The best exhibitions and openings of 2022 — Asia-Pacific, Middle East and South America

The best exhibitions and openings of 2022 — Asia-Pacific, Middle East and South America

From Renaissance masters in Tokyo to public artworks across Qatar — a selection of international art highlights for your diary

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s department of European painting is home to more than 2,500 works of art. This spring, while its gallery skylights undergo renovation, the New York institution is sending 65 of its best pictures to Japan for a once-in-a-lifetime show.

The group spans 500 years of Western painting, from the early Renaissance to Impressionism, and includes masterpieces by Raphael, Titian, El Greco, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens, Boucher, Goya, Turner, Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir.

Caravaggio, The Musicians, 1597. Oil on canvas. 92.1 x 118.4 cm. Rogers Fund, 1952  52.81. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Caravaggio, The Musicians, 1597. Oil on canvas. 92.1 x 118.4 cm. Rogers Fund, 1952 / 52.81. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A gold-ground crucifixion from 1420-23 by the painter and friar Fra Angelico, which is one of the first paintings to use one-point perspective to express three-dimensional space, is among the 46 pictures making their debut in Japan.

Another is Caravaggio’s The Musicians (above). Painted in 1597, it was the first commission for his patron, Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte. The erotically-charged scene of languid male youths tuning up for a concert includes the addition of Cupid and what some scholars think is a self-portrait of the 26-year-old artist in the background.

In 2017, the sculpture biennial Desert X launched in California’s Coachella Valley, featuring site-specific works by artists such as Doug Aitken, Richard Prince and Will Boone.

Three years later, a satellite iteration took place in AlUla — Saudi Arabia’s vast ‘living museum’ filled with ancient rock-cut tombs and sandstone outcrops. Fourteen artists, including Lita Albuquerque, Nadim Karam and Superflex, filled the arid landscape with trampolines, rivers of date tins and a huge, illuminated pyramid constructed from plastic shipping palettes.

Nasser AlSalem’s installation Amma Qabel at Desert X AlUla. Photo Lance Gerber, courtesy of the artist and Athr Gallery and Desert X AlUla

Nasser AlSalem’s installation Amma Qabel at Desert X AlUla. Photo: Lance Gerber, courtesy of the artist and Athr Gallery and Desert X AlUla

For 2022, the biennial returns to Saudi Arabia to explore themes of ‘oasis and mirage’. It is curated by the art historian Reem Fadda, who worked on the UAE’s National Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, Saudi art consultant Raneem Farsi and Desert X’s artistic director, Neville Wakefield. Participating artists include Shadia Alem, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Claudia Comte and Jim Denevan.

The biennial is just a small part of AlUla’s $15-billion cultural masterplan, which by 2035 will see 15 new galleries, museums and education centres spread throughout the desert.

The Israel Museum — which opened in Jerusalem in 1965 — is well known for its historic artefacts, which include the Dead Sea Scrolls. Less well publicised is its small yet important collection of 20th-century art, featuring works by the likes of Man Ray, Chagall, Picasso, Duchamp, Warhol, Fontana and Kusama.

A new exhibition opening in February focuses on one particular area of the institution’s modern collection: Abstraction.

Helen Frankenthaler, Grand Tour, 1983. Acrylic on canvas. 246 x 362 cm. Gift of Maureen and Marshall Cogan, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum. B85.0936. © 2022 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc.  Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo © The Israel Museum Jerusalem
Helen Frankenthaler, Grand Tour, 1983. Acrylic on canvas. 246 x 362 cm. Gift of Maureen and Marshall Cogan, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum. B85.0936. © 2022 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: © The Israel Museum Jerusalem

The show focuses on the movement’s second wave, from 1949 to 2016, when artists including Hans Hofmann, Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock, Pierre Soulages, Friedel Dzubas and Sam Francis built on the pioneering work of Kandinsky, Mondrian and Malevich to develop Abstract Expressionism, Colour Field painting and Minimalism.

The exhibition will be hung in three broad themes: contemplative expanses; energetic surfaces; and geometric balance. Between the works, videos of artists’ studios will offer insights into the processes employed in making abstract art.

In celebration of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in November, Qatar Museums is transforming the country into a vast outdoor exhibition space, with the installation of 40 new public artworks across Doha and the rest of the country.

The artworks will be installed in public spaces including parks, shopping areas and railway stations, as well as in some of the stadiums that will host the tournament.

‘The enrichment of Qatar’s public spaces by extraordinary artworks by artists of all nationalities and backgrounds is a point of pride for our nation,’ says Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, chairperson of Qatar Museums. ‘I hope these outstanding artworks will be enjoyed by our local community as well as the millions of visitors we expect to welcome to Doha in 2022.’

Among the Qatari and international artists taking part in the project are Adel Abidin, Monira al Qadiri, Olafur Eliasson, Shilpa Gupta and Tom Claassen, whose monumental sculpture Falcon (2021) was installed outside Hamad International Airport in July last year.

The new installations will bring the total number of Qatar Museums’ public artworks to more than 100, making this one of the most ambitious public art programmes in the world.

For more than 70 years, Austrian artist Maria Lassnig explored the physical presence of the body and what she termed ‘body awareness’. Executed in contrasting colours, her uncompromising paintings, drawings and watercolours also address themes ranging from psychological turmoil to oppression, destruction and death.

