Art exhibitions and events to look forward to in 2021 — Europe

Art exhibitions and events to look forward to in 2021 — Europe

As museums and galleries reopen their doors, we highlight 12 of the most exciting openings and exhibitions, from Jean Dubuffet in London to Sophie Taeuber-Arp in Basel

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  • Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel
    Until 20 June 2020

Born in 1889, the Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp pioneered a form of abstraction that fused elements of Dadaism, avant-garde experimentalism and her technical training as a teacher of applied art.

Like many women artists of the 20th century, however, Taeuber-Arp was overshadowed by her more famous artist husband, Jean (Hans) Arp, and her work, which spanned everything from painting and drawing to furniture and architecture, was widely neglected after her death in a tragic accident in 1943.

Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Composition of Circles and Overlapping Angles,1930. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation. Photo The Museum of Modern Art, Department of Imaging and Visual Resources. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York  VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Composition of Circles and Overlapping Angles,1930. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, Department of Imaging and Visual Resources. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Featuring more than 250 works, this major retrospective, produced in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Tate Modern in London, seeks to establish Taeuber-Arp as one of the most important avant-gardists of classic Modernism. In doing so, it will finally give her the recognition she deserves.

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  • Opening of the Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection Bourse de Commerce, Paris
    From 22 May

A magnificent new museum housing part of François Pinault’s extensive collection of contemporary art opens its doors this spring. The 18th-century Bourse de Commerce, restored and transformed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando — who also designed the Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Pinault’s other museums — features a central rotunda comprising 10 exhibition galleries, grandiose reception and cultural-programming spaces, a 284-seat auditorium, and The Studio, a basement exhibition space suited to the presentation of video and sound installations.

Paris’s Bourse de Commerce, restored and transformed by Tadao Ando, will house the Pinault Collection. © Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, Niney et Marca Architectes, Agence Pierre-Antoine Gatier. Photo Patrick Tourneboeuf

Paris’s Bourse de Commerce, restored and transformed by Tadao Ando, will house the Pinault Collection. © Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, Niney et Marca Architectes, Agence Pierre-Antoine Gatier. Photo: Patrick Tourneboeuf

Inaugural exhibition highlights include a series of portraits by the Italian painter Rudolf Stingel, Tarek Atoui’s immersive sound installation inspired by China’s Pearl River Delta and a wax replica of Giambologna’s The Abduction of the Sabine Women by Urs Fischer.

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  • Picasso Ibero Centro Botín, Santander
    Until 12 September 2021

One never has to wait long for the next Picasso exhibition, so there are few aspects or periods of the Spaniard’s career that remain unexplored. One exception, though, is the influence on him of Iberian (ancient Spanish) art, which is the subject of a show at the Centro Botín in Santander.

Iberian limestone sculpture of a man’s head, 3rd century BC. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre)  Franck Raux

Iberian limestone sculpture of a man’s head, 3rd century BC. Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Franck Raux

Pablo Picasso, Self-portrait, 1906. © Sucesión Pablo Picasso. VEGAP, Madrid, 2020. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris)  Mathieu Rabeau
Pablo Picasso, Self-portrait, 1906. © Sucesión Pablo Picasso. VEGAP, Madrid, 2020. Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Mathieu Rabeau

Alas, the most striking manifestation of that influence, 1907’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, isn’t being loaned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. However, numerous other works from across Picasso’s career are shown alongside Iberian objects that inspired him, ranging from bronze and stone sculptures to painted ceramics.

Despite only devoting himself to art wholeheartedly at the age of 41 — in the middle of Nazi-occupied Paris, no less — Jean Dubuffet went on to become one of the most original voices in modern art thanks to the way he built up the surfaces of his works like an alchemist, using glass, charcoal, sponges, vine leaves and butterflies.

Jean Dubuffet, Landscape with Argus (Paysage aux argus), 1955. Collection Fondation Dubuffet, Paris © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London
Jean Dubuffet, Landscape with Argus (Paysage aux argus), 1955. Collection Fondation Dubuffet, Paris © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London

He took his unusual inspiration from Outsider Art, which he called ‘Art Brut’ (literally ‘raw’ art). Alongside the 150 Dubuffet works on display at the Barbican are objects from his personal collection made by the psychiatric patient Aloïse Corbaz, the medium Laure Pigeon and Fleury-Joseph Crépin, who claimed that his pictures were communicated to him by the dead.

