Eager beavers for art, we started searching far and wide for the most exciting exhibitions slated for 2020. True, there’s plenty of fish in that sea, but also true that many institutions have yet to announce their forthcoming shows. From Donald Judd and Miuccia Prada to Lindy Lee and Agus Suwage, here are some of our picks for shows to look out for in 2020 (that we currently know of) by chronological date.
Nigerian-born London-based British designer Duro Olowu is internationally recognised for his womenswear label launched in 2004 and his penchant for dressing women in the art world. Characterised by unique fabrics, evocative patterns, and impeccable construction, the Olowu’s garments are informed by his international background and curatorial eye. Photographs of Beth Lesser from the 1980s and sketches from Francoise Gilot—who, among other notable achievements, was Pablo Picasso’s romantic partner—inspire his forthcoming Spring 2020 collection. Olowu’s multinational and multicultural viewpoint has translated into hugely popular platforms and projects from his dynamic Instagram account (@duroolowu) to his revelatory curatorial projects in London and New York. From February, Olowu turns his cosmopolitan eye to Chicago. Drawing from the city’s public and private art collections including works in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Olowu’s “Seeing Chicago” reimagines relationships between artists and objects across time, media, and geography. Moving away from traditional exhibition formats, Olowu combines photographs, paintings, sculptures, and films in dense and textural scenes that incorporate his own work.
2. Judd Museum of Modern Art, New York
1 March – 11 July 2020
Donald Judd changed the trope of sculpture in the 1960s when he all but abandoned paint and canvas, with its implicit notions of European artistic value, for the three-dimensional realm of objects and structures. He used industrial working methods too, such that he refuted the idea of his pieces being called sculpture at all. He invoked materials such as galvanized steel, enameled aluminium, wood, plywood, brass and even blue Plexiglas, to work in what he called “real space.” Judd, and the nascent Minimalist school he was part of, (although he stridently disavowed that label), thus left all illusory and metaphysical innuendo at the door, and thought a work of art should be defined purely by its visible material qualities and nothing else.
“Judd” at New York’s newly revamped Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), will be the artist’s first major US retrospective since the 1980s, allowing aficionados and amateurs a chance to explore the building blocks—boxes, stacks and progressions—of this revolutionary aesthete’s career, whose work also reached into the fields of architecture and furniture design; Calvin Klein outfitted his Madison Avenue flagship store in 1995 with Donald Judd chairs. “Half a century after Judd established himself as a leading figure of his time, there remains a great deal to discover,” says exhibition organiser Ann Temkin. “MoMA’s presentation will emphasise the radicality of this approach to art-making and the visual complexity of his work.”
Next September will see Paris’ iconic L’Arc de Triomphe monument draped in 25,000 square metres of recyclable polyproylene fabric in silvery blue, and 7,000 metres of red rope. Which can only mean one thing: Christo and his signature school of ‘wrappism’. As a prelude to the stunt, titled Wrapped, an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou will retrace the story of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s years in Paris from 1958 to 1964, as well as the story of how they wrapped the Pont-Neuf bridge in 1975. What makes this project especially pertinent is that Christo first made a photomontage of the wrapped Arc de Triomphe in 1962. Almost 60 years later the project will finally be realised. “The exhibition will reveal the historical context of the period during which we lived and worked in Paris,” said Christo. The artist and his partner first met in 1958 but began creating works of art in public spaces in 1961. “35 years after Jeanne-Claude and I wrapped the Pont-Neuf, I am eager to work in Paris again to realize our project for the Arc de Triomphe.”
4. Yoshitomo Nara Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
5 April – 2 August 2020
Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara’s iconic portraits of menacing figures have made him one of the most recognizable artists on the planet and this blockbuster show spans a 30-year cross-section of his work, from 1987 to present day. As a peripatetic traveller, Nara’s work takes inspiration from numerous resources; from memories of his childhood, music, literature, and his years studying and living in Germany (1988–2000) to exploring his roots in Japan, Sakhalin, and Asia, and modern art from Europe and Japan. “Yoshitomo Nara” views the artist’s work through the lens of his longtime passion—music. Featuring album covers that Nara began collecting while still adolescent, along with paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, and never-before exhibited sketches that reflect the artist’s emphatic eye, this show shines a light on Nara’s conceptual process. One of the major highlights, according to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, will be Miss Forest, a 26-foot outdoor painted bronze sculpture that will grace Wilshire Boulevard. Bring on the click bait.
For “STARS: Six Contemporary Artists from Japan to the World,” Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum has chosen six prolific artists whose careers have propelled them beyond the confines of Japan, earning high acclaim—and earnings—around the world, tracing their journey from their earliest to latest works. The star-studded lineup is comprised of: Yayoi Kusama, Lee Ufan, Tatsuo Miyajima, Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Devoting a space to each, “STARS” will present work from when they first achieved international recognition to the present, including newly commissioned work. It will simultaneously feature 50 selected exhibitions of Japanese contemporary art staged outside the country since the 1950s, using priceless original archival material such as installation photographs, and even exhibition reviews. As such, “STARS” attempts to show how organisers and curators expressed the concept of “Japan” and the history of Japanese contemporary art’s acceptance in the wider word. Certainly a must-go experience.
