Articles in This Issue
In Other Insights
Despite frequent proclamations on its collapse, the museum building boom that began in the early 2000s continues apace. There are even more large-scale museum openings in 2020 than in 2019, with projects ranging from the massive €644m ($713m) Humboldt Forum in Berlin (see below) and Vienna’s €50m ($55m) Albertina Modern, to smaller projects such as the £2.4m ($3.1m) renovation of grassroots gallery-cum-workspace Studio Voltaire near London’s Clapham Common. Here is our pick of the major new projects expected to open around the world this year—and a few that look like missing the mark.
The Momentary, Bentonville, Arkansas, US
It is impossible to ignore the impact of the Walton family—the heirs to the Walmart fortune—in the town of Bentonville and its environs, from educational and environmental projects to economic developments (including a new cookery school). In 1992, the family funded the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville; in 2011 Alice Walton opened the spectacular Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Now two of her nephews, Tom and Steuert Walton, are spearheading The Momentary, a cutting-edge contemporary art museum in a former Kraft Foods cheese factory. The 63,000-square-foot space will operate as a satellite to Crystal Bridges, with edgier and more experimental programming.The opening exhibition, “State of the Art 2020“, features 59 emerging artists from across the US including Chicago-based painter Alex Bradley Cohen and sculptor-and-digital artist Tabitha Nikolai, based in Portland, Oregon, as well as more established artists such as conceptualist Sama Alshaibi, based in Tucson.
HEM (He Art Museum), Shunde, Foshan, Guangdong Province, China
Five years in the planning, the $31m, 16,000-square-meter, Tadao Ando-designed museum in landscaped gardens is scheduled to open in March. Half of the museum’s space will be given over to art exhibitions, under the direction of Shao Shu, who was formerly a curator at Shanghai’s Long Museum. Like many museums in China, HEM is privately funded, this time by a scion of the He family; He Jianfeng, who runs a financial firm, Infore Investment Group, and is the son of He Xiangjian, one of China’s richest men and owner of Midea, a giant manufacturer of white goods and air-conditioning units.
The museum is being built in the He family’s home city, and will show work from the family’s collection of around 400 Chinese and international modern and contemporary art. As well as the usual names (Damien Hirst, Olafur Eliasson, Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama), the museum says it will be “a gateway to Cantonese cultural heritage”. It will include a focus on the Lingnan School of painting, a bold, experimental style that emerged in the region in the late 19th century, influenced by Impressionism.
After years of planning, political setbacks and even protests by artists, the $300m Munch Museum is scheduled to open in the early summer on Oslo’s eastern waterfront. The 13-story, 26,000-square-meter glass-and-concrete building has been designed by Spanish architect Juan Herreros. Eleven galleries will be spread over seven floors, housing the collection of 28,000 paintings, sketches, photographs, sculptures and notebooks that the artist Edvard Munch bequeathed to the city on his death in 1944.
Objections have focused on the cost, the height of the building, its size (some considered it too impersonal for Munch’s intimate work) and its damp, harbor-front location, where it is part of a growing cultural quarter including the Oslo Opera House and forthcoming national library. Ironically, the old building—a modest 19th-century building in need of renovation—was far from ideal: in 2004 thieves broke in and stole a version of The Scream (1910), and Madonna (1894), though they were subsequently recovered. The old museum is staying open right up to the collection transfer, unlike the Norwegian National Gallery, which closed in January 2019 before it too reopens in a new building near the harbor in 2021.
Bourse de Commerce—Pinault Collection, Paris
Fourteen years after his plans to build a contemporary art museum on Paris’s Ile Seguin collapsed, François Pinault—billionaire owner of Christie’s and luxury brands including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent—is back. This time he has taken a 50-year lease on the historic, iron-domed, circular Bourse de Commerce in Les Halles, close to the Pompidou Centre and the Louvre.
Pinault is once again working with architect Tadao Ando, who designed the ill-fated 2005 project on the site of a former Renault factory. Ando later adapted Venice’s Punta della Dogana into a second gallery for Pinault after the success of the Palazzo Grassi which the collector launched in the same city in 2006.
