The top museum exhibitions this summer across the world
Many museums make use of their excellent, often unseen permanent collections to create quiet, highly creative shows that are well worth a visit
Museums have a reputation for saving their “serious” exhibitions for the winter, spring, and fall - the Whitney Biennial, the Shchukin Collection at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the David Hockney retrospective at the Tate, for instance. Summer, when patrons and donors and critics are on vacation, is supposedly the time for low-budget follies. But spared the spotlight of international scrutiny or the pressure of serving as a ticket-office bonanza, many museums make use of their excellent, often unseen permanent collections to create quiet, highly creative shows that are well worth a visit. The following exhibitions are all cases in point: They range in scope and scale and content, but each, in its own way, is proof that summer is still a season for art.
THE HENKIN BROTHERS: A DISCOVERY AT THE HERMITAGE, ST PETERSBURG
Rarely has an exhibition made more sense, or seemed more clever, than the juxtaposition of photographs by the brothers Evgeny and Yakov Henkin. Born in Rostov-on-Don, a port city in southern Russia on the border of Ukraine, in 1900 and 1903, respectively, the brothers split up after the October Revolution, one moving to Berlin, the other Moscow.
The Hermitage, a museum known for its unparalleled collection of old master paintings, has organised an exhibition that contrasts the trajectory (and parallels) of the two brothers’ lives as their respective cities transitioned from the comparatively ebullient 1920s to the increasingly despotic and bellicose 1930s.
FEMALE IMAGES FROM BIEDERMEIER TO EARLY MODERNISM AT THE LEOPOLD MUSEUM VIENNA
In a prime example of a museum making excellent use of its extensive permanent collection, the Leopold Museum, Vienna’s pantheon of Germanic modernism, has dug into its own holdings and organised a thematic show around “female images.” While any mandate that sweeping runs the risk of falling flat, reassessing the evolution (or lack thereof) of depictions of gender feels timely.
The first part of the show is organised around themes (mother and child, young/old, formal portraits, etc), while the latter part includes works created by female artists.
Fred Forest, a French artist born in 1933, became famous (or at least art world famous) in the 1970s for his conceptual, performative, and largely incomprehensible practice. Forty years later, the theory behind much of his art remains muddled, but his embrace of new technology - he was a leading practitioner of video art - has begun to appear dramatically ahead of its time.
Given that Forest has largely disappeared from recent contemporary discourse, the Pompidou’s show is part retrospective and part introduction to a younger audience that wasn’t alive when he was first scandalising (or sending up) the art world.
EDUARDO ARROYO: DANS LE RESPECT DES TRADITIONS AT THE FONDATION MAEGHT SAINT-PAUL DE VENCE, FRANCE
The Fondation Maeght, a private exhibition space perched on a mountainside in the south of France, has been a destination since it was founded in 1964 by the art dealers Marguerite and Aimé Maeght. Its permanent collection, which includes a terrace full of sculptures by Giacometti and a “labyrinth” designed by Joan Miro, is always a draw, but its temporary shows are equally good.
This collection of work by the Spanish painter Eduardo Arroyo (b. 1937 in Madrid) showcases one of the giants of postwar painting who, for whatever reason (geography, and the fact that they can’t be easily categorised, most probably), has been undervalued by the art world for decades. That probably won’t last long.
CHINA AND EGYPT: CRADLES OF THE WORLD AT THE NEUES MUSEUM BERLIN
In a very different example of contrasting timelines, this show comprises 250 objects spanning nearly 4,000 years and charts the development of the two earliest and most sophisticated societies on the planet. The exhibition’s objects include a full Chinese burial suit made out of jade blocks from about 200 BC E, a perfectly preserved polychrome Egyptian stella from about 1350 BC E, and a gorgeously filigreed 13th century BC E Chinese wine vessel in the shape of an ox, on loan from the Shanghai Museum.
A bonus: the Neues Museum’s beautifully designed interiors by starchitect David Chipperfield.
Perhaps it requires a British arts organisation to truly interrogate what it meant to be a black American artist. This sweeping show - which includes work by Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Sam Gilliam, and more than 50 others - seeks to articulate a relatively fresh narrative from the race riots of the 1960s through the early 1980s and the establishment of the Black Power movement.
Equally refreshing, the show includes work from the birth of Black Feminism, along with less overtly political pieces, like the aesthetic photography of Roy DeCarava, the first black photographer to win a Guggenheim Fellowship.
CRISTÓBAL DE VILLALPANDO: MEXICAN PAINTER OF THE BAROQUE AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK
The Met might be in the throes of a much-publicized budget crisis and management shakeup, but you wouldn’t know it from the quality of its 2017 exhibitions.
One of the most exciting displays is a colossal painting by Cristóbal de Villalpando (c. 1649–1714), a Mexican Baroque painter. The painting is more than 28 feet tall and depicts two biblical scenes (Moses and the brazen serpent, and the Transfiguration of Jesus). Ten additional works round out the show, but the massive painting is the star: This is the first time in more than 300 years that it’s left Mexico.
PLAYING WITH FIRE: PAINTINGS BY CARLOS ALMARAZ AT LACMA LOS ANGELES
It’s entirely reasonable that Carlos Almaraz’s reputation is intertwined with Los Angeles: He founded a Chicano artist collective in the city in the 1970s and subsequently created a series of prominent murals in East L A depicting the struggle for Chicano civil rights.
But his paintings, which are bright, vivid, and often verge on the surreal, practically beg for an international audience. This show - the first major retrospective of his work - includes more than 60 pieces from 1967 until his death from complications in 1989.
THE SCULPTURE PARK AT THE LOUISIANA MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, HUMLEBAEK DENMARK
No roundup is worth its salt without a glaring exception, and there’s no better exception than the Louisiana Museum’s outdoor sculpture park. Truly, it’s one of the most beautiful summertime destinations for art viewership on the planet.
Set on a rolling lawn overlooking the Öresund Sound, the park contains more than 60 sculptures dotted amid trees, flowers, and meandering paths. The park is about a half- hour drive from downtown Copenhagen and well worth the trip.