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  • Slavery Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
    Opening date to be announced

Through the true stories of 10 individuals, including enslaved Africans, a Dutch sugar merchant and some of those who helped break the shackles of the slave trade, Slavery  examines various attitudes to servitude between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Anonymous, Enslaved Men Digging Trenches, c. 1850. Rijksmuseum, purchased with the support of the Johan Huizinga FondsRijksmuseum Fonds
Anonymous, Enslaved Men Digging Trenches, c. 1850. Rijksmuseum, purchased with the support of the Johan Huizinga Fonds/Rijksmuseum Fonds

Audio guides by narrators who share a personal connection with the people involved, along with music and poetry, bring to life the objects on display, including paintings of African plantation workers and wooden foot stocks. A scale model of a gilded Dutch ship used to transport hundreds of slaves to the Caribbean — shackled cheek-by-jowl for up to three months at sea — is particularly harrowing.

Elsewhere in the Rijksmuseum, 70 objects from its permanent collection are being given a second label to explain their previously hidden connections with slavery, the dehumanising business that made many Dutch people wealthy.

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  • Opening of the Munch Museum Munch Museum, Oslo
    Opening date to be announced

Autumn sees the long-awaited opening of the Munch Museum, one of the world’s largest institutions dedicated to a single artist. Located in the waterside area of Bjørvika, the new 26,000-square-metre building will house the museum’s collection of around 42,000 works of art and objects bequeathed to Oslo by Edvard Munch on his death in 1944.

Oslo’s new Munch Museum will be one of the largest institutions in the world devoted to a single artist. Photo @Munchmuseet

Oslo’s new Munch Museum will be one of the largest institutions in the world devoted to a single artist. Photo: @Munchmuseet

There will be more than 220 Munch works on display when it opens, from iconic images such as The Scream, The Sick Child  and Vampire  to lesser-known drawings, sketches, graphics, sculptures, writings and photographs, exploring his recurrent themes of isolation and self-representation. The museum will also feature works by other Modernist and contemporary artists.

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  • The Giacometti: A Family of Creators Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence
    3 July to 14 November 2021

Curated by the artist Peter Knapp, this exhibition looks at the links in life and art between Alberto Giacometti, his father Giovanni and his cousin Augusto, and his two brothers, Diego and Bruno. It will also explore the enduring influence on their work of Stampa, the family’s home village in a mountainous region of Italian Switzerland.

Diego Giacometti, Chat maître d’hôtel  Cat butler, Bronze. 29 x 21 x 12 cm. © Adagp Paris 2021
Diego Giacometti, Chat maître d’hôtel / Cat butler, Bronze. 29 x 21 x 12 cm. © Adagp Paris 2021
Alberto Giacometti, Portrait of Marguerite Maeght, 1961. Oil on canvas. 130 x 96.5 cm. Photo Galerie Maeght, Paris. © Succession Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti Paris + Adagp Paris) 2021
Alberto Giacometti, Portrait of Marguerite Maeght, 1961. Oil on canvas. 130 x 96.5 cm. Photo Galerie Maeght, Paris. © Succession Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti Paris + Adagp Paris) 2021

The show brings together around 30 major sculptures and drawings from the Maeght collection, as well as loaned works, alongside paintings, films and archival objects, to explore the creativity of each member of the artistic family.

‘Of course, everyone knows Alberto,’ said Knapp of his decision to showcase the family’s work, ‘but for once, I hope that the talents of Giovanni, Augusto, Diego and Bruno will also be recognised.’

Vermeer’s painting Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window  has had quite a history. It narrowly survived the Allied bombing of Dresden during the Second World War, only to fall into Soviet hands for a decade after it.

Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, circa 1659. Oil on canvas. Intermediate state of the restoration on 16 January 2020. Photo © SKD. Photographer Wolfgang Kreische
Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, circa 1659. Oil on canvas. Intermediate state of the restoration on 16 January 2020. Photo: © SKD. Photographer: Wolfgang Kreische

In recent years, the canvas has undergone major restoration, with conservators discovering that in the original scene there had been a painting of Cupid hanging on the wall behind the girl (this was erased after Vermeer’s death by another hand). 