6. Kandinsky Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao
16 June 2020 – 10 January 2021
As a pioneer of abstraction and a renowned aesthetic theorist, Vasily Kandinsky (1866–1944), is among the foremost artistic innovators of the early 20th century. He attempted to liberate painting from its ties to the natural world, and by so doing, discovered a new subject matter based solely on the artist’s “inner necessity.” Having helped found the Munich-based artist group Der Blaue Reiter, Kandinsky was forced to leave Germany at the outbreak of World War I and returned to his native Moscow. There, his pictorial vocabulary began to reflect the utopian experiments of the Russian avant-garde, including its emphasis on geometric shapes in an effort to establish a universal aesthetic language. Post-war, Kandinsky began teaching at the Bauhaus, a German school of art and applied design that shared his belief in art’s ability to transform self and society. Kandinsky was forced to flee Germany a second time under pressure from the Nazis in 1933, and settled in Paris with his wife, Nina. There he experimented with materials and his compositions resemble miniscule worlds of living organisms, clearly informed by his contact with Surrealism, and an interest in natural sciences, including botany, embryology and zoology. Drawn from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s rich holdings, this comprehensive exhibition traces Kandinsky’s aesthetic evolution and spans his entire oeuvre.
7. Agus Suwage: The Theatre of Me
Museum MACAN, Jakarta
July – October 2020
One of Indonesia’s most revered and globally active contemporary artists, Agus Suwage is renowned for paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations that relentlessly—and colourfully—investigate the interrelationships between multiple forms of identity touching on ethnicity, religion and politics as viewed through a very personal lens. The specter of violence, intolerance, and the effects of fundamental strains of Islam are juxtaposed, or leavened by his spirit of self-mockery, irony and humour. “The Theatre of Me” at Jakarta’s Museum MACAN, comprises a major survey of Suwage’s work, and highlights this tongue-in-cheek approach to social issues, reinforcing his stature as a supreme visual satirist. The artist is distinguished by his continual return to the self-portrait as a means of questioning not just socio-political issues but to probe what it means to be an artist in isolation and society. He borrows liberally, not just from his own work, but also from his peers, past and present, and from contemporary mass media. This process of re-contextualising and recycling parallels the cycle of life and death that has been an underlying theme throughout his career, grounded as it is in the spiritual traditions of Java’s ancient Hindu-Buddhist culture.
8. Lindy Lee Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney
3 July – 20 September 2020
Born to Chinese immigrants in 1954, leading Australian artist Lindy Lee’s work has explored ideas around history, portraiture, identity, culture and nature. Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) will stage the most comprehensive survey of her work to date, drawing on three decades of Lee’s practice, spanning early works to more recent large-scale installations and sculptures. For the past 20 years, Lee has turned her focus to the philosophies of Taoism and Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, which explore the connections between humanity and nature, and are a key influence on the artist informing her work and her art-making process. In recent years too, her practice has expanded into making important public artworks; last year she was awarded a prestigious commission to create an iconic gateway work for New York’s Chinatown district. “She is an artist who weaves together her personal experience of living between two cultures to create highly evocative works which are especially relevant in today’s Australia,” says curator Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, who first visited Lee’s studio in 1994 and has worked closely with the artist ever since.
From her mantra of ugly/beauty to her store-design collaborations with architects such as Jacques Herzog and Rem Koolhaas, to her farsighted appreciation of art and its inseparability from fashion, Miuccia Prada’s story is unique. Joining the family business in the mid-70s, she turned it into one of the most successful fashion houses in the world, while transforming the landscape of style and culture. With her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, she has changed the way that people dress, redefined how we understand luxury (her first iconic products were all made from black nylon), explored new materials and technologies and invested passionately in art, design and architecture. She has made Prada and the A to Z aesthetica of its mindset, the ‘Pradaverse,’ the very essence of modernity. “Prada. Front and Back” will offer unprecedented insight into Prada’s creative approach, inspirations and landmark collaborations. Facing the future, it will explore Prada’s transformation of the idea and practice of fashion and the continuing evolution of a global enterprise. Different sections will reflect the idea of front and back, conveying both the surface of fashion and the creative and industrial infrastructure on which it depends.
Can performance art outlive the moment of performance? It’s a question that Serbian artist Marina Abramović has spent more than 50 years considering during a career that has won her worldwide acclaim as a pioneer of performance art. Abramović has consistently tested the limits of her own physical and mental endurance in her work—and invited audiences to encounter it with her. By her own admission she’s the “grandmother of performance art.” Iconic projects such as Rhythm 0 (1974) invited audiences to freely interact with Abramović however they chose—famously resulting in a loaded gun held to her head. Later works such as The Artist Is Present (2010), at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, pushed audiences to question their own emotions, as they sat in silence opposite the artist. In “Marina Abramović,” the artist’s first major exhibition in the UK, the Royal College of Art convenes photographs, videos, installations and re-performances spanning her career, along with new works conceived especially for the galleries. As Abramović approaches her mid-70s, her new work reflects on changes to her body, and explores her perception of the transition between life and death. Curated in close collaboration with Abramović, this exhibition will offer visitors the sort of intense, physical encounter for which she has become known.