What will be on show is firmly under wraps (The New York Times reports that at least one show of a “significant male artist” will be a joint production with the Pompidou in 2020), but it will draw from Pinault’s collection of around 4,000 works by fashionable contemporary artists. The total project cost is reportedly $170m.
Dia: Chelsea, New York City
Dia pioneered the use of industrial space to show art, resembling the kind of warehouses that New York’s artists used to make their work in the 1960s and 1970s. On September 19 it will reopen its Chelsea space—two single story warehouses joined to a six-story brick building. It is close to Dia’s much-missed former home on West 22nd street, sold in 2007 because of the enormous estimated cost of renovation.
The New York firm Architecture Research Office is renovating the current 32,500 square-foot spaces, which will include 20,000 square feet of street-level galleries and a bookshop. The opening show will feature work by the American artist Lucy Raven.
Dia: Chelsea is part of a $90m project to spruce up Dia’s permanent Walter de Maria rooms, reclaim and renovate a former Dia space on Wooster Street, expand Dia: Beacon’s basement space, introduce free entry to its New York city sites and increase its endowment. Jessica Morgan, Dia’s director, says that free entry was important because “it is vital that arts and culture are accessible to all”.
GES-2, V-A-C Foundation, Moscow
One of the year’s biggest projects, GES-2 is the name of an enormous decommissioned power plant on an artificially created island in the Moskva river opposite the Kremlin. It is being transformed into a 40,000-square-meter arts center including galleries, artists’ studios, a “laboratory for the culinary arts”, a lecture theatre and large amounts of flexible public space, which architect Renzo Piano describes as indoor and outdoor “piazzas”.
The $300m project is being funded by the Russian gas billionaire Leonid Mikhelson, who opened a smaller exhibition space in a palazzo in Dorsoduro, Venice, in 2017. The opening exhibition in Moscow will be a single, massive, live work by Ragnar Kjartansson, based on an American soap opera, Santa Barbara, which was hugely popular in Russia in the early 1990s as it entered the post-Soviet era. Kjartansson describes GES-2 as “an epic, colossal project, of a truly Tolstoyan scale”.
Humboldt Forum, Berlin
Only one project dwarfs GES-2: the massive, €644m ($715m) Humboldt Forum, which should have opened in 2019 to coincide with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The museum brings together the city’s world class collection of Asian, American, African and Oceanic art and artefacts, collections telling the story of Berlin, as well as natural and industrial history. It will start opening in stages from September, beginning with the basement, ground floor and first floor, and including exhibitions about the history of the site—the subject of its first controversy.
The forum is on the site of (and partly recreates) the former Berliner Schloss, the historic royal and imperial palace which was torn down by the East German government in the 1950s and replaced by the modernist Palast der Republik. That was in turn demolished in 2006. Former East Berliners have since argued that the palatial style of the new museum is part of an ongoing erasure of East German history.
Now, that row has been overshadowed by protesters claiming that the museum’s colonial-era history has not been properly researched and that many objects should be restituted, particularly its collection of Benin bronzes to Nigeria and human skulls to Tanzania. Nevertheless, it remains the most anticipated of 2020’s projects.
Delayed to 2021?
The Humboldt Forum is not the only project to have fallen behind schedule—in its case following problems with its air conditioning and ventilation systems. M+, the enormous art museum under construction in Hong Kong, was expected to open in early 2020, after its original 2017 launch slipped. It is now expected to open in 2021. The $600m Norwegian National Gallery in Oslo shut in January 2019 and was expected to open at the end of this year: it has now been pushed back into 2021. The €100m ($111m) renovation of Mies van der Rohe’s starkly elegant Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin began in 2016. The museum was expected to reopen this year, but the absence of a response to requests for information from the State Museums of Berlin suggests that it too is behind schedule.
Finally, Luma Arles—the project set up in 2004 by collector Maja Hoffmann with a 56-meter-tall twisted tower by Frank Gehry as its centerpiece—is now scheduled for completion in 2021 (the site is partially open, with a new phase opening in May).
