19 Unmissable Museum Shows to See in Europe in 2019, From the Louvre’s da Vinci Blowout to David Hockney Meets Van Gogh

Our guide to the most anticipated exhibitions in Europe this year.

David Hockney "More Felled Trees on Woldgate" 2008 Oil on 2 canvases (60 x 48" each) 60 x 96" overall © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

As we ring in the New Year and switch out last year’s well-worn iCals for shiny new versions, it’s time to plan your travel schedule. And no travel schedule is complete without a list of exhibitions you can’t afford to miss in 2019. 

There will be plenty to see. To mark 500 years since the death of the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci, the Louvre is staging an epic exhibition that only it could organize. Meanwhile, it’s a big year for Rembrandt in the Netherlands, while in the UK, Vincent van Gogh will take Tate Britain.

But it’s not just the biggest names getting all the attention—new approaches to art history and overlooked talents will share the spotlight, too. Below, a look at the shows we are most looking forward to in museums around Europe in 2019.


Bill Viola / Michelangelo” at the Royal Academy

Bill Viola, Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall (2005). Video/sound installation. Performer: John Hay. Courtesy Bill Viola Studio, photo by Kira Perov.

WHAT: Drawings by Michelangelo from the Royal Collection and the artist’s only marble sculpture in the UK, the Taddie Tondo, will be shown alongside installations by the American video artist. Although they operated in very different moments, both men grapple with the big themes of birth, life, and death. Viola’s five-meter-high projection depicting the ascent of the soul after death, Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall), will be among the highlights.  

WHERE: Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD, UK

WHEN: January 29–March 31


 “The Young Picasso – Blue And Rose Periods” at the Fondation Beyeler

Pablo Picasso, Femme en Chemise (Madeleine). Courtesy of the Tate, copyright Succession Picasso / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich Photo Tate, London 2018.

WHAT: An exhibition dedicated to Picasso’s early masterpieces is set to be the most ambitious show ever staged by the Swiss institution. During the artist’s so-called Blue and Rose periods from 1901 to 1906, Picasso’s exploration of the human subject spans jugglers, acrobats, and harlequins to people living on the fringes. Organized chronologically, the show will encompass works Picasso made during his travels to France and Spain.

WHERE: Fondation Beyeler, Baselstrasse 77, CH-4125 Riehen, Switzerland

WHEN: February 3–May 26


All the Rembrandts” at the Rijksmuseum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem (1630). Purchased with the support of private collectors, the Vereniging Rembrandt and the Stichting tot Bevordering van de Belangen van het Rijksmuseum.

WHAT: To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death, the Dutch museum is pulling out all of its Rembrandts, and then some. The institution has the largest collection of works by the Dutch master; for this show, which will be a part of a year-long celebration, it will present 22 paintings, 60 drawings, and more than 300 prints. This is likely the first and last time such a display will happen in your lifetime. Other significant Rembrandt events next year include the restoration of his most famous work, The Nightwatch, which will take place in public view, and a two-person exhibition featuring Rembrandt and Spanish master Diego Velázquez.

WHERE: Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam

WHEN: February 15–June 10


Hockney – Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature” at the Van Gogh Museum

David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) ©David Hockney. Photo by Richard Schmidt.

WHAT: What’s better than one reliably crowd-pleasing artist? Two, of course! This spring, the Van Gogh Museum will explore the influence of Vincent van Gogh on the work of UK painter David Hockney. Both artists specialize in bright colors and experiments in perspective. While Hockney is best known for his California swimming pools, it is his mostly his Yorkshire landscapes that will be juxtaposed with Van Gogh’s paintings, such as The Harvest (1888) or Field with Irises near Arles (1888). For all their similarities, the two men have at least one major difference: While troubled Van Gogh only gained recognition after his death, Hockney is one of the world’s most celebrated living painters (not to mention the most expensive).

WHERE: The Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein 6, Amsterdam

WHEN: March 1–May 26


Picasso: The Late Work” at Museum Barberini Potsdam

Pablo Picasso, Madame Z (Jacqueline mit Blumen) (1954), Collection of Catherine Hutin, © Succession Picasso/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

WHAT: This show is intriguing as much for its lender as for its subject matter. The work is from the collection of the artist’s second wife Jacqueline Picasso, which is managed by her daughter, Catherine Hutin. Numerous works have never been exhibited in Germany before, and some will be presented to the public for the first time. Consider it a preview for Hutin’s personal museum: Pablo Picasso’s stepdaughter is opening a home for her extensive collection in 2021 in the south of France.

WHERE: Museum Barberini Potsdam, Humboldtstraße 5-6, 14467 Potsdam, Germany

WHEN: March 9–June 16


Mark Rothko” at the Kunsthistorisches Museum

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Red, Orange) (1968). Courtesy
Fondation Beyeler, photo by Robert Bayer.

