Must-see exhibitions of summer 2018: Europe
From Anni Albers in Düsseldorf to Lorenzo Lotto at the Prado, Patrick Heron in Cornwall and the best of the Louvre’s 18th-century pastels, we survey the ten best blockbuster exhibitions being staged across the Continent this summer
This exhibition celebrating the grandfather of Op art, the French-Hungarian artist Victor Vasarely, takes the form of a chronological survey: from his origins as a graphic designer experimenting with pattern, to his post-war discovery of a style that made art and sculpture out of optical illusions.
Among his most famous works is Zebras, painted between 1932 and 1942, which is regarded as one of the earliest examples of Op art. In the 1960s he developed his Alphabet Plastique, a series of permutations of geometric forms endlessly rearranged using colours from different colour scales. His long and fascinating career also included architectural projects, as well as the creation of the Fondation Vasarely, which opened in Aix-en-Provence in France in 1976.
Following the success of Beards in 2016 and 2017’s Alchemy, the excellent Altes Museum stages another themed exhibition. This one plays on the fact that in German one word is used to mean both ‘flesh’ and ‘meat’, and looks at the contradictions surrounding the portrayal of flesh in art.
It is divided into three sections — flesh as meat, flesh as cult, and flesh as the body — and includes works that span 5,000 years of human history, from a clay tablet containing 58 different words for ‘pig’ to a film by the contemporary artist Christian Jankowski, called The Hunt and set in a supermarket. Among the sculptures on display are a ceramic model of a hairless dog from around 300 B.C., and an 18th-century terracotta statue from the Kloster Veilsdorf porcelain manufactory, of Kronos/Saturn devouring his son.
Find out more about the must-see exhibitions across the rest of the world for summer 2018
Faced with an obstacle, Anni Albers created an opportunity — and changed our understanding of abstraction and applied art in the process. Women were banned from studying certain subjects at German art schools in the 1920s, so Albers chose weaving and turned it into an art form.
At the Bauhaus, where the teachers included her future husband, Josef Albers, she refined her work with the use of geometric pattern, and when she emigrated to the USA after the Nazis came to power, she continued to innovate. Her woven images, complex structures and subtle colours are at the heart of this revelatory exhibition, which opens at K20 Grabbeplatz before transferring to London’s Tate Modern in October.
This exhibition at Denmark’s Louisiana museum is a revelation. Münter, who died in 1962, was a co-founder of the Blue Rider expressionist group, along with Kandinsky, Franz Marc and others. But her work comes in many forms. This is the first show for decades to look at her in isolation, offering a thematic survey that encompasses landscapes, portraits, folk art and children’s drawings.
Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art
Tate Modern, London, until 14 October
The connections between photographic innovations and developments in painting are the subject of this fascinating show at Tate Modern, which brings together some 300 works by 100 artists, from the experiments of the 1910s to the digital innovations of today. Among the photographers featured are Alvin Langdon Coburn, creator of the abstract, kaleidoscopic “vortograph” in 1917, and familiar names such as Edward Weston, Aaron Siskind and Man Ray.
One of the greatest portrait painters of the Italian Renaissance, Lorenzo Lotto, born in Venice in 1480, painted middle-class sitters such as clerics and merchants, placing them in rich settings full of symbolism and psychological depth.
He is not much exhibited now, so this show, which runs at the Prado before moving to the National Gallery in London (from 5 November), is a great opportunity to luxuriate in front of some of the most beautiful and revealing portraits of the Renaissance.
Find out more about the must-see exhibitions in the Americas for summer 2018
Tate St Ives, Cornwall, England, until 30 September
Patrick Heron may have been an abstract painter, but his work is infused with the air of his Cornish home and studio. So it is fitting that the first major retrospective of his work for 20 years will be shown in the remodelled Tate St Ives, filling its galleries with bright colour and serene shapes painted over a career that spanned more than 50 years.
In Colour: Polychrome Sculpture in France 1850–1910
Musée d'Orsay, Paris, until 9 September
The relatively unknown 19th-century sculptures in this exhibition — whose brightly coloured forms were triggered by the discovery that the ancients had used colour when they built their monuments and carved their statues — changed people’s ideas about statuary and generated heated debate.
Artists such as Charles Cordier, official sculptor of Paris’s National History Museum from 1851 to 1866, devoted his career to creating colourful lifelike busts. This exhibition of about 50 examples, which reveals all the different techniques used to create colour, casts light on a forgotten field.
Ursula Schulz-Dornburg: The Land In-Between. Photographs from 1980-2012
Städel Museum, Frankfurt, until 9 September
Now based in Düsseldorf, the photographer Ursula Schulz-Dornburg was born in Berlin in 1938, and has long been fascinated by boundaries, whether material or invisible. Her pictures of borders, places of transit and relics of lost or outmoded cultures, mostly shot in black and white, are a record of societies and political systems long past. As this exhibition shows, they are bleak but beautiful.
Pastels at the Louvre: The 17th and 18th Centuries
Louvre, Paris, until 10 September
The Louvre has rifled through its collection of pastels to unearth extraordinary, fragile and delicate treasures by artists such as Jean-Étienne Liotard, Jean-Simeon Chardin, François Boucher and Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun.
The 120 examples in the show are not preliminary sketches, but works for display in their own right. There’s a catalogue raisonné of the museum’s entire pastel collection, by curator Xavier Salmon, to accompany this rare treat.