As spring slowly begins to make its appearance on the west coast, my attention has finally turned towards summer and the many fantastic art exhibitions that are opening in art cities around the world. As in past art seasons compiling my top ten list, I research exhibitions with my own location, travel plans, and geography in mind, but then make sure to consider shows that examine artists and topics that are of particular interest and/or especially significant to my research and current teaching directions. This summer, I am struck by how many shows are mirroring the anxiety and search for meaning in the escalating global tensions all of us are experiencing. Themes around violence, protest, and social transformation intermingle with themes around creative exchange, public performance, and interdisciplinary experimentation. For those of you wanting to research further and set up both real and fantasy travel itineraries, I recommend both a subscription to ArtForum and their artguide app for quick access to hundreds of art cities around the world and the dates and places where one can see fantastic art shows. I present these exhibitions not in ranking order, but working from Vancouver outwards. Enjoy :)
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver: Currently—June 17, 2018
Starting in my own backyard, I am especially happy to recommend a timely and globally significant exhibition organized and curated by one of my academic mentors and dissertation supervisors from my grad school days, Dr. John O’Brian, Professor Emeritus in Canadian and Modern Art History at UBC. Bombhead is described as "a look at the emergence and impact of the nuclear age as represented by artists and their art" and the exhibition brings together a diverse set of art works, along with raising critical questions about nuclear risk. As a child of the 1980s who lived through bomb drills and the ever-present threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, I was witness to the nuclear disarmament following the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 that seemed to signal a new era. But as we have seen in the past few years, and as this exhibition helps situate, rising global tensions (with North Korea and Russia, along with emerging nuclear powers in the Middle East), raises fears for the planet as nuclear war is once again a very real possibility.
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle: June 13—September 8, 2019
We do not often associate the word "Victorian" with "radical" in our perception of the historical moment associated with nineteenth century England, but it is true that some of the most challenging and transgressive subjects for a new art emerged there as artists looked to the effects of industrialization, urbanization, and the reality of everyday social and political conditions. Focusing on the Pre-Raphaelite movement, this exhibition looks especially comprehensive as it will feature a diverse cross section of art forms (paintings, drawings, books, sculpture, textiles, and decorative arts—many never before exhibited outside of the UK).
J. Paul Getty Museum Getty Villa, Los Angeles: Currently—September 3, 2018
With the recent focus on John Paul Getty in movies and television (as I also touched on last week), many people do not realize that the Getty Villa in Malibu has been undergoing extension renovations and updates to reinstall the permanent collection. Located in Los Angeles, the Villa was built by Getty in the 1950s as an attempt to reimagine the most luxurious building of the ancient world-- the Villa of the Papyri-- and to house his collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. As it reopens this spring, one of the more unusual temporary exhibitions at the Villa features contemporary artists in conversation with the Greek philosopher Plato. Plato is foundational in art history for his influential thinking and philosophies concerning beauty, imitation, and inspiration. I am beyond intrigued by how artists such as Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, Joseph Kosuth, and Adrian Piper will be arranged around this theme, and to see how the Getty may use their permanent collection to produce this show.
Contemporary Art University Museum, Mexico City: Currently—July 29, 2018
This is an exhibition that came onto my radar while researching emerging theories around the avant-garde. Uprisings is one of those excellent under-the-radar shows that so many university galleries produce all over the world. Curated by French art historian Georges Didi Huberman, the exhibition examines the collective emotion generated around political events, and how those events are shaped through visual and artistic representation. As the translated text from the website explains: "The figure of the uprising is presented through more than 250 works including manuscripts, documents, paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and films, to show how artists have addressed these issues at different historical moments. The exhibition route follows a sensitive and intuitive path in which the view can be focused on concrete examples across five areas: Elements (unchained); Gestures (intense); Words (exclaimed); Conflicts (lit); and Desires (indestructible)."
