The best exhibitions and openings of 2023: Asia, Australia, India, Africa and the Middle East
From Alexander McQueen in Melbourne to Yayoi Kusama in Hong Kong, these are some of the most exciting exhibitions happening across the globe this year
February sees the long-awaited opening of MAP — Museum of Art and Photography in Bengaluru (also known as Bangalore), the first new public museum to be established in India in a decade. Located in the city’s museum district and designed by architects Mathew and Ghosh, the 44,000-square-foot building will house a collection of more than 60,000 works from South Asia, ranging from paintings and sculptures to textiles, tribal art, and memorabilia from the Bollywood film industry. The photography collection, one of the most extensive in India, features images from the mid-19th century to the present day.
Among the inaugural exhibitions will be Time and Time Again, the first major survey of photographs by the Indian artist Jyoti Bhatt. Best known as a modernist printmaker and painter, Bhatt began photographing rural Indian communities in the 1960s, when he was invited by the educational trust Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to document folk traditions in the state of Gujarat.
Curated by Nathaniel Gaskell, the show features more than 160 photographs, along with contact sheets and archival materials that chart Bhatt’s photographic journey during the second half of the 20th century. Alongside his well-known pictures of rural life and rangoli artworks will be portraits of fellow artists, as well as the fragmented mirror images that allowed him a more abstract mode of expression.
The inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale celebrates the art, culture and rituals that have defined Islam from its beginnings through to the present day. Curated by a multi-disciplinary team of experts, it will examine how the Ka’bah — the House of God in Mecca — and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina create a sense of belonging that unites Muslims around the world.
The exhibition is centred on two principal themes — Qiblah (‘sacred direction of prayer’) and Hijrah (‘migration’) — and brings together some 280 artefacts as well as 60 works by 44 contemporary artists, including the UK’s Idris Khan, Huda Lutfi from Egypt, and Iranian-born Shahpour Pouyan.
The exploration of Qiblah sees a range of historical objects from Mecca and Medina counterbalanced with contemporary artworks that explore daily and yearly Islamic rituals. Hijrah is examined through specially commissioned works that reflect on the theme of migration, from persecution to communal celebrations and pilgrimages.
In the years following China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), foreign ideas, images and art historical texts began to filter back into the country. Facilitating this new landscape of exchange was the photographic slide.
Reproducible and transportable, it gave Chinese creatives in the era before the internet access to art produced elsewhere, while also offering the country’s artists a means of sharing their work more widely. Slide / Show examines the role and applications of projected photography in the development of Chinese contemporary art from the Cultural Revolution to the 2010s.
Curated by UCCA’s Holly Roussell, the exhibition focuses on three key characteristics of the slide medium: transparency, refraction and use in transmission. In doing so, it offers a unique perspective on this period of Chinese art history.
From sensual passion to religious devotion, love has inspired artists for millennia. This exhibition of 73 paintings from the collection of the Louvre in Paris will explore how Western artists from the 16th to the mid-19th century have portrayed love in all its many forms.
The show includes mythological paintings, religious portraits and genre scenes by such celebrated names as François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Giovanni Battista Salvi.
Among the standout exhibits is Ary Scheffer’s 1855 work The Shades of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, now widely regarded as one of the artist’s finest compositions. Depicting a scene from Dante’s Inferno, it shows the condemned souls of the two tragic lovers — overlooked by Dante and his guide, the Roman poet Virgil — in Hell.
April 2023, date to be confirmed
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
The Feast promises to explore the rituals and ceremony attached to banqueting and food in the ancient Near East between the third and first millennia BC. Through a lavish display of artefacts, iconographic representations and historical texts, drawn primarily from the museum’s own collection, it will highlight the social, political and cultural role of communal feasting.
The exhibition will focus on key elements of royal and religious feasts, from the sending of invitations and the financing of the events, to the presentation of gifts and the act of sharing and eating food.
Highlights include an Iraqi cylinder seal dating from 2600 BC and a Mycenaean gold cup from around 1500 BC, both on loan from the British Museum in London.
Over the past century, Indian cinema has grown from a regional industry to a global phenomenon, with more than 1,500 films in around 20 languages released each year.
Organised by the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, Louvre Abu Dhabi and France Museums, Bollywood Superstars includes some 40 films and more than 80 artworks that explore the diverse origins and influences of Indian cinema, ranging from mythology and religion to popular arts such as storytelling, dance and theatre. Film props, shadow puppets and photographs are on show alongside Mughal armour, daggers and religious lithographs.
Featuring more than 200 works of art from the past 100 years, When We See Us explores black self-representation and celebrates global black consciousness and experiences. The title of the exhibition is inspired by Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, a 2019 Netflix drama based on the true story of the Central Park Five.
