host to the reenactment of Kaprow’s Fluids (1967)— a project where volunteers construct blocks of ice in public spaces around the city in an effort to challenge traditional understandings of public art. Berlin artists and architects responded earlier this year to a call where they were asked to respond critically to Kaprow’s original project. The invited artists will be setting up their works throughout the city this fall and I look forward to seeing what creativity and responses they will bring.
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto: July 8-November 15
One of my most important academic mentors is Dr. John O’Brian, Professor of Art History at the University of British Columbia, with research interests in Canadian art, modern and contemporary art, modernism, and the photograph. This fall his years of research and writing on the role of photographs in shaping perceptions of nuclear weapons, war, and energy, will be given full dimension in a guest-curated exhibition on the same theme at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The exhibition, which opened in July, shows photographs of all kinds (vintage, fine art, scientific, touristic, advertisements, etc…) and is organized thematically in an effort to open up conversations about how the photograph has played a multi-faceted role in our understanding of what “nuclear” means. A rich catalogue accompanies the exhibition and is sure to become a fantastic resource for historians of all kinds.
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle: August 29-December 13
The poster for this exhibition caught my eye first—who wouldn’t look twice at a woman astronaut with American flags for breasts and genitals (and a penis poking through her pants!) and wonder, what is this exhibition all about? Luckily for me, the show is in Seattle, just a short drive from here in Vancouver, and the show is all about artists’ reactions to female stereotypes. The works are mostly part of a recently donated collection of art from a couple who were especially interested in gender issues. In this way, this exhibition will also be interesting for those who want to see how an art collection can be put together thematically. Worth the drive in my mind to check this one out!
Mori Art Museum, Tokyo: October 31-March 6, 2016
Yes, I know. Takashi Murakami is probably up there with Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst as among the most overexposed artists of recent years. But who could resist the chance to see an epic painting that is 100 meters long in the artist’s home country? In this much-anticipated exhibition set to take place this fall in Tokyo, the creator of the “superflat” approach to art making will exhibit his famous 500 Arhats painting cycle for the first time since its first showing in Qatar in 2012. The painting, as described by artnet.com is the artist’s masterpiece to date, and Arhat “refers to a tenet of Buddhism that has the goal of defeating greed, anger and delusion in order to achieve transcendence from earthly limitations.” I have always wanted to visit Tokyo, and I think this would be a great reason to get there this fall, no?
Multiple Venues, Istanbul: September 5-November 1
I wanted to add here a quick bonus selection of not just a single exhibition, but an entire biennial. After visiting the Venice Biennale several times in the past decade, I would love a chance to get to Turkey and see the global collection of art voices at the Istanbul Biennial. The curator this year—Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev— is especially intriguing to me since I read her book on the arte povera movement, a movement interested in subverting the commercialization of art, back in grad school. With so much tension in and around the Middle East and Turkey today, I am curious to see how this event will be organized and received both locally and globally.