The must-see exhibitions of 2020 — Europe
Once-in-a-lifetime Van Eyck in Ghent, the kimono celebrated in London and Christo in Paris — our guide to the must-see exhibitions in Europe in the year ahead
The city of Ghent has declared 2020 the year of the 15th-century Flemish master Jan van Eyck, father of the Northern Renaissance and pioneer of a hyper-realistic style of oil painting that greatly shaped the trajectory of Western art. At the heart of the celebrations is Van Eyck: An Optical Illusion, the biggest Van Eyck exhibition ever staged.
Described by the curators as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience’, Van Eyck: An Optical Illusion features at least half of the 20 or so surviving works by the painter — including the eight recently restored exterior panels of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, Van Eyck’s magnificent altarpiece created for St Bavo’s Cathedral — and works by his most talented peers. Due to the growing fragility of Van Eyck’s works, it is unlikely that such a large grouping will ever be shown together again.
Don’t miss…. The Ghent Altarpiece. Never before has Van Eyck’s masterpiece been exhibited alongside other works by the artist. After the exhibition the panels will return to the Cathedral — never to leave again.
This excellent show (first seen at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna) looks at the beginnings of the European Baroque in Rome, focusing on works by the painter Caravaggio and the sculptor Bernini.
In around 1600, Caravaggio developed the chiaroscuro style of dramatic contrasts between light and dark that introduced intense emotion and drama into painting. This is the starting point for a show that also includes magnificent works by his contemporaries, including Guido Reni and Artemisia Gentileschi.
Don’t miss… Bernini’s Medusa (c.1638-48), a magnificent marble sculpture that captures the dramatic transformation of Medusa into a monster.
Europe’s first major exhibition on the kimono traces its sartorial and social significance from the 1660s to the present day, both in Japan and the rest of the world.
Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk brings together more than 300 works to reveal how the ultimate symbol of Japan is a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion. It includes rare 17th- and 18th-century kimonos never seen before in the UK, theatre costumes, and contemporary examples created by Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, among others.
Don’t miss… an exquisite 17th-century portrait of Anna Elizabeth van Reede in a floral kimono by Dutch painter Gerard Hoet.
For more than 30 years Taiwanese artist Lee Mingwei has explored the ways in which generosity can create interaction and connections — trust, intimacy and self-awareness — between strangers.
This solo exhibition brings together installations and participatory performances from across the artist’s career that reflect on the culture and rituals of gift-giving and receiving. Central to the show is an exploration of immaterial gifts, such as song, conversation and contemplation, as well as the role of the host.
Don’t miss… The Living Room — an open-call project — for which Mingwei has invited Berlin-based hosts to exhibit their personal belongings.
Tate hasn’t staged a Warhol (1928-1987) exhibition for almost 20 years. It’s making up for it though, with a major retrospective charting the extraordinary life and work of the Pop art superstar.
The show will explore the artist through the lenses of sexuality, death, migration and religion to reveal how Warhol marked a period of cultural and social transformation.
There will be more than 100 works from across his career on display. Hanging alongside his iconic Pop images of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s soup cans will be lesser-known works exploring themes of desire, identity and belief that emerge from Warhol’s biography. Among the star exhibits is the largest grouping of his 1975 Ladies and Gentlemen series ever shown in the UK.
Don’t miss… Sixty Last Suppers, 1986. This outstanding example from the artist’s great final painting series will be on view for the first time in the UK.
The Bulgarian-born artist Christo is celebrated for the audacious sculptures, installations and public projects he completed with his late collaborator and wife Jeanne-Claude, including covering the Reichstag in Berlin in fabric.
One such project involves wrapping the Arc de Triomphe. The couple came up with the idea in 1962, but it is only now — nearly 60 years later — being realised in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou. For just two weeks, the monument on the Champs-Élysées will be enveloped in 25,000 square metres of silvery blue fabric made from recyclable polypropylene and 7,000 metres of red rope.
L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped forms part of a major exhibition at the Pompidou, focusing on the couple’s work from their Paris period (1958-1964). It will also feature preparatory studies for their monumental public project, The Pont Neuf, Wrapped, 1975-1985.
Don’t miss… the opportunity to see one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks wrapped by Christo.
In 2018 the National Gallery in London acquired Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the first painting by the great 17th-century artist to enter its collection. Two years on, it presents the first major exhibition of her work in the UK.
Central to the show of around 35 works will be a grouping of her best-known paintings and self-portraits — to include Self-Portrait as a Lute Player — and more recently discovered works. It’s gratifying that the daughter of the more famous Orazio Gentileschi will finally receive the long-overdue recognition she deserves.
Don’t miss... the recently restored Self-Portrait as Catherine of Alexandria, painted in around 1615-17, which alludes to Artemisia’s trial following her rape at the age of 17 by her painting teacher, Agostino Tassi.
Brooklyn-born Alex Katz is widely considered one of the key figures in the history of 20th-century American art. Born in 1927, he grew up immersed in an art world that revered Modernism and the Abstract Expressionists. Katz resisted the dominant stylistic conventions of his time, however, preferring to embrace a two-dimensional figurative style for which he is now most revered.
The first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in Spain brings together around 30 large-format oils and preparatory studies that explore the artist’s distinctive themes: flowers and sweeping landscapes painted with bright colours and flat backgrounds, as well as individual and double group portraits.
Don’t miss… Blue Umbrella. Painted in 1972, this oil portrait depicts Katz’s preferred muse and model, his wife Ada, whom he has painted more than 200 times over the course of his career.
This immersive theatrical show traces the evolution of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from manuscript to global phenomenon. The show will explore the origins of the much-loved story, its adaptations and reinventions over 158 years through more than 300 objects spanning film, performance, fashion, art, music and photography.
It will also explore the enduring influence of Alice on leading creatives, from Salvador Dalí and The Beatles to rap artist Little Simz and fashion designer Thom Browne.
Don’t miss... a grouping of original illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by John Tenniel, friend and collaborator of Lewis Carroll.
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Throughout her provocative five-decade career, performance artist Marina Abramović has explored and tested the limits of her own mental and physical endurance — and invited audiences to examine it with her.
In the first major UK retrospective of her life’s work, live re-performances of her most famous pieces will be shown alongside videos and photographs, and new works created especially for this exhibition that reflect on changes to the artist’s body, her perception of the transition between life and death, and the question of legacy.
Don’t miss... getting involved. This exhibition will offer visitors an intense, physical participatory experience.