WHAT: This show will explore the inspiration Rothko drew from Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artifacts, as well as the paintings of the Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age. More than 40 works by Rothko, from early figurative paintings to classic abstracts, will go on show alongside works in the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s collection. Organized by the Vienna museum’s adjunct curator of modern and contemporary art, Jasper Sharp, in association with the artist’s son Christopher and daughter Kate, this promises to be a Rothko show like no other.  

WHERE: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010 Vienna, Austria

WHEN: March 12 through June 30


Black Models: From Géricault to Matisse” at the Musée d’Orsay

Édouard Manet, La négresse (Portrait of Laure) (1863). Collection Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin. Photo by Andrea Guerman, ©Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turino.

WHAT: This exhibition is an expansion of a show that was staged—to much acclaim—at the Wallach Art Gallery in New York in 2018. Beginning with Olympia, the New York exhibition pinpointed a break from stereotypical, Orientalist representations of the black female figure in art history and explored how the famous painting’s black model lifts the veil on a hitherto little-documented facet of the Modernist era in Paris: the multiracial artistic milieu surrounding Manet and his followers. At the Orsay, the show will be wider in scope, taking earlier portraits by Marie-Guillemine Benoist and Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault as well as seminal Orientalist portraits from the 1800s as its starting point. It will include images of black men as well, and extend its examination of the black model through the art of the present.

WHERE: Musée d’Orsay, 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France

WHEN: March 26 –July 21


Van Gogh and Britain” at Tate Britain

Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers (1888). Courtesy of the National Gallery, London.

WHAT: As a young art dealer working in London, Van Gogh fell in love with British culture, especially the novels of Charles Dickens. This exhibition, the largest Van Gogh show in the UK in a decade, shows how the artist was also inspired by the art he saw in the city, including works by John Constable and John Everett Millais. The display will include rare loans, such as Sunflowers from the National Gallery in London and Van Gogh’s 1889 self-portrait from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

WHERE: Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG

WHEN: March 27–August 11


Maria Lassnig: I Is Someone Else” at the Stedelijk Museum

Maria Lassnig, Dame mit Hirn (Women With Brain) (1990). Maria Lassnig Stiftung. Courtesy Stedelijk Museum.

WHAT: The late Austrian painter Maria Lassnig will receive her first retrospective in the Netherlands this spring. The artist, who died in 2014, is well known for her “body awareness paintings”—a series in which she paints only the parts of her body she can feel while she is working—and expressive self-portraiture. A pioneer of her time, Lassnig often painted older female nudes with a vibrant signature pastel palette and powerful, brushy strokes. The show is organized in collaboration with Austria’s Albertina Museum, where it opens in September 2019.

WHERE: Stedelijk Museum,Museumplein 10, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Netherlands

WHEN: April 6–August 13


Prehistory” at the Centre Pompidou

Louise Bourgeois, Harmless Woman (1969). Copyright, the Easton Foundation/Adagp, Paris, 2019.

WHAT: Many exhibitions have traced Modern artists’ fascination with traditional African art, but this show, according to the museum, is the first to explore how artists as diverse as Picasso, Miró, Cézanne, Klee, Giacometti, Max Ernst, Joseph Beuys, and Louise Bourgeois drew inspiration from prehistoric sculpture. The Centre Pompidou’s show will survey art from the early 20th century to the present alongside important pieces from the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras.

WHERE: Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris

WHEN: May 8–September 16


Lee Krasner: Living Color” at the Barbican Art Gallery

Lee Krasner, Icarus (1964), Thomson Family Collection, New York City. Copyright the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York. Photo by Diego Flores.

WHAT: Abstract Expressionist painter Lee Krasner finally gets her due in Europe as the Barbican Centre in London, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao join forces to organize this major survey. Long overshadowed by her male contemporaries—and above all, her husband Jackson Pollock—Krasner is at long last being considered as a formidable talent in her own right. This exhibition will show how, after Pollock’s death, she was able to move her studio into the barn where he worked to make her own large-scale works. Among the 50 international collections lending works, the National Gallery of Victoria is sending Krasner’s vibrant and monumental Combat (1965), which is measures more than four meters wide.

WHERE: Barbican Art Gallery, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS

WHEN: May 30–September 1


Dora Maar” at Centre Pompidou

Dora Maar, unidentified female model from behind, with bare chest (around 1934). Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris. ©Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI / Dist. RMN-GP. ©ADAGP, Paris.

WHAT: Dora Maar is another artist who has long been overshadowed by a more famous man (Pablo Picasso, with whom she had a relationship for nine years). Now she, too, is receiving overdue attention for her own work. The Centre Pompidou is celebrating the influence of Maar’s photography and painting on the avant-garde movement of the 1930s with a major career retrospective. The exhibition includes the artist’s Surrealist photomontages, portraits, examples of her commercial fashion and advertising photography, and an exploration of her influence on the famous personalities in her artistic milieu.

WHERE: Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris

WHEN: June 5–July 29


AI: More Than Human” at the Barbican Centre

Lawrence Lek, AI: More Than Human 2065 (preview). Courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London.

