Updated: art exhibitions and events from summer 2021 — United States and Canada

A dozen museum openings and exhibitions for your radar, from an immersive Van Gogh exhibition and a major Jasper Johns retrospective to Matthew Wong’s first solo museum show

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Keith Haring: Radiant VisionFenimore Art Museum, New York Until 6 September 2021

The Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, upstate New York, is probably best known for its collections of American Indian and Folk art. This summer, however, it’s going mainstream with a huge Keith Haring exhibition, featuring more than 100 of the artist’s works lent from a private collection.
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Keith Haring in his studio in 1982. Photograph ©1982 Allan Tannenbaum

The show charts Haring’s short but prolific career — emerging from New York’s graffiti scene in the 1980s to become a Pop Art wunderkind — as told through his energetic lithographs, drawings, paintings and silkscreens. It also pays special attention to his social activism on issues such as drugs, racism and AIDS.

In an effort to introduce Haring’s work to younger audiences, admission to the exhibition is free for anyone under the age of 20.

Dawoud Bey: An American ProjectWhitney Museum of American Art, New York Until 3 October 2021

Dawoud Bey has spent more than four decades photographing African Americans in their local communities to create a body of work with a rich sense of history and identity.

A favourite subject of his is teenagers. As he once said, ‘My interest in young people has to do with the fact that they are the arbiters of style in the community; their appearance speaks most strongly of how a community of people defines themselves at a particular historical moment.’

In 2002, Bey was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and in 2017 he won the MacArthur Fellowship — otherwise known as the ‘Genius Grant’ — which is awarded annually to a selection of people who have shown ‘extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits’.

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Dawoud Bey, Martina and Rhonda, Chicago IL, 1993. Six dye diffusion transfer prints (Polaroid), overall: 48 × 60 in (121.9 × 152.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, gift of Eric Ceputis and David W. Williams 2018.82a-f. © Dawoud Bey

An American Project, which includes almost 80 works and is Bey’s first retrospective in 25 years, explores the arc of his career in the period 1975-2017, from early street images shot on 35mm around Harlem to his more recent multi-panel studio portraits.

THE LUME IndianapolisIndianapolis Museum of Art Galleries Until May 2022

Have you ever dreamt of stepping inside a Van Gogh painting? Well thanks to some cutting-edge technology and the use of nearly 150 projectors, the Indianapolis Museum of Art Galleries is offering the chance to walk among his brushstrokes this summer. 

A gallery space of almost 30,000 square feet is being turned into a series of animated, immersive digital artworks, where every surface is covered in the Dutch artist’s blossoming sunflowers, breezy wheat fields and starry nights.

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Rendering of THE LUME Indianapolis, courtesy of Grande Experiences

To add to the multi-sensory effect, the show includes a specially devised soundtrack, fragrances to match the art, and even a Van Gogh-inspired food and drink menu. 

It’s hard not to wonder what the artist, who famously only ever sold one painting during his lifetime, would make of his popularity today.

Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your InterpretationInstitute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia From 17 September 2021

After brief stints as a mural painter and art therapy tutor at the Los Angeles County Probation Department, Ulysses Jenkins turned to video art in 1972, when he was introduced to consumer-grade portable recording equipment. 

Since then, Jenkins has dedicated his career to video art, weaving archival footage, photographs, performance and music together to explore the African diaspora’s experience in the USA. His mission, he says, has been to take control of how the Black experience is depicted by filmmakers.

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Portrait of Ulysses Jenkins. Courtesy of the artist

The upcoming show at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia is Jenkins’s first ever major retrospective, and is the result of three years’ intensive curatorial research — involving studio visits, the digitisation of a vast archive and many conversations with his collaborators, including the artists Kerry James Marshall, David Hammons and Senga Nengudi.

Rembrandt in Amsterdam: Creativity and CompetitionNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa Until 6 September 2021

Rembrandt (1606-1669) is probably best known today for the paintings he made late in life: expressive, personal works that reflected the isolation and fall from grace of his final years. This exhibition, however, focuses on his work from the mid-1630s to the mid-1650s.

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Rembrandt van Rijn, Heroine from the Old Testament, 1632/33, oil on canvas, 109.2 × 94.4 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Purchased 1953 (6089). Photo: NGC

Rembrandt lived in Amsterdam at the time, and was an artist in constant demand. The show will feature a number of his trademark paintings from that era — realistic in style and dramatically lit — alongside works by his friends, followers and rivals in the city.

Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889-1900Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio Until 19 September 2021

The Nabis were a group of young French artists — including Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis — who came of age in the final decade or so of the 19th century. Inspired by Paul Gauguin, the Pre-Raphaelites and the growing power of Symbolism, they used expressive colour to create an art of suggestion and emotion.

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Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867-1947), Women with a Dog, 1891. Oil and ink on canvas; 41 x 32.5 cm. The Clark Art Institute, Acquired by the Clark, 1979, 1979.23. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute. Clarkartedu. © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

This new exhibition will focus on the Nabis’ many depictions of home life. According to the curators, ‘that domestic world was not always what it seemed: suppressed secrets, hidden affairs and familial tension bubble beneath the surface, challenging the viewer to construct the unspoken narrative’.

