Must-see exhibitions of 2019 — Russia, Asia, Australia and the Middle East

Must-see exhibitions of 2019 — Russia, Asia, Australia and the Middle East

Calder in Melbourne, Murakami in Hong Kong, Picasso in Beijing — our updated guide to the best shows across the rest of the world this summer and beyond

Jean Nouvel’s highly anticipated new museum is a sprawling complex of interlocking discs, inspired by the desert rose. These cool, white, tent-like structures reveal that the Pritzker prize-winning architect is just as comfortable on the horizontal as he once was with the ‘crazy verticality’ of his earlier constructions.

Inside, the museum traces Qatar’s history from 700 million years ago to the present day. Organised into a series of chronological chapters, it begins with the rich, geological heritage of the country and finishes with the epic ‘Building of a Nation’. Outside the French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel has installed 114 fountains inspired by Arabic calligraphy.

Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey (1920-1985) was an artist and illustrator and an eloquent writer who is perhaps best-known in Australia for a series of children’s books of Aboriginal folk stories. An activist and pioneer of indigenous art and culture, he brought the traditional practices of painting on bark to a wider audience in the 1960s. This touring exhibition is the first major retrospective in Australia celebrating the painter’s life and presents more than 70 works by the artist, including figurative pictures of tribal life and Aboriginal Dreamtime creatures.

Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey, Kennedy and Jackey Jackey Midday Rest, 1983. Acrylic on canvas, Cairns Art Gallery Collection

Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey, Kennedy and Jackey Jackey Midday Rest, 1983. Acrylic on canvas, Cairns Art Gallery Collection

Don’t miss… Kennedy and Jackey Jackey Midday Rest  (1983). In the early 1980s Dick Roughsey made a series of paintings illustrating the fatal 1848 expedition made by E.B. Kennedy to Cape York, together with his Aboriginal guide Jackey Jackey. They were ambushed, and Kennedy died soon afterwards of spear wounds.

The artist who reinvented sculpture by making it dance, Alexander Calder (1898-1976) was a maths prodigy who studied mechanical engineering at university before becoming a painter. After a visit to Mondrian’s studio in 1931, he invented the ‘mobile’, liberating primary colour from the canvas into the air. This is the first large-scale exhibition of Calder’s art in motion in Australia, and features many of the artist’s best-known works, revealing a love of shape, light and movement.

Alexander Calder, Triple Gong, 1951. Painted steel, painted wire, and brass. 78.7 x 172.7 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Gift of Mr. And Mrs. Klaus G. Perls. © 2018 Calder Foundation, New York  Copyright Agency, Australia

Alexander Calder, Triple Gong, 1951. Painted steel, painted wire, and brass. 78.7 x 172.7 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Gift of Mr. And Mrs. Klaus G. Perls. © 2018 Calder Foundation, New York / Copyright Agency, Australia

Don’t miss… Triple Gong (1951) — joyful in its virtuosity, time, chance and motion remake this sculpture endlessly.

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  • Picasso — Birth of a Genius UCCA, Beijing,
    until 1 September, 2019

This exhibition tells the story of the first three decades of the great modernist’s career, a time of radical exploration that began in 1893 and ended in 1921 with his return to Classicism after the First World War. Featuring 103 works from the Musée National Picasso-Paris, it starts with the young Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973) search for an artistic identity by looking to the masters of the past. The exhibition then incorporates the famed Blue and Rose periods, and the revolutionary Cubist era.

Pablo Picasso, Mother and Child, 1907. 81 x 60 cm. Musée National Picasso-Paris © Succession Picasso 2018

Pablo Picasso, Mother and Child, 1907. 81 x 60 cm. Musée National Picasso-Paris © Succession Picasso 2018

Don't miss… Mother and Child  (1907). In the early 1900s Picasso created a series of African-influenced works in which he forged a new mode of visual expression, which in turn would give rise to his famous Cubist paintings.

Born in Tokyo in 1962, Japanese superstar artist Takashi Murakami studied traditional Nihonga painting before diversifying into contemporary art forms and media, conquering the world with his ‘superflat’ style and psychedelic anime-esque characters, and blurring the boundaries between the fne and commercial arts (he has collaborated with Louis Vuitton, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams). Taking over Hong Kong’s Herzog & de Meuron- designed Tai Kwun Contemporary, this major survey focuses on the paradoxes in his output, from his large-scale post-apocalyptic works to his optimistic flower pieces, and his contemplative Enso paintings, ofering Buddhist visions of enlightenment.