In Allan's Intro
In scouring through many recently published lists of the most anticipated exhibitions of 2020, I came across a list of “the ten most important artists of the 2010s”. Only two of those artists could be said to have emerged in that decade. The others have been known and influential for many decades, ranging in age from 50 to 104. And while maybe two of those artists could be said to have come to public prominence in the past 20 years, the list underscored that there is no consensus on what defines quality or importance in contemporary art today.
Such lack of clarity has occurred before at times of great creative invention. But today’s lack of consensus seems rooted in the havoc of the art market, though I sincerely hope that, as yet, not so visible out there is a profound stretching of the borders of creativity that may come into focus before too long.
Indeed there is much to anticipate. I am very much looking forward to seeing the upcoming exhibition of an artist who has emerged in recent years: Tala Madani (LA MoCA, winter 2020, title to be confirmed). Though I haven’t focused studiously on her work, it almost always grabs my attention, and usually pleases my eye and engages me with its wit and a naughty, often bawdy sense of outrage I find satisfying, especially from the mind and hands of a female artist, in ways that men have usually claimed.
I am equally enthusiastic to see Tate Britain’s upcoming survey of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, one of the most invigorating painters of our time (“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye”, 19 May-31 August); and the Pipilotti Rist retrospective that will also be presented by LA MoCA (spring/summer 2020, title to be confirmed). No one has brought a more fantastical, psychological, and painterly view to the medium of video (or for that matter, to any medium in recent decades). The range of scales with which the artist works, and the sense of imagination and wondrous discovery in her work is well suited to the format of a retrospective. Indeed, there are few contemporary artists whose imagination runs so deep.
Other shows I am looking forward to seeing include the Met Breuer’s upcoming retrospective of Gerhard Richter—he is the greatest living painter, and so another view of his incredible span of art-making is cause for pleasure and clarity (“Gerhard Richter: Painting After All”, 4 March-5 July); Wolfgang Tillmans at WIELS in Brussels, both because no one installs art as a fresh and exhilarating event like Tillmans, and because WIELS consistently mounts some of the most curatorially thoughtful exhibitions of our time (“Wolfgang Tillmans: Today is the First Day”, 1 February-24 May); and the opening of the Pinault Collection at Paris’ Bourse de Commerce, which promises to be the contemporary spectacle of the year (scheduled for June).
While no institution seems ready to go out on a limb regarding the state and direction of contemporary art, I anticipate that each of these exhibitions will be a pleasure to behold. And yet the greater viewing promises of 2020 are major upcoming historical exhibitions, starting with Jan Van Eyck at the Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Ghent (“Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution”, 1 February-30 April). Van Eyck marked one of the most profound shifts in the history of art, from guild artisan to “artist” whose signature had earned its way into the storytelling of a painting, a revolution marked in the Arnolfini Portrait of 1434 in London’s National Gallery. This exhibition also comes with the opportunity to see the newly restored Ghent Altarpiece, painted by Jan and his brother Hubert, which on a different scale is likely as amazing a rediscovery as when the Sistine Chapel ceiling was revealed after years of restoration.
Raphael, at the National Gallery, London, should be as major an event (“Raphael”, 3 October-24 January 2021). I was pretty detached from Raphael’s work when I was an art history student, until the artist father of a friend of mine told me that he felt Raphael’s vision is a mature one he didn’t begin to appreciate until he was middle-aged. I filed that wise observation away until Raphael came to life for me… well, when I reached middle age. And so the possibility of seeing 30 Raphaels at the same time is an opportunity of a lifetime—the chance to see the fullness of a master just when my eye is in fuller bloom.
And finally, the National Gallery’s Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition (“Artemisia”, 4 April-26 July). One of the first (known) important woman artists, today we have a good vantage point from which to re-examine her work, and to reassess the role of gender in the history of representation.
In Must See
Mark your calendars for the major shows of 2020. If the times are a’ changing—and you know they are—let these museum shows be your guide. C.V.F.
“British Surrealism 1783-1952”, Dulwich Picture Gallery, 26 February-17 May
If you thought Surrealism was born in 1920’s France, think again. Britain might have been a bit-player in the international movement but this fascinating exhibition makes the case for a strong Surrealist spirit in British art stretching right back to “proto-Surrealists” William Blake and Henry Fuseli in the 1780s and then up to some of the biggest names of the 20th century such as Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland and Francis Bacon.