Organised around six themes, including Sensuality, Joy and Emancipation, the exhibition brings figurative paintings into dialogue with works by leading black thinkers, authors and poets working today. In doing so, it highlights the relationships between artists and artworks across geographic, generational and conceptual contexts. Among the artists whose work features in the exhibition are Zandile Tshabalala (above), Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Ben Enwonwu, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Amy Sherald and Joy Labinjo.
The influential British fashion designer Alexander McQueen (1969-2010) was renowned for his theatrical shows and imaginative designs, underpinned by a conceptual and technical virtuosity. Although dubbed the ‘bad boy’ of British fashion, he was loved by celebrities and critics alike. In 2003 he was made a CBE.
Drawn from the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse illuminates his creative process, his capacity for storytelling and his impressive range of inspirations, from literature and history to cinema and the natural world.
Shown alongside McQueen’s designs are artworks — including paintings, sculpture, textiles, print, photography and decorative arts — that explore themes and visual references present in his work.
This major retrospective on the Chinese ink master Liu Kuo-sung (b. 1932) spans all seven decades of his boundary-breaking career. A co-founder of the Fifth Moon Group, which introduced avant-garde trends to Taiwan between the mid-1950s and 1970s, Liu first gained international celebrity with his ‘Space’ series of celestial bodies inspired by photographs captured during the Apollo 8 space mission.
Through more than 60 paintings and 150 items from the artist’s personal archive, the exhibition explores Liu’s creative evolution as well as his experimentations with textures, techniques and materials.
Standout exhibits include Coming (2014) and In the Midst of a Beautiful Spring (2008), both of which reveal his fluid brushwork and deft handling of colour.
The world is dotty for Yayoi Kusama. Her work — spanning painting, sculpture, drawing and installation — has fetched seven-figure sums at auction and is found in prestigious private and public collections worldwide. In January 2023, aged 93, she released her second highly sought-after collection in collaboration with Louis Vuitton.
Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now, the artist’s largest retrospective in Asia outside her native Japan, tells the story of her life and art through more than 200 works, from drawings made when she was a teenager during the Second World War to her most recent immersive art pieces.
Organised chronologically and thematically, the show underscores some of the inspirations that have shaped her distinctive vision, namely polka dots, pumpkins and flowers. Among the new works on display is Death of Nerves (2022), a large-scale installation commissioned by M+ that is a mesmerising extension of Kusama’s Infinity Nets into three-dimensional space.
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Istanbul Modern was established in 2004 as Turkey’s first museum of modern and contemporary art. Since its opening, in a former warehouse in the Karaköy neighbourhood, it has received 8.5 million visitors and staged a well-received programme of exhibitions, educational workshops, film screenings and social projects.
After four years of construction, its new five-storey, 15,000-square-foot building — designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano — is now set to open. Built on the original waterfront site in Karaköy, it will house temporary exhibitions as well as works from the permanent collection, spanning modern and contemporary art, photography, design, architecture and digital media.
Already installed at the entrance is Runner, a six-metre-high sculpture by Tony Cragg. ‘We are honoured to receive this sculpture as a long-term loan ahead of the opening,’ says Oya Eczacıbaşı, chair of the board of directors. ‘I believe that this sculpture will become one of the symbols of Istanbul Modern’s new building.’
The 15th edition of the Sharjah Biennial brings together some 300 contemporary artworks — including 70 new commissions — by more than 150 artists and collectives from around the world. Installed in five cities and towns across the emirate and curated by the director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, the biennial looks at the relationship between past and present through a post-colonial lens, as well as exploring the dialogue between the local and the global.
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The title is based on the work of the late Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor, who conceived of its theme before his death in 2019. Al Qasimi has expanded Enwezor’s concept of ‘thinking historically in the present’ by elevating the role of intuition and incidence in her approach. Works on display tackle issues such as nationhood, race, gender and immigration, while exploring Sharjah’s cultural history and encouraging nuanced conversations on such themes as post-colonial subjectivity and the restitution of ‘museumised’ objects.
Running alongside the biennial is a rich programme of community activities and events spanning performance, music and film.
Top image, clockwise from left: Liu Kuo-sung, The Composition of Distance no.15, 1971, at the National Gallery of Singapore; François Boucher, Cupid’s Target, 1758, at The National Art Centre, Tokyo; Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession — Aspiring to Heaven’s Love, 2022, at M+, Hong Kong; Zandile Tshabalala, Two Reclining Women, 2020, at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town; Alexander McQueen, Look 29 from the Horn of Plenty collection, autumn-winter 2009-10 at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne