From Paris to Madrid, here’s where to see some cutting-edge art.
Denizens of wintry lands rejoice: The ice has begun to thaw and the buds are in bloom! For those desperate to shake it up this spring, an art-peeping trip through Europe might be just the ticket. From London to Paris to Madrid, we’ve compiled a selection of the best museum exhibitions opening this season in Europe for your viewing pleasure.
Surely, there is no antidote to the aches and pains of modern life quite like a little perspective—especially the kind offered by a dip into the troubles of the past. The American photographer Walker Evans (1903-1975) is considered one of the fathers of the form, and his striking images of rural life in Depression-era America continue to shock for their raw, rough clarity. This unprecedented presentation of his work constitutes a veritable retrospective, featuring 300 of his images from various eras and offering an introduction to all of his styles and techniques.
Ceramics take center stage at Tate Liverpool in March. This ancient art form is often overlooked as a secondary one, taking a backseat to the money-making big boys of painting, sculpture, and even installation. Yet it has often been fundamental to the practice of many artists we know well. This show explores 100 years of studio pottery made by 50 artists from Europe, Japan, and North America, and it includes an ode to the “clay revolution” of 1950s and ’60s California, showcasing sculptures from Peter Voulkos, Ken Price, Rudy Autio, and Ron Nagle.
Speaking of modern life, this survey takes an in-depth look at the landscape of creative innovation on the West Coast, ever the pioneer of “tools of personal liberation, from LSD to skateboards and iPhones.” On view will be items such as political posters, personal computers, and self-driving cars—samples of hardware in every shade that offer a glimpse into the global reach of California’s midcentury modernism.
For anyone who tends to pay less attention to the African art scene, this major exhibition will set them straight. Not only has the continent historically influenced some of the greatest Western artists—from Van Gogh to Monet to Modigliani—but today, the landscape of contemporary art in Africa is as vibrant as ever. This show features 15 artists, all drawn from the collection of French bon vivant Jean Pigozzi. It also features a display of art specifically from South Africa, with everything from installations to textiles, that seeks to open a window on that country’s singular identity.
The French-born, Algeria-raised Kader Attia is one of the most socially and politically engaged artists working today. His work often bridges numerous realms, from history and anthropology to philosophy, and he has recently been investigating what he describes as the “neo-colonial” context in which non-Western cultures attempt to regain their liberty from colonial oppression. For this show, S.M.A.K. invited Attia to offer his take on the role of textiles in contemporary art to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Textile Design course at the Royal Academy of Fine Art (KASK).
Some museum exhibitions are less engaging. Not so with the work of German Franz Erhard Walther, born in 1939, who is best known for his Handlungsstücke (Action Pieces) from the 1960s, which take the form of participatory objects and fabric sculptures meant to be worn and experienced by viewers. Aside from these signature “demonstrations of work,” as he described them, where the body, space, and time become sculptural materials, the show also includes works on paper, historical photographs, and videos. At the Reina Sofia this spring, there is no excuse for boredom.