WHAT: This highly interactive exhibition could not be more topical. As artists explore the possibilities and perils of artificial intelligence, “AI: More Than Human” surveys the creative and scientific developments that could transform our daily lives. The exhibition includes new commissions by artists, designers, and computer scientists including Joy Buolamwini, Mario Klingemann, Steve Goodman (Kode9), Lauren McCarthy, Yoichi Ochiai, Neri Oxman, and Lawrence Lek.

WHERE: Barbican Art Gallery, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS

WHEN: May 16–August 26


Keith Haring” at Tate Liverpool

Keith Haring, Ignorance = Fear (1989). © Keith Haring Foundation / Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris.

WHAT: Keith Haring is finally getting a major UK exhibition. More than 85 examples of his era-defining work including paintings, drawings, and sculptures will be on view at Tate Liverpool next year. The activist-artist’s work provides invaluable insight into the scene in New York in the 1980s, particularly the counterculture, and will be shown alongside photos and videos from that time. Haring addressed urgent political and ideological issues including homophobia, the AIDS crisis, and racism in work inspired by graffiti and Pop art. After its run in Liverpool, the exhibition will travel to BOZAR in Brussels (December 5–April 19, 2020) and the Museum Folkwang in Essen (May 22–September 6, 2020).

WHERE: Tate Liverpool, Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4BB

WHEN: June 14–November 10


Velázquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer: Similar Views in Spain and Holland at Museo del Prado

Vermeer, View of Houses in Delft (c. 1658). Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum. Gift of H.W.A. Deterding, London.

WHAT: Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum will collaborate with Madrid’s Prado on the exhibition “Miradas afines en España y Holanda” (translated “Similar Views in Spain and Holland”), which will compare and contrast the way Dutch and Spanish masters painted life in their respective countries during the 16th and early 17th centuries. While the show will focus primarily on the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez and Dutch masters Rembrandt and Vermeer, it will also include work by the Spanish artist Jusepe de Ribera and Frans Hals from the Netherlands.

WHERE: Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23, 28014, Madrid, Spain

WHEN: June 25–September 29


Olafur Eliasson” at Tate Modern

Olafur Eliasson, Your spiral view (2002). ©Olafur Eliason. Photo by Jens Ziehe. Boros Collection, Berlin, Germany.

WHAT: As London reels from Eliasson’s recently-melted monumental climate change awareness installation outside Tate Modern, Ice Watch, the museum is also gearing up for a major survey of the artist’s career so far. The exhibition will include installations like Beauty, his 1993 work that combines a spotlight and a curtain of mist to create a rainbow. There will also be an entire section dedicated to the artist’s engagement with social and environmental issues, including his Little Sun project, which aims to bring clean, affordable solar energy to the world. 

WHERE: Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG

WHEN: July 11–January 5, 2020


Gauguin Portraits” at the National Gallery

Paul Gauguin, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Carrière (1888 or 1889). Copyright the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.  

WHAT: Later in his career, Gauguin painted numerous portraits, around 50 of which will go on show in this first exhibition to focus on his move away from Impressionism to Symbolism. The show includes multiple portraits of the same sitter together with a series of self-portraits that present the artist in various guises. Among them is Gauguin’s portrait of himself as Christ in the Garden of Olives (1889), a star loan from the Norton Gallery of Art in West Palm Beach. The exhibition is co-organized by the National Gallery of Canada.

WHERE: National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN

WHEN: October 7–January 26, 2020


Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana” at Museo del Prado

Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman (ca. 1580). Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay, courtesy of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

WHAT: Despite their status as female painters in the 16th century, both Sofonisba Anguissola, who was a court painter for King Phillip II of Spain, and Lavinia Fontana, who is considered the first professional female artist, defied the odds to become highly sought-after talents. Anguissola, a noblewoman who lived until she was in her 90s, was never paid for her portraits. (It was not considered proper for her to receive a fee.) By contrast, Fontana—a prolific painter through 11 pregnancies—supported her family with her art. The duo will be the subject of a 60-work exhibition next year during the Prado’s bicentenary celebrations, sharing a spotlight with alpha-male Old Masters Rembrandt and Velázquez.

WHERE: Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23, 28014, Madrid, Spain

WHEN: October 22–February 2, 2020


Leonardo da Vinci at the Musée du Louvre

Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait de femme, dit La Belle Ferronnière (1490). Paris, Musée du Louvre. ©RMN-Grand Palais (musÈe du Louvre) / Michel Urtado.

WHAT: On the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death at Amboise in the Loire Valley, the Louvre pays tribute to the Florentine master with an exceptional exhibition. Indeed, only the Louvre could present not only all five of the large Leonardo works and 22 drawings in its collection (nearly a third of his entire body of work), but also impressive international loans, including drawings from the Royal Collection of Queen Elizabeth II.

WHERE: The Louvre, Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France

WHEN: October 24–February 24, 2020

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