Their works are presented alongside the often-bizarre subconscious visions of British Surrealist artists Eileen Agar, Leonora Carrington and Paul Nash, as well as a number of lesser known figures such as John Banting, Conroy Maddox and Sam Haile—who deserve to be brought in from the margins. Rather than plodding through a conventional chronology the show reflects Surrealism’s emphasis on irrational chance encounters by throwing up unexpected juxtapositions. It encompasses wide-ranging themes of war, dreams, radical politics, the uncanny, sex and desire. L.B.
“Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition”, The Phillips Collection, Washington DC, 29 February-24 May
This show couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Right after the MoMA reopened, making a huge splash by rethinking the canon, including placing work by African American artists in striking juxtaposition with modern masters—like the pairing of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) with Faith Ringgold’s American People Series #20: Die (1967)—the Phillips Collection is organizing a show dedicated to further articulating these often-powerful connections.
Shaking up the narrative of Modern art is no easy task. Guest curator Adrienne Childs explores how artists like Romare Bearden and Robert Colescott reimagined canonical works of European art in their depictions of African American life. Working in the vein of Modern abstractionists, artists Alma Thomas and Martin Puryear are celebrated for creating an aesthetic language for African American artists that challenged the racial politics hounding black art at the time.
And let us not forget that while some African American artists were inspired to tell their own stories in the Modernist tradition, others created work in direct opposition to it. Emma Amos and Faith Ringgold raged against the exploitation of the female form in art history generally, but especially in works by Picasso and Matisse. And these are only a few examples of the African American heavyweights in this show, who are set alongside Modern art luminaries.
As investigations into the true narrative (or narratives) of Modern art continue, this show will provide a much-needed jolt of energy in the rebooting of the canon. M.S.
Frankly, I am not looking forward to the next 12 months in American politics. However, I am proud to be associated with an art world that has come up with the Feminist Art Coalition (FAC)—a coordinated program of exhibitions, performances, talks and symposia from September to November next year, timed to catalyze engagement in the lead-up to the presidential election.
This massive cultural effort—currently with over 60 museums and non-profit institutions from across the country signed on—is designed to “advocate for inclusive and equitable access to social, cultural, and economic resources for people of all genders, sexualities, races, ethnicities, classes, ages, and abilities”.
What will such a program look like? My guess is that it will be as diverse as the branches of feminism that it aims to include. At the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive—the institution that was instrumental in initially convening the FAC—curator Apsara DiQuinzio will mount a survey of recent feminist art practices, titled “New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century”.
In Los Angeles, LAXART curator Catherine Taft will organize “Life on Earth: An Ecofeminist Art Symposium” in the fall, anticipating an exhibition of the same name in spring 2021. In September, the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, and the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, Claremont, will partner on an ambitious exhibition of sculpture and installation by Los Angeles-based Alison Saar, titled “Of Aether and Earthe”. Pitzer College Art Galleries, also in Claremont, will host South African photographer Zanele Muholi’s ongoing self-portrait project “Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness”.
“Witch Hunt”, Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Hammer Museum, 27 September 2020—3 January 2021
Especially exciting is the two-venue group show currently being organized between the Hammer Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, by Hammer chief curator Connie Butler, and Anne Ellegood, formerly of the Hammer and now director of the ICA. The brilliantly titled “Witch Hunt” promises to showcase “an art of resistance” from mid-career artists including Leonor Antunes, Yael Bartana and Every Ocean Hughes.
“Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment”, New Museum, 11 February-31 May
Knowingly absurd paintings for a dimwittedly absurd time: that is what’s in store for viewers at the first New York museum survey of the paintings of Peter Saul. Consisting of some 60 canvases spanning the artist’s 50-year career, the aptly subtitled “Crime and Punishment” focuses on greed and corruption, American-style.
