Art exhibitions and events to look forward to in 2021 — United States and Canada

Art exhibitions and events to look forward to in 2021 — United States and Canada

A dozen museum openings and exhibitions for your radar, from an invitation to Studio 54 and a major Jasper Johns retrospective to the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

As the merry-go-round of New York museum HQs continues, the Frick is relocating for two years to the Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue — the former home of both the Whitney Museum of American Art and the now-defunct Met Breuer — and relaunching itself as the Frick Madison.

The Marcel Breuer building, the temporary home of the Frick Madison from 2021. Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Marcel Breuer building, the temporary home of the Frick Madison from 2021. Photo: courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Despite being only five blocks away from the Frick’s original Gilded Age mansion (now undergoing a $160-million renovation), the rehang of the collection’s Old Masters in its new Brutalist home will feel a world apart. The move has also allowed the curators to rethink their approach, says deputy director Xavier F. Salomon. Works by Spanish artists Goya and El Greco will be shown together for the first time, as will all 14 paintings in Fragonard’s Progress of Love  series.

‘Dictatorship at the door, democracy on the floor’ is how Andy Warhol described the legendary nightclub Studio 54. In its heyday, the celebrity-packed hotspot hosted the Rolling Stones, Anjelica Huston and David Bowie, and it is perhaps best remembered for that iconic photograph of Bianca Jagger astride a white horse.

Andy Warhol with Grace Jones at Studio 54, 1978. Courtesy of the artist. © Ron Galella

Andy Warhol with Grace Jones at Studio 54, 1978. Courtesy of the artist. © Ron Galella

Pat Cleveland on the dance floor at Studio 54, 1977. Photo Guy Marineau  WWD  Shutterstock
Pat Cleveland on the dance floor at Studio 54, 1977. Photo: Guy Marineau / WWD / Shutterstock

Surprisingly, for all its influence on club culture, it was only open for three years before its co-founders Ian Schrager and the late Steve Rubell were jailed for tax evasion. Now, 40 years on, Studio 54: Night Magic  will relive that supernatural mix of high camp and mirror-ball sparkle that brought queues of hopeful party-goers to its velvet ropes. 

Curated by Matthew Yokobosky of the Brooklyn Museum, the exhibition is a testament to the club’s queer-friendly, non-judgemental atmosphere, where the only ethos was a fanatical belief in the healing power of pop.

David Hockney was 16 when he first encountered the work of Van Gogh at Manchester Art Gallery. ‘I do remember thinking he must have been quite a rich artist. He could use two whole tubes of blue to paint the sky in one painting,’ he remarked — which is ironic, considering that Hockney would go on to become the world’s most expensive living artist.

David Hockney, Under the Trees, Bigger, 2010-11. Oil on 20 canvases. David Hockney Inc. © David Hockney, photo Richard Schmidt
David Hockney, Under the Trees, Bigger, 2010-11. Oil on 20 canvases. David Hockney Inc. © David Hockney, photo: Richard Schmidt

After a well-received stint at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam last spring, Hockney-Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature  is heading to Houston in Texas. The initial show was praised for the way its curator drew comparisons between both artists’ rich palettes and fascination with the changing of the seasons, despite the fact that Hockney’s mammoth canvases — drawn on an iPad — dwarfed Van Gogh’s painterly studies.

Vincent van Gogh, Tree Trunks in the Grass, 1890. Oil on canvas. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands
Vincent van Gogh, Tree Trunks in the Grass, 1890. Oil on canvas. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands

It made headline news when Hockney was photographed grinning with his trademark cigarette and the five burly Dutch firefighters it had taken to free him from a broken-down elevator full of journalists, after he had left his preview for a smoke break.

Tschabalala Self has been hailed as one of the most important figurative artists of her generation. Her large canvases, typically patchworked from strips of upcycled fabrics and fragments of her own artworks, explore representations of the black, female body — and won her a spot on Forbes  magazine’s ‘30 Under 30’ list in 2017.

Tschabalala Self, Two Women, 2019. Rubell Museum © Tschabalala Self
Tschabalala Self, Two Women, 2019. Rubell Museum © Tschabalala Self

Central to the upcoming show is a suite of three new works made in response to Henri Matisse’s Two Women, his only sculpture of two figures. Her reply: three canvases, each depicting a female couple who shift in orientation and appear together, yet solitary. Also on display will be more than a dozen of Self’s most significant pictures and sculptures.

This excellent mid-career survey charts the artistic evolution of the Ethiopian-born, New York-based artist Julie Mehretu, from her early focus on drawing, graphics and mapping to more recent explorations into abstraction. First seen at LACMA and continuing at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta until 31 January, it moves to the Whitney in March and eventually to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. 

Julie Mehretu, Black City, 2007. Ink and acrylic on canvas. 120 × 192 in. François Pinault Collection, Paris. © Julie Mehretu. Photo Tim Thayer
Julie Mehretu, Black City, 2007. Ink and acrylic on canvas. 120 × 192 in. François Pinault Collection, Paris. © Julie Mehretu. Photo: Tim Thayer

It brings together 75 drawings, paintings and prints made from 1996 to the present, referencing historical and contemporary issues such as migration, revolution, climate change and technology. 

Also under consideration will be the diverse range of influences on her work, spanning everything from cave paintings, cartography and Chinese calligraphy to 17th-century landscape etchings, graffiti and news photography. ‘History is made: one layer on top of another, erasing itself, consuming itself, inventing something else from the same thing,’ says the artist of her distinct visual language.

Rembrandt (1606-1669) is probably best known today for the paintings he did late in life: expressive, personal works that reflected the isolation and fall from grace of his final years. This exhibition, however, focuses on his work from the mid-1630s to the mid-1650s.

