Updated: art exhibitions and events from summer 2021 — Asia, Africa, Australia, Latin America and the Middle East
Our revised and refreshed pick of this year’s standout exhibitions and openings, from the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza to Hong Kong’s spectacular new waterfront arts hub
Until 14 November 2021
This summer, Marrakech’s Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), which opened in 2016, is turning its attention to a group of artists originating from Essaouira, the laid-back port city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast best known for its crafts and surfing.
Featuring works by more than 20 artists, including Mohamed Tabal, Ali Maimoun and Regragui Bouslai, the exhibition shines a light on how the city — despite lacking art schools and centres of formal training — has become fertile ground for a new generation of North African creatives.
After receiving rave reviews in the press when it opened in March (Art Africa magazine called it a journey into a ‘frenetic and surreal world’), Outsiders/Insiders? has now been extended until mid-November.
People tend to associate the polka-dot-obsessed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama with a kaleidoscope of colours. But, as a new exhibition at her museum in Tokyo makes clear, some of her most important works have in fact been monochromatic.
Midway Between Mystery and Symbol: Yayoi Kusama's Monochrome spans the artist’s career, beginning with her Abstract Expressionist ‘infinity net’ paintings, often rendered in a single colour, and her silver phallic sculptures from the 1970s.
The show also includes one of her famous mirror rooms (see main image, top) and an installation in which every inch of a domestic interior is covered with flowers.
‘One day, after gazing at a pattern of red flowers on the tablecloth, I looked up to see that the ceiling, the windows, and the columns seemed to be plastered with the same red floral pattern,’ Kusama wrote in 2002.
‘I saw the entire room, my entire body, and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant my soul was obliterated and I was restored, returned to infinity, to eternal time and absolute space. This was not an illusion but reality itself.’
Viewing the exhibition, it quickly becomes apparent that Kusama adopted a monochrome palette to unify and amplify the repetition that is central to her work.
For many 20th-century artists, drawing was the medium through which they experimented on how to structure and negotiate their pictorial space. Picasso had a lifelong obsession with drawing, and it often helped pave the way for his changes in style, while David Hockney has been able to express diverse emotions through simple works in pen and ink.
Picasso to Kentridge: Modern Masterpieces on Paper presents 130 works from the Israel Museum’s superb collection to explore how these two artists, as well as Chagall, Duchamp, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Matisse, Rothko, Pollock and others, elevated the status of drawing to new heights — often in diverse media such as pastel, watercolour, charcoal and collage.
Broadly chronological — weaving through Cubism, Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art — the show offers a rare opportunity to see works that are often too fragile or susceptible to fading and discolouration to be regularly exhibited.
If you can’t make it to Jerusalem this year, the exhibition is travelling to Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in 2022.
The British sculptor Antony Gormley rose to fame through placing casts of his own body in various, often obscure locations around the United Kingdom. Since then, his works, which explore how humans interact with the physical and metaphysical space they inhabit, have grown in ambition and popped up across the world, including at the Uffizi in Florence, on top of skyscrapers in Hong Kong and among ancient ruins on the Greek island of Delos.
From August, the National Gallery Singapore will install three of Gormley’s body-work sculptures around the museum, each of which — whether in cast iron, concrete or stainless-steel bars — defines a shift in his career.
The highlight, however, will be the artist’s huge new commission, Horizon Field Singapore, in the Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden. According to the gallery, the site-specific sculpture consists of a ‘vast matrix of aluminium rings’ and gives visitors the chance to ‘become part of the work’ by navigating their way through it.
In the face of the ongoing climate crisis, the Fundación Jumex (a private collection belonging to Mexican philanthropist Eugenio López Alonso) invited the artist Sofía Táboas to curate a selection of works from its collection on the theme of heat.
Táboas has responded by filling the Museo Jumex’s third floor with videos, photographs, installations and sculptures that investigate the impact of human activity on the planet — and the effect that has on our emotions — by artists including Francis Alÿs, Tacita Dean, Olafur Eliasson and Gabriel Kuri.
Look out for American artist Mark Dion’s diorama L’Ichthyosaure, in which a cabinet of curiosities spill from the belly of a beached marine dinosaur. According to the museum, the work ‘pokes fun at the intense but ephemeral fanaticism of explorers, implying that nature has survived without their help and will in fact outlive them’.
UCCA Dune, Qinhuangdao, China
Until 10 October 2021
In late 2018, the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing opened an outpost in the Chinese beachside resort of Beidaihe in Qinhuangdao, 300km east of the capital. UCCA Dune resembles a string of igloos dug into the beach, and its first solo show is dedicated to the American sculptor Daniel Arsham.