Starting with Saul’s “Ice Box” paintings from the 1960s, in which he skewers consumerism and pop culture, the exhibition shifts to vernacular caricatures of US politics, the Vietnam War, and howling presidential portraits. These include Ronald Reagan in Grenada (1984), Bush at Abu Ghraib (2006) and Donald Trump in Florida (2017). Olympic-grade misanthropy delivered as high art, these and other works by Saul celebrate the spitegeist with acid-tinged derision. Cut down to size and painted in Day-Glo colors, his POTUSes put the Freud into schadenfreude. C.V.F.
“David Park: A Retrospective”, SFMOMA, San Francisco, 11 April-7 September
Every founder needs a good origin story. Sometime around 1950, David Park, the man largely responsible for ushering in the Bay Area Figurative movement, packed up all of his abstract work and took it to the local dump. This retrospective will show the early social-realist style he dabbled in before experimenting, rather unevenly, with abstraction. The heart of this show, however, will chronicle his nearly decade-long journey—starting right after that day at the dump—making figurative work; canvases sensuously rich in gestural brushstrokes, for which Park took the best parts of his exploration in the abstract and applied them to an object-based practice now synonymous with his legacy.
In 1987, 27 years after his death, Roberta Smith wrote in The New York Times that without a large museum retrospective, David Park’s work “may be doomed for perennial rediscovery”. Two years later, the Whitney had one. And now, 30 years after that, SFMOMA’s show will hopefully make sure Park’s work never again escapes our notice. M.S.
“Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945”, Whitney Museum of American Art, 17 February-17 May
Move over Picasso, Matisse and Duchamp. This exhibition makes the case for Mexican muralists being the major wellspring for American art after the First World War. Starting in 1924, American artists traveled to Mexico in droves, while leading muralists like José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros painted murals, exhibited liberally and tutored artists throughout the US.
Whitney curators convincingly call in America’s major debt to Mexico’s leading muralist troika, while illustrating the persistent influence of lesser known artists like Miguel Covarrubias, María Izquierdo, Frida Kahlo, Mardonio Magaña, Alfredo Ramos Martínez and Rufino Tamayo. That they do so mainly by showing their work alongside American artists—among them, Thomas Hart Benton, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, Marion Greenwood, Philip Guston, Jacob Lawrence, Isamu Noguchi, Jackson Pollock, Ben Shahn, Charles White and Hale Woodruff—puts meat on the bones of a compelling historical argument. C.V.F.
“Mickalene Thomas: Better Nights”, The Bass, Miami, until 27 September
Leave it to Mickalene Thomas to go from paving the way for a renaissance in African American portraiture to expertly navigating the often-tenuous line separating art from silly amusements destined only for Instagram. For Art Basel 2013 Thomas created an “art experience” called Better Days. Made shortly after her mother’s death, Thomas modeled a space after the apartment where her mother lived and partied in the 1970s. Thomas also installed work by artist friends like Lorna Simpson and Wangechi Mutu and set up a slew of artistic programming, including, notably, a performance by Solange.
For her show at The Bass, Thomas’s multi-room installation invites visitors into another wood-paneled room decorated with richly upholstered 1970s style furniture. Lining the walls are works by other artist friends, such as Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams, Lyle Ashton Harris, and Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Thomas has created a new program of live performances, concerts, and films for the duration of the exhibition.
Better Nights is about “inclusivity—making everyday people feel comfortable coming through the door”, said Thomas, who has made everyday black life the source of her work. The resulting tableau inspires nostalgia, yes, but more urgently, it preserves Thomas’s memory of her mother, the place they called home, and the community that kept it alive. It’s not just a nice place to get lost in. M.S.
“African Cosmologies—Photography, Time, and the Other: Fotofest Biennial 2020”, Citywide, Houston, 8 March-19 April
People are catching on to how easy it is to transform a photo show into a photo sprawl. Curators have placed prints inside shipping containers, wheat-pasted them onto buildings, or displayed them at bus stops.
This biennial is another example of exhibition turned art crawl, with work by 30 artists from Africa and its diaspora, including Zanele Muholi, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, and Samuel Fosso displayed in multiple venues throughout Houston. This is the first time the biennial will focus on artists of African descent, making it one of the largest exhibitions of African photography to date.