Matthew Wong: Blue ViewArt Gallery of Ontario, Toronto From 13 August 2021

Despite the rising popularity of Matthew Wong’s work, his paintings haven’t yet been the subject of a solo museum exhibition — until now. In August, the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Wong’s birthplace of Toronto, is staging Matthew Wong: Blue View.

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Matthew Wong, A Dream, 2019. Oil on canvas, 177.8 x 203.2 cm. © 2019 Matthew Wong Foundation. Image courtesy of Karma, New York

The show features more than 40 works from the self-taught artist’s late ‘Blue Period’, between 2017 and 2019, its nocturnal landscapes and vibrant still lifes expressing both wonder and melancholy. 

After Wong’s death in 2019, Roberta Smith of The New York Times  called him ‘one of the most talented painters of his generation’. This show will surely only bolster his posthumous reputation.

Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean YouArt Institute of Chicago, Chicago From 19 September 2021

‘A rich man’s jokes are always funny,’ wrote Barbara Kruger on the wall of a museum in 2010. For more than 40 years, the rebellious feminist artist has been confronting society’s ills with her bold statements. Printed in black, red and white in her signature Futura Bold Oblique typeface, her slogans have appeared on everything from T-shirts and buses to the façades of buildings.

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Barbara Kruger. Untitled (Forever), 2017. Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, 2017-18. Amorepacific Museum of Art (APMA), Seoul. Photo by Timo Ohler and courtesy of Sprüth Magers

Arguably her most famous work is the poster Your body is a battleground, which she designed for the Women’s March on Washington in 1989. This retrospective considers Kruger’s practice over the past four decades, revealing an artist who is still courageously fighting the system, one barbed comment at a time.

Adam Pendleton: Who Is Queen?Museum of Modern Art, New York From 18 September 2021

Adam Pendleton came to prominence in the mid-2000s with an ongoing series called Black Dada, in which he raised questions about where the African-American aesthetic fitted into the history of the avant-garde.

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Images from L/R: Poor People’s Campaign, Resurrection City, June 25, 1968. AP/ Bob Daugherty; Adam Pendleton, Untitled (WE ARE NOT), 2020; Adam Pendleton, Queen, 2020 (detail)

Since then, the New York-based artist has become an important cultural critic through his politically charged artworks. Now he is taking over the Museum of Modern Art’s Marron Atrium with a large-scale installation that explores the theme of protest, from Black Lives Matter to the Occupy movement, asking what kind of future is possible for America.

Jasper Johns: Mind/MirrorPhiladelphia Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, Philadelphia and New York From 28 and 29 September 2021

Not many artists are deemed important enough to warrant a retrospective held simultaneously across two top American museums, but Jasper Johns clearly is. Johns celebrated his 90th birthday last year, and these exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Whitney will be the most comprehensive to date, featuring 500 works from seven decades.

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Jasper Johns, Corpse and Mirror II, 1974-75. Oil on sand and canvas (4 panels), 57⅝ x 75¼ in (146.4 x 191.1 cm). Collection of the Artist. © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY. On view at Philadelphia Museum of Art

Among them are well-known paintings of maps, numbers, target roundels and the US flag from early in the artist’s career, as well as a recent, skeleton-themed series being shown for the first time. The organisers say the scale of the two-venue exhibition allows them to ‘test the conventional perceptions of Johns’s work’ like never before.

Clouds, Ice, and Bounty: The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Collection of Seventeenth-Century Dutch and Flemish PaintingsNational Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. From 17 October 2021

This atmospheric exhibition of 27 Dutch and Flemish paintings comprises landscapes, genre paintings, seascapes, still lifes and portraits, by celebrated masters such as Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan van Goyen, Dirck Hals and Clara Peeters.

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Simon de Vlieger, Estuary at Day's End, c. 1640/1645. Oil on panel. Overall: 36.8 x 58.4 cm (14½ x 23 in). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund and The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund in memory of Kathrine Dulin Folger

Featuring paintings acquired through the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund, with one major work from the Folgers’ personal collection, the exhibition is an opportunity to get up close to some of the finest art of the 17th century.

Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living AbstractionMuseum of Modern Art, New York From 21 November 2021

The Dada textile designer, artist, writer, architect and dancer Sophie Taeuber-Arp was a true polymath of the inter-war years. But by the second half of the 20th century her career had been overshadowed by that of her husband, the abstract artist Jean Arp. That’s now changing thanks to a touring retrospective dedicated to her life’s work. 

After a stint at Tate Modern (until 17 October), where The Guardian  lauded Arp as ‘the great overlooked modernist’, the show travels to New York’s MoMA.

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Nic Aluf, Sophie Taeuber with her Dada Head, 1920. Gelatin silver print on board. 4⅝ x 3¾ in (11.7 x 9.6 cm). Stiftung Arp e.V., Berlin. Photo: Wolfgang Morell

The exhibition contains more than 300 of Arp’s multidisciplinary works, assembled from about 50 private collections and organised chronologically, including her beadwork, stained glass, tablecloths and puppets. 

It comes to an abrupt end, however, in the winter of 1943, when the artist tragically died of carbon-monoxide poisoning from a faulty stove. 

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