Arsham, who has been described in the media as a ‘fictional archaeologist’ because of the way he erodes his artworks to make them look like relics, has responded to the invitation by creating an entirely new body of work made from moulds of some of history’s greatest sculptures.
Granted unprecedented access to the workshops of the Grand Palais, which house some 12,000 moulds of artworks held in the collections of the Vatican, the Louvre and more, Arsham has been able to make exact replicas of classical marbles and Renaissance masterpieces — including Michelangelo’s sculpture of Lorenzo de’ Medici — before decaying them with his signature crystal-growth forms. His Bronze Eroded Venus de Milo (above) will also be unveiled as a public artwork in nearby Aranya.
The French multidisciplinary artist Camille Henrot is best known for her 13-minute video Grosse Fatigue (2013), in which she retells the story of the creation of the universe in pop-up windows on a computer desktop. It won her the Silver Lion at the 55th Venice Biennale.
Although Grosse Fatigue isn’t included in Henrot’s upcoming NGV show, its companion installation,The Pale Fox, is. The latter was made a year later and is an assemblage of more than 500 books, photos, drawings and objects bought from eBay, which examines the human desire to understand our world — or what the artist describes as ‘cataloguing psychosis’.
Delayed by coronavirus, the long-anticipated opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum is finally set to take place this year. The vast project has cost $1 billion and taken eight years to complete, and the result is spectacular. Situated at the edge of Cairo, on the Giza Plateau and close to the Pyramids, the GEM will be the largest archaeological museum in the world.
Visitors to the state-of-the-art glass and concrete construction will be greeted by a colossal statue of the great Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramses II, also known as Ozymandias. Inside, the grand staircase is lined with 87 statues of gods and kings. The museum contains some 100,000 artefacts, more than 4,000 of which were once preserved in the famous tomb of King Tutankhamen.
In 2011, developers began work on an ambitious masterplan for West Kowloon, transforming a 40-hectare site of reclaimed land on Hong Kong’s waterfront into a multibillion-dollar arts and performance hub. This year sees the opening of the key attraction in this cultural utopia: the new museum of visual culture known as M+.
Designed by the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, also responsible for Tate Modern in London, the diaphanous upside-down T-structure is quite a landmark, hovering over the city’s harbour and incorporating the underground Airport Express railway line within its foundations. Inside, the museum houses exhibition areas, a skylit gallery and roof terrace, artists’ studios and performance spaces.
The Californian multimedia artist Doug Aitken came to prominence in the mid-1990s with sinewy video installations that raised questions about technology and its dehumanising effect on society.
His early works were enthralling, hyper-real odysseys through faceless deadlands of inter-urban sprawl. Later he turned to live performance, notably in 2013 with the ambitious Station to Station, in which artists and musicians jumped aboard a train heading to San Francisco, stopping at stations en route to hold music festivals.
Now the artist has arrived in Sydney with a series of immersive installations. Among them is the mesmerising NEW ERA, 2018, which charts the history of the mobile phone and features the American engineer Martin Cooper, the first man ever to make a call on one.
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From 20 November 2021
Love it or hate it, the most talked about artwork of 2019 was a banana duct-taped to the wall of Perrotin gallery’s booth at Art Basel Miami Beach. By the end of the fair, it had made the front page of the New York Post, sold out in all three editions for between $120,000 and $150,000, and had to be guarded by four police officers after somebody ate one.
Titled Comedian, the viral sensation wasn’t Maurizio Cattelan’s first irreverent swipe at the contemporary art world. In 2016, he came out of early retirement to replace a toilet in New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum with an 18-carat gold, fully functioning replica called America. Three years later, it was stolen from Winston Churchill’s former bathroom in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, just days after a solo show by the artist opened there.
In November 2021, UCCA Beijing is mounting Cattelan’s first solo exhibition in China, which promises to make visitors laugh and cry with more than 30 of the artist’s most important satirical works. Comedian will be included, and tantalisingly UCCA has hinted that America might also reappear.
The South African performance artist Tracey Rose isn’t one to shy away from controversy. Whether pummelling a punch bag naked, or urinating on the West Bank wall that separates Israel and Palestine, she creates provocative, lo-fi video works that are not for the easily offended. In 2001, she caused a stir at the Venice Biennale by replacing the apostles in Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper with women such as Josephine Baker, Queen Elizabeth II and Lolita.
The Zeitz MOCAA exhibition will be the artist’s largest retrospective to date, spanning the period 1996-2019 and encompassing film, sculpture, photography, performance, print and paint. The title comes from Rose’s 2016 installation, Shooting Down Babylon (The Art of War), which looks at exorcisms in non-Western communities and the role they play in a modern, post-colonial society.