The Fotofest Biennial’s mission is to provide visibility for photography from around the world. This edition, curated by Mark Sealy—who specializes in photography as an agent for social change—certainly fits the bill. The show aims to investigate how the art of photography behaved within, and in the wake of, colonialism. Looking through specifically African lenses, it aims to re-center the story of modern photography as a whole. M.S.
“Marina Abramović: 50 Years of Pioneering Performance Art”, Royal Academy, 26 September-8 December
Astonishingly no woman artist has ever had a solo exhibition in the main galleries of the Royal Academy. Who better, then, to redress this disgraceful state of affairs than the reigning queen of performance art, Marina Abramović? The grandest of grand dames will be filling the RA’s lofty processional spaces with an immersive journey through her 50-year career, culminating in new pieces conceived for the occasion.
There will be photographs, videos and re-performances of such early classics as Imponderabilia (1977)—which requires visitors to get through a doorway by squeezing between the standing bodies of a naked male and female (originally Abramović and her then-partner, the German artist Ulay). While the 73-year-old Abramović will not be staging any durational marathons herself, the artist will certainly be present, albeit in avatar form: in her most recent work she examines questions of legacy by experimenting with the latest in virtual and mixed-reality technology. L.B.
“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye”, Tate Britain, 19 May-31 August
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s enigmatic oil paintings present a cast of fictitious black characters who exist outside any specific time or place. Her paintings are steeped in art history—often echoing the grand portraits, dark palettes and poses of Goya, Degas, Manet and Singer-Sargent—but are utterly contemporary, and have established Yiadom-Boakye as one of the leading artists of her generation.
Her subjects may be imaginary much of the time but they are painted as distinct and psychologically complex individuals. She usually paints them in a day and the bravura energy of her brushstrokes adds to their immediacy and impact. This year she will have a full retrospective at Tate Britain of more than 80 paintings and works on paper dating from 2003, the year she graduated from the Royal Academy Schools, up to the present day. It promises to be an intense and highly rewarding experience. L.B.
“Judd”, Museum of Modern Art, 1 March-11 July
Long in the making, the mononymously titled exhibition is the first US retrospective in 30 years for the landmark sculptor, furniture-maker, critic and leading ideologue of Minimalism, this last being a role he stridently disavowed.
Besides drawing attention to Judd’s incidental influence on contemporary phenomena like IKEA furniture and luxury loft living, “Judd” surveys the complete evolution of this artist’s production through some 60 works of art: from sketches and paintings to three-dimensional objects and installations. The show aims to explore the work of a gargantuan reputation whose principal aim was to create straightforward objects that assumed physical presence while eschewing grand philosophical pronouncements. C.V.F.
“Gerhard Richter: Painting After All”, Met Breuer, 4 March-5 July
Shortly before vacating Marcel Breuer’s inverted ziggurat on Madison Avenue, the Metropolitan Museum will present a major loan exhibition by the German virtuoso Gerhard Richter. Co-curated by the Met’s Sheena Wagstaff and critic Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, the show brings together more than 100 works of art, including paintings, glass sculptures, prints and photographs. The exhibition includes abstract and realist paintings and brings early works into dialogue with more recent ones to underscore the artist’s reckoning with photography, history and personal memory.
Additionally, the exhibition will highlight two series not previously seen in the US: “Birkenau” (2014) and “Cage” (2006). The first chronicles Richter’s encounter with photographs taken by prisoners inside the Nazi concentration camp; the second serves as an abstract homage to composer John Cage’s romantic embrace of nature as a set of chance operations. C.V.F.
“Lisa Yuskavage: Wilderness”, Aspen Art Museum, 16 February-31 May
A year ago, Lisa Yuskavage described her lurid vision of the United States to The Wall Street Journal: “I think America has become the Wild West again—raping, pillaging.” Art as a wilderness, minus the explicit raping and pillaging, is unsurprisingly the putative subject of her upcoming exhibition of paintings, co-organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art and Aspen Art Museum.