A new exhibition at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, the masterpiece’s home, will focus on that discovery. Featuring 10 Vermeers in all, it will also consider why so many of the Dutchman’s works include pictures, maps or tapestries in the background.

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  • Opening of the Humboldt Forum Humboldt Forum, Berlin
    Opening date to be announced

It has been almost two decades in the planning and is, by some way, the biggest cultural project being undertaken in Europe right now. The Humboldt Forum has cost €660 million and — when it opens its doors at some point in 2021 — will occupy a new building with an area of 30,000 square metres (roughly the same as the V&A in London).

The Humboldt Forum in Berlin — currently the biggest cultural project being undertaken in Europe. Photo © SHF  Christoph Musiol

The Humboldt Forum in Berlin — currently the biggest cultural project being undertaken in Europe. Photo: © SHF / Christoph Musiol

It will be home to the collections of Germany’s Ethnological Museum and Asian Art Museum; a permanent display on the history of Berlin; an open laboratory run by Humboldt University; and, in case that weren’t enough, spaces for standalone exhibitions, concerts and dance performances.

Following his death in 1510, Sandro Botticelli was largely forgotten until the late 19th century. Even today he remains little known compared to fellow Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael.

Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510), The Return of Judith to Bethulia, 1469-70. Tempera on wood. 29.2 x 21.6 cm. Cincinnati Art Museum, John J. Emery Fund, 1954.463
Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510), The Return of Judith to Bethulia, 1469-70. Tempera on wood. 29.2 x 21.6 cm. Cincinnati Art Museum, John J. Emery Fund, 1954.463
Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510), Portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici, 1478-80. Tempera and oil on wood. 59.5 x 39.3 cm. Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo. Photo © Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo
Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510), Portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici, 1478-80. Tempera and oil on wood. 59.5 x 39.3 cm. Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo. Photo: © Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

The curators of a new exhibition devoted to him at Paris’s Musée Jacquemart-André go so far as to call him a ‘mystery’. The show will feature 40 of his religious, mythological and portrait paintings, works that helped Botticelli become one of the most esteemed artists in Italy — before his descent into poverty and isolation late in life. 

Also under consideration will be his relationship with both the Medici family and the fanatical friar, Girolamo Savonarola, as well as his role as head of a successful workshop.

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  • Dürer’s Journey: Travels of a Renaissance Artist National Gallery, London
    20 November 2021 to 27 February 2022

The National Gallery says that this is the first exhibition to examine how travelling impacted the career of the pioneering 15th-century German artist Albrecht Dürer — who famously criss-crossed the Alps exporting the Italian Renaissance to northern Europe.

Albrecht Dürer, Christ among the Doctors, 1506. Oil on panel. 64.3 x 80.3 cm. Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (1934.38). Photo © Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Albrecht Dürer, Christ among the Doctors, 1506Oil on panel. 64.3 x 80.3 cm. Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (1934.38). Photo: © Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

The show offers a chance to get up close to some masterpieces, including Christ among the Doctors (on loan from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid), which was supposedly painted over five days in Venice as a gift for Giovanni Bellini, and the sublime Madonna and Child (from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.), in which Dürer marries Netherlandish devotional imagery with Venetian modelling and colours. The latter has never been on view in the UK before.

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  • Francis Bacon: Man and Beast Royal Academy, London
    Postponed until January 2022

Curated by Francis Bacon’s friend and biographer Michael Peppiatt, the Royal Academy’s show (postponed from January 2021 until January 2022) dissects the idea that, for the artist, man was essentially an animal, with violent, carnal instincts.

Francis Bacon, Head VI, 1949. Oil on canvas. 91.4 x 76.2 cm. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACSArtimage 2020. Photo Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Francis Bacon, Head VI, 1949. Oil on canvas. 91.4 x 76.2 cm. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

It’s organised chronologically, starting in 1944 with Bacon’s ghastly, biomorphic creatures based on the Furies from the Greek tragedy Oresteia, and ending in 1991 with the last painting he ever made — of a bull — rediscovered in 2016 and on show in the UK for the first time.

Peppiatt’s argument, however, is most convincing in relation to Head VI  from 1949 (above): in one of several reimagined versions of Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, Bacon strips the sitter of his divinity and paints him instead with the haunting helplessness of a caged animal.