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Blinding of Samson, 1636. Oil on canvas. 219.3 x 305 cm. Sta?del Museum, Frankfurt am Main. Inventory Number 1383
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Blinding of Samson, 1636. Oil on canvas. 219.3 x 305 cm. Sta?del Museum, Frankfurt am Main. Inventory Number 1383

Rembrandt lived in Amsterdam at the time, and was an artist in constant demand. The show will feature a number of his trademark paintings from that era — all realistically rendered and dramatically lit — alongside works by his friends, followers and rivals in the city.

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  • Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889-1900 Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
    From 1 July

The Nabis were a group of young French artists — including Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis — who came of age in the final decade or so of the 19th century. Inspired by Paul Gauguin, the Pre-Raphaelites and the growing currents of Symbolism, they used expressive colour to create an art of suggestion and emotion.

Fe?lix Vallotton (Swiss, 1865-1925), The Lie, 1898. Oil on artist’s board. 24 x 33.3 cm. The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 190.298. Photo Mitro Hood

Fe?lix Vallotton (Swiss, 1865-1925), The Lie, 1898. Oil on artist’s board. 24 x 33.3 cm. The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 190.298. Photo: Mitro Hood

This new exhibition will focus on the Nabis’ many depictions of home life. According to the curators, ‘that domestic world was not always what it seemed: suppressed secrets, hidden affairs and familial tension bubble beneath the surface, challenging the viewer to construct the unspoken narrative’.

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  • Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
    Opening date to be announced

‘A rich man’s jokes are always funny,’ wrote Barbara Kruger on the wall of a museum in 2010. For more than 40 years, the rebellious feminist artist has been confronting society’s ills with her bold statements. Printed in black, red and white in her signature Futura Bold Oblique typeface, her slogans have appeared on everything from T-shirts and buses to the façades of buildings.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Truth), 2013. Collection of Margaret and Daniel S. Loeb. ? Barbara Kruger. Digital image courtesy of the artist
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Truth), 2013. Collection of Margaret and Daniel S. Loeb. ? Barbara Kruger. Digital image courtesy of the artist

Arguably her most famous work is the poster Your body is a battleground, which she designed for the Women’s March on Washington in 1989. This retrospective considers Kruger’s practice over the past four decades, revealing an artist who is still courageously fighting the system, one barbed comment at a time.

Adam Pendleton came to prominence in the mid-2000s with an ongoing series called Black Dada, in which he raised questions about where the African-American aesthetic fitted into the history of the avant-garde.

Adam Pendleton, Untitled (WE ARE NOT), 2020. Silkscreen ink on canvas. 120 x 144 in. Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery

Adam Pendleton, Untitled (WE ARE NOT), 2020. Silkscreen ink on canvas. 120 x 144 in. Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery

Since then, the New York-based artist has become an important cultural critic through his politically charged artworks. Now he is taking over the Museum of Modern Art’s Atrium with a large-scale installation that explores the theme of protest, from Black Lives Matter to the Occupy movement, asking what kind of future is possible for America.

Not many artists are deemed important enough to warrant a retrospective held simultaneously across two top US museums, but Jasper Johns clearly is. Johns celebrated his 90th birthday last year, and these exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Whitney will be the most comprehensive of his output to date, featuring 500 works from seven decades.

Flag, 1954-55, by Jasper Johns. Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on wood (3 panels), 41.25 x 60.75 in (104.8 x 154.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Gift of Philip Johnson in honour of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. ? Jasper Johns  Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY
Flag, 1954-55, by Jasper Johns. Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on wood (3 panels), 41.25 x 60.75 in (104.8 x 154.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Gift of Philip Johnson in honour of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. ? Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY

Among them are well-known paintings of maps, numbers, target roundels and the US flag from early in the artist’s career, as well as a recent series of skeleton-themed works that haven’t been exhibited before. The show’s organisers say the scale of the two-venue offering allows them to ‘test the conventional perceptions of Johns’s work’ like never before.

First announced in 2012 and originally intended to open in 2016, this $482-million museum dedicated to the history of cinema was delayed first by construction issues, then coronavirus. It finally looks set to open this September — in a bulging building by Renzo Piano that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie.

The new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. © Renzo Piano Building Workshop  © A.M.P.A.S.  Images from L’Autre Image

The new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. © Renzo Piano Building Workshop / © A.M.P.A.S. / Images from L’Autre Image

The opening programme includes a permanent exhibition on the history of the Oscars; a look at the contributions that African-American artists have made to the film industry; displays curated by Spike Lee and Pedro Almodóvar; and galleries devoted to The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, The Matrix  and Japan’s Studio Ghibli.

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  • Clouds, Ice, and Bounty: The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Collection of Seventeenth-Century Dutch and Flemish Paintings National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
    From 17 October

This atmospheric exhibition of around 25 Dutch and Flemish paintings comprises landscapes, genre paintings, seascapes, still lifes and portraits by celebrated masters such as Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan van Goyen, Dirck Hals and Clara Peeters.

Simon de Vlieger, Estuary at Days End, c. 16401645. Oil on panel. Overall 36.8 x 58.4 cm (14½ x 23 in). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons Permanent Fund and The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund in memory of Kathrine Dulin Folger
Simon de Vlieger, Estuary at Day's End, c. 1640/1645. Oil on panel. Overall: 36.8 x 58.4 cm (14½ x 23 in). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund and The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund in memory of Kathrine Dulin Folger

Acquired through the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund, with one major work from the Folgers’ personal collection, it is an opportunity to get up close to some of the finest paintings of the 17th century.

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