A show that focuses on the varied and increasingly complex ways this unique and original artist has synthesized landscape and the female figure from the 1990s onward, her new thematic survey serves as a revamped Manifest Destiny for artists everywhere. Her fearless example, forged through the thorny dos and don’ts attending the representation of women, could well drive artistic expansion across several aesthetic continents. A provocative show from America’s leading badass painter. C.V.F.
Surveying art publishers’ catalogues for 2020 is a little like looking through old school yearbooks: I’m reminded of past loves but also the unsettling passage of time. This column considers the vogues, flashbacks and oddities that will hit your bookshelves in the coming year and ponders the virtues of the familiar and the faddish.
Publishers have recently caught on to the public interest in women artists. And now they’re starting to deal with the emancipation of materials, as a flurry of new books address the less canonical, less patriarchal media of ceramics, textiles, glass, woodwork, even floristry.
Artists are embracing increasingly obscure elements, as illustrated in Neri Oxman: Mediated Matter (MoMA, February). The Israeli-American designer and MIT professor uses tree bark, silkworms and the shells of crustaceans in works that operate at the “intersection of biology, engineering, materials science, and computer science”.
Contemporary Ceramic Art (Thames & Hudson, April) introduces a whole new world of firing and glazing. There are imaginary bestiaries, life-size ceramic characters and dresses decorated with thousands of porcelain butterflies. Things have moved on from the days of Picasso’s Provençal pots.
Last year sometimes felt like the year of Lucian Freud, with several books dedicated to the London painter. While there is no headliner in 2020, a few of the usual—and a couple of unusual—suspects appear in the line-up. Most notably, there is Warhol by Blake Gopnik (Allen Lane, February) which delivers almost 1,000 pages on the Pop maestro in what is being touted, understandably, as the definitive biography.
Two new titles, both out from Thames & Hudson in June, focus on Van Gogh’s relationship with the written word. “Books and reality and art are the same kind of thing for me,” wrote the artist. One book, Vincent van Gogh: A Life in Letters provides an epistolary portrait while the other, Vincent’s Books, examines his reading matter (not beach reads, one suspects).
Other European figures under the spyglass include an oddly intuitive pairing in Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul, which explores how the Nordic existentialism of Munch informed the British existentialism of Emin (Munch Museum, May). And from small Swedish publisher Booxencounters comes A Foujita Diary: 12 Panoramas by Tsuguharu Foujita, a small volume of 12 unpublished sketches by the artist, whimsical studies created to pass the time on a journey across Japan in 1934.
Art books often throw a curveball and 2020 provides some delightfully peculiar pitches. In Orange (Steidl, June) the novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk walks around Istanbul with his camera capturing its distinctive, cosy and elegiac orange glow. Meanwhile, sparking up Duchamp’s Pipe: A Chess Romance—Marcel Duchamp and George Koltanowski (North Atlantic Books, February) is the friendship between Dadaist Duchamp and Belgian chess master Koltanowski. Author Celia Rabinovitch reveals how a $87,000 pipe fits into the picture.
There is more strange ephemera in Fake Love Letters, Forged Telegrams and Prison Escape Maps: Designing Graphic Props for Film-making (Phaidon, March). Designer Annie Atkins explains how she created CIA documents for Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies, and pink cake boxes for The Grand Budapest Hotel. “Annie makes the unreal seem hyper-real,” says actor Jeff Goldblum.
Short Life in a Strange World: Birth to Death in 42 Panels (4th Estate, February) could be the most indefinable art book of the year. Part memoir, part philosophy, part art odyssey, it follows Toby Ferris’s pilgrimage—22 galleries across 19 countries—to see the extant paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It is being billed as a mortality-inflected examination of art’s place in life’s sometimes brief journey.
Obsessive stalking also features in The Golden Flea: A Story of Obsession and Collecting (WW Norton, April), which recounts Michael Rips’s love affair with the Chelsea Flea Market on the west side of Manhattan. There he joins the melee of magpies vying for “Old Master” paintings, “Afghan” rugs and “ancient” swords. Collectors everywhere will no doubt recognize themselves in the dusty hunters scanning the stalls for yesterday’s forgotten gems and tomorrow’s masterpieces.
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