From Lee Krasner in London to Picasso in Potsdam, these exciting European art shows are worth the trip.
A trip to Europe inevitably means a visit to one of its many excellent art museums, and this spring’s exhibitions promise plenty of artistic inspiration. We’ve compiled a list of top new shows on view this season in cities from Amsterdam to Turin—including rarely seen late Picassos and retrospectives of seminal artists like Maria Lassnig and Lee Krasner.
February 26–June 6; Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy
Albania-born, Berlin-based artist Anri Sala is known for his haunting video art. Ravel, Ravel (2013) has two performers playing Maurice Ravel’s 1930 Concerto in D for Left Hand on unsynchronized screens to give a sense of a dissonance. On one floor of Turin’s Castello di Rivoli, three of Sala’s large-scale film works (including Ravel, Ravel) are shown within the same space—and their projections push viewers to shift their positions in the room, chasing what the artist calls a “parade” of images and multiple musical narratives. Through the movement and classical music, the exhibition is an immersive experience of sight, space, and sound.
“Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival”
March 1–September 1; La Triennale Design Museum, Milan, Italy
This extensive exhibition was put together by Paola Antonelli, who is also curator of design and architecture at the MoMA in New York. It explores design-based solutions to humankind’s fraught relationship with the environment, and it includes more than 120 projects ranging from clever recycling initiatives to human and nonhuman collaborations. Look for the glass orb by Portuguese designer Susana Soares, where bees react to chemicals, odors, and specific biomarkers associated with diseases after patients breathe into it, and the Luma Foundation’s efforts to harness the potential of algae, which can be used as a renewable material to create design objects. Don’t miss the stunning sound piece “The Great Animal Orchestra,” which celebrates the sounds of wild habitats recorded over the past 30 years.
“Picasso—the Late Work”
March 9–June 16; Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany
The last two decades of Pablo Picasso’s life are a somewhat mysterious time in terms of his artistic production. Works from the 1950s until his death in 1973 are mostly abstract portraits of his second wife Jacqueline (he created more than 400 portraits of her), along with a few paintings of animal subjects, and are rarely displayed in public. The works shown at Museum Barberini—founded in 2017 and located in a historical building in Potsdam, Germany—come from Jacqueline’s private collection. Her daughter Catherine Hutin facilitated the unusual loan, which includes many pieces that have never been in museums.
March 13–June 30; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
Although color-field painter Mark Rothko made several trips to Europe in his lifetime, from 1903 to 1970, he famously avoided Austria (and Germany). The artist, born Markus Rothkowitz, was originally from Russia and Jewish; he changed his name during World War II due to the rise of Nazism. Today, few Austrian museums or collections hold his work, and no Austrian museum has previously mounted a solo show. Nonetheless, British curator Jasper Sharp and Rothko’s children Kate and Christopher Rothko have pulled together a unique exhibition of 40 of the artist’s ethereal paintings, starting with his early figurative paintings from the 1930s and including the color-field work that made him famous in the 1960s.
March 22–June 16, Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany
The title of this show borrows a lyric from artist Dorothy Iannone to celebrate what’s been made in the city over the past decades, and how the city’s art scene has changed. Works focus on craft and handmade art in Berlin through 18 artists, many of them by women and Berlin-based expats. Some highlights include works from the self-taught Iannone, whose often erotic paintings have global influences, and Turkish-born artist Nevin Aldag, whose tapestry room dividers are a splash of color and connect to both Turkish culture and Berlin’s DIY spirit. The Gropius Bau was recently renovated to open its spaces to more light and allow visitors access to the ground floor atrium free of charge.
March 26–July 21; Musée D’Orsay, Paris, France
This exhibition examines how models of color were represented in paintings, photography, and other media throughout art and world history, with a focus on social issues and eras like French abolition and the Harlem Renaissance in wall texts. The exhibition includes Edouard Manet’s 1860s portrayals of Laure, the model who posed as the maid in Olympia; Henri Matisse’s drawings, paintings, and prints from before and after his 1930s visits to Harlem; and civil rights–era works by African American artist Romare Bearden.
“Maria Lassnig/Ways of Being”
April 6–August 11; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Long before selfie culture emerged, Austrian feminist painter Maria Lassnig spent her career exploring what she called “body awareness”—exploring the world through images of herself. Her work—powerful self-portraiture in pastel tones—was pioneering at a time in which self-examination was unusual in a conservative, postwar Austria and most abstract painters were men. Lassnig’s international painting career truly took off only in her 60s (she would have been 100 this year); a MoMA PS1 retrospective was mounted shortly before her death in 2014. This show features 200 of her haunting works.
May 30–September 1; Barbican Centre, London
In its 1950s heyday, abstract expressionism was considered a man’s game—the era’s art buyers and press celebrated painters such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning and critics like Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg. The women of the movement, however, are now considered as important, reflecting a new global interest in rewriting art history to include underrepresented masters. Painter Lee Krasner (who was married to Pollock) gets her due in this extensive show featuring more than 100 of her varied works. These include early self-portraits, collages in ripped paper, and popping abstract paintings, in an exhibition that helps pull one of the major inspirations behind Pollock’s work out from his still-outsized shadow.