Maria Lassnig, Zwei Arten zu sein (Doppelselbstporträt) — Two Ways of Being (Double Self-Portrait), 2000. Oil on canvas. 100 x 125 cm. © Maria Lassnig Foundation
Maria Lassnig, Zwei Arten zu sein (Doppelselbstporträt) — Two Ways of Being (Double Self-Portrait), 2000. Oil on canvas. 100 x 125 cm. © Maria Lassnig Foundation

Curated by Peter Eleey, UCCA curator-at-large, and Antonia Hoerschelmann, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, this Beijing exhibition brings together works from across Lassnig’s career, including her early involvement with Graphic Abstraction, her ‘Realist’ paintings of the 1970s and her innovative late self-portraits.

Located in the wealthy coastal city of Punta del Este, MACA is Uruguay’s first and only museum dedicated to global contemporary art. The museum, which opened on 8 January 2022, is the last in a sequence of projects by Fundación Pablo Atchugarry, a not-for-profit organisation established by the eponymous Uruguayan sculptor to promote contemporary visual arts, literature, music, film and dance.

MACA, the only museum in Uruguay dedicated to global contemporary art. Photo Courtesy of Atchugarry Museum of Contemporary Art (MACA)

MACA, the only museum in Uruguay dedicated to global contemporary art. Photo: Courtesy of Atchugarry Museum of Contemporary Art (MACA)

Designed by architect Carlos Ott, MACA has five exhibition rooms; there is also a sculpture park featuring 70 monumental works by artists such as Véronica Vázquez, Luca Benites, Diego Santurio and Atchugarry himself.

Inaugurating the museum is a Christo and Jeanne-Claude exhibition, as well as a display of works from the permanent collection by the likes of Wifredo Lam, Gonzalo Fonseca and Carmelo Arden Quin.

This huge, wide-ranging show looks at four decades of contemporary Chinese art, while exploring how international audiences have come to understand China today.

The nation’s open-door policy of 1978 triggered profound social and economic change, and propelled a number of Chinese artists onto the world stage. Challenging traditional ideas and art practices, they have staged their own exhibitions and experimented with new mediums and unconventional styles.

Geng Jianyi (1962-2017), The Second State, 1987. M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong. © Geng Jianyi
Geng Jianyi (1962-2017), The Second State, 1987. M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong. © Geng Jianyi

Highlights on display include Feng Guodong’s River of Light, a swirling sky of red, blue and green from 1979, and The Second State (1987) by Geng Jianyi, which comprises four monochromatic oil paintings, each showing the same man laughing in a different way.

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  • Jeffrey Smart Until 15 May 2022
    National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Marking the centenary of Adelaide artist Jeffrey Smart’s birth with a major retrospective, the National Gallery of Australia surveys the career of a figure whose early ambition was architecture, and whose artistic metier focused on the built environment — from inner Sydney and the faded country towns of New South Wales to the industrialised hinterland of his adopted Italy.

Jeffrey Smart, The Plastic Tube, 1980. Private collection, courtesy Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert. © The Estate of Jeffrey Smart
Jeffrey Smart, The Plastic Tube, 1980. Private collection, courtesy Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert. © The Estate of Jeffrey Smart

An expatriate who never shed his Australian identity, Smart had a vision that seemingly repudiated the motifs of the country’s artistic tradition of bush-fringed landscapes, while his oeuvre was largely immune to the fashions that characterised 20th-century art. His influences were international — among them Piero della Francesca and Edward Hopper — and perhaps the metaphysical spirit of Giorgio de Chirico’s piazzas echoes through his freeways, apartment blocks and truck stops.

Despite their apparent realism, there’s an uncanny quality to Smart’s paintings — an atmosphere of deracinated modernity leavened with a slyly humorous sense of theatre. Whether the lonely figures in these compositions are symbols of contemporary angst or simply added for scale, they offer a penetrating vision of the human condition hemmed in by concrete.

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  • Zhao Zhao Until 3 April 2022
    Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai

A significant figure among the post-1980s wave of contemporary Chinese artists whose work deals with the country’s socio-political climate, Zhao Zhao literally shot to fame in 2013 by riddling panes of glass with bullet holes.

A new show of his work opens this spring at billionaire collector Liu Yiqian’s Long Museum in Shanghai. It includes a selection of his most important works from the past decade — many of which grapple with life under the Chinese Communist Party — among them his burnt tapestries and ladders hewn from white marble.

Zhao Zhao, Chinese Ladders, 2019. White marble. Variable size. © Zhao Zhao, Tang Contemporary Art
Zhao Zhao, Chinese Ladders, 2019. White marble. Variable size. © Zhao Zhao, Tang Contemporary Art

The exhibition also includes three display cabinets filled with autobiographical artefacts, which Zhao says represent both an abridged history of human civilisation and the sources of his creativity. Among the objects are a fossil from the Jurassic period, ancient Chinese ceramics and a pair of Apple headphones that the artist carved from jade.

Scheduled to open to the public this summer, Taipei Performing Arts Center is one of Asia’s most important cultural developments in 2022. The 59,000-square-metre complex, which is located next to the city’s famous Shilin night market, will serve as the new home for Taiwan’s leading performing arts groups.

Designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in collaboration with local architecture studio Kris Yao/Artech and engineering company Arup, the new landmark features three auditoriums. These include the Blue Box, a dedicated space for experimental performance art, and the Globe Playhouse — a spherical 800-seat theatre intended to resemble a planet, overhanging a plaza that will play host to public art and cultural events.

The new Taipei Performing Arts Center, with three auditoriums and a public plaza. Photo © Lin Hsuan-Lang

The new Taipei Performing Arts Center, with three auditoriums and a public plaza. Photo: © Lin Hsuan-Lang

‘The opening of Taipei Performing Arts Center is a major milestone for Taipei becoming an international cultural arts hub,’ said CEO Austin Wang. ‘Our mission is to become the centre of creativity for Taiwan’s contemporary life, where diverse talents and points of views across generations can mingle and flourish.’