Museum of Modern Art, New York: Currently—July 22, 2018
Following the events of September 11, 2001, one of the most powerful art projects to emerge in New York was conceptual artist Adrian Piper's series Everything Will Be Taken Away. At the heart of the project was a public performance where Piper enlisted volunteers to have the words "Everything will be taken away" henna tattooed on their foreheads and set out into the city. Working and going about their everyday lives, the participants kept journals of their interactions with the New Yorkers who would read the sentence from their foreheads in moments of transit and encounters with family, friends, and strangers. Over the years, Piper would exhibit parts of this project around the world (in 2017, our Paris/Documenta field school was able to see her work in Kassel) and it has continued to resonate in ways that move well beyond the 9/11 moment. In my own courses, Piper's work has found an important place, especially as issues concerning gender, racism, violence, and social activism continue to animate our shared discourse. The Museum of Modern Art has finally given Piper a long overdue retrospective, and it is at the top of my list of must-see shows this summer!
Guggenheim Museum, New York: June 8—September 12, 2018
Alberto Giacometti is an artist that I introduce to describe how European artists dealt with the aftermath and unspeakable violence of WWII. His works have continually sparked some of the most incredible discussions and questions in my classroom, and every year I have at least one art student who declares Giacometti as their new influence or muse. As one of the most important sculptors of the twentieth century, the Swiss-born artist became famous for his figurative compositions examining the human condition, suffering, and the surrealist influence of exploring desires and impulses just under the radar of human consciousness. His works can be found in museums and art collections around the world, and the Guggenheim Museum has planned a sprawling exhibition set to bring together over 175 of Giacometti's art works. It will no doubt be a stunning show.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: Currently—August 27, 2018
This past December when I visited New York, I was also witness to one of the worst snow storms in the city's history (a BOMB cyclone!). While there, we were unable to visit this top-of-my-list show as the Whitney had to be closed to deal with the wintery aftermath. Luckily, An Incomplete History of Protest is still on exhibition at the beautiful Whitney Museum of American Art, and the show's themes concerning artist activism, collective action, and social engagement are even more relevant and pressing now as the age of renewed political movements takes hold globally. As the catalogue underscores: "At the root of the exhibition is the belief that artists play a profound role in transforming their time and shaping the future."
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam: Currently—June 24, 2018
Ever since returning home from Japan, I have been thinking about the trip I took to the Hiroshige Museum of Art in Shizuoka City (that I blogged about last week) where I was able to get a closer look at the Ukiyo-e prints that inspired many of the most important modern artists of Paris. Van Gogh's work, in particular, was a central focus at the museum and his avant-garde vision for new forms and content owes a huge debt to the Japanese. Coincidentally, Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum is featuring an exhibition this spring looking at the artist's interest and fascination in the popular visual culture represented in these particular prints. There is a wonderful website accompanying the show where you can access fantastic resources (for example, this video) looking at how Van Gogh began to see with a Japanese eye. If you find yourself in Amsterdam this summer, go check this out!
Victoria and Albert Museum, London: June 16—November 4, 2018
As I gear up (pun intended) to teach a special topics course on Art and Fashion this fall, I have paid close attention to all of the fashion influenced exhibitions that have very much formed a trend in art museums around the world over the past several years. This show featuring legendary surrealist artist Frida Kahlo at the V&A Museum in London looks to be an outstanding addition to the recent interest in examining the role fashion plays in the lives and art practice of artists. Featuring personal artifacts and pieces of clothing from Kahlo's life, this exhibition focuses on connecting Kahlo's art practice to her love of self-fashioning and everyday performance of the self. This is another exhibition at the top of my list for the summer!
Louvre Museum, Paris: Currently—July 23, 2018
Last but not least, a summer art journey would not be complete without a trip to Paris. This summer, the Louvre is presenting another timely exhibition looking at French painter Eugène Delacroix, one of the most important painters in all of art history. Working during a time of heightened political turmoil in early to mid-19th century Paris, the painter is now credited with paving the road for modernist interventions and influence that transformed the direction and role artists would play in the public and political life of nation, along with reframing representations of social conflict and resolution. This is an important must-see show coming at a pivotal moment in France's history.