Installation view of Murakami vs Murakami. ©Takashi MurakamiKaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo Kitmin Lee
Installation view of Murakami vs Murakami. ©Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee

Don’t miss...The Birth Cry of a Universe (2014), above. Murakami’s monumental gold-leaf sculpture is on display for the first time in its final version after 14 years of preparation. 

Two Russian exhibitions are celebrating the extraordinary collections of French Impressionist and modern art brought together by the ambitions of Sergei Shchukin and the brothers Ivan and Mikhail Morozov. Confiscated after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the collections were divided between Moscow’s Pushkin Museum and the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, and each museum is now lending its holdings to the other to produce two blockbuster, knockout shows. 

Shchukin: Biography of a Collection  at the Pushkin tells the story of this family of Moscow merchants, who used their power and influence to buy art. The brothers all collected: Pyotr gathered ancient Russian art and artefacts; Dimitri collected Old Masters. But it was Sergei who was in the right place at the right time: Paris, from 1897 onwards. His brother Ivan was already living there and collecting works by the Impressionists. With Ivan’s guidance and his own considerable taste, courage and discrimination, Sergei built a collection that introduced French avant-garde painting to Russia. By 1914, he owned 13 Monets, four Van Goghs, eight paintings by Cézanne and 16 by Gauguin. He bought 50 works by Picasso, including most of his early Cubist works, and his long association with Matisse led to La Danse, created especially for him. That work is the centrepiece of this magnifcent exhibition — on loan, along with 60 other works, from the Hermitage. 

Meanwhile, the Pushkin is lending the Hermitage key works to stage Great Russian Collectors: The Brothers Morozov  (until 6 October). Textile manufacturer Ivan Morozov initially collected works by young Russian painters, but from 1907 onwards he focused on buying French art for his newly rebuilt villa. He bought less compulsively and more deliberately than his friend Shchukin, but the most famous Van Goghs in Russia, for example, including The Red Vineyard, belonged to him. Cézanne was his favourite artist, but he also amassed works by Matisse and Picasso on his twice-yearly train trips to Paris. His older brother Mikhail had also assembled an impressive collection of Russian and Western art, and both will be reunited in this far-reaching show.


Paul Gauguin, Collecting Fruits, 1899. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. A.S. Pushkin
Paul Gauguin, Collecting Fruits, 1899. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. A.S. Pushkin

Don’t miss...Collecting Fruits (1899). In the 1890s Gauguin created a series of paintings depicting Tahitian women carrying or offering fruit, a symbol of fertility. The palette of orangey yellows, reds and greens in this composition captures Gauguin’s idealised vision of the tropics. 

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  • Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles Mori Art Museum, Tokyo,
    until 27 October, 2019

The Japanese artist Shiota Chiharu (b. 1972) weaves webs across gallery spaces. Depending on the colour she chooses, they can resemble anything from a sticky mass of secreted silk to an artist’s impression of acid rain, but, as a new exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Japan reveals, they are so tactile and immersive that it is almost as if they have created their own consciousness — they seem to live, breathe and feel just as organically as we do.

Shiota Chiharu, Uncertain Journey, 2016. Metal frame, red wool. Installation view Uncertain Journey, BlainSouthern, Berlin 2016. Photo Christian Glaeser

Shiota Chiharu, Uncertain Journey, 2016. Metal frame, red wool. Installation view: Uncertain Journey, Blain|Southern, Berlin 2016. Photo: Christian Glaeser

Don’t miss... Uncertain Journey  (2016) — a vast red Hokusai wave of wool cascading over delicate, metal-framed boats, capturing the transcendental force of nature. Its simplicity is overpowering.

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  • 16th Istanbul Biennial IKSV, Istanbul,
    14 September to 10 November, 2019

This year’s director of the big international bonanza is the French curator Nicolas Bourriaud, who is planning on ‘embracing the possibilities of transdisciplinary collaboration’, with a multitude of artists from across the world. 

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Artist collaborations have now been announced. They are as thought-provoking as expected and mediate on the eminent curator’s fascination for altermodern — art made in the context of our complicated relationship with the commercialisation and standardisation of the global economy. Istanbul, standing on the fault line between Europe and the Middle East, couldn’t be a better place to examine such ideas.