20 Essential Museum Shows to See in Europe in 2020, From Matisse at the Pompidou to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at Tate Britian
Don't be left out of the conversation this year—mark these unmissable European museum shows on your calendar now.
Between celebrations centered on the lives and legacies of Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci, not to mention the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus, and the Venice Biennale, 2019 was an action-packed year of sometimes-bloated blockbusters. By comparison, 2020 will provide a more refined, in-depth look at an exciting and diverse array of artists.
Looking to plan your art-viewing schedule? Below, see our picks of the shows that you cannot afford to miss in the first half of 2020.
“Up to and Including Limits: After Carolee Schneemann” at Muzeum Susch
WHAT: The first institutional show dedicated to the late avant-garde feminist performance artist since her death in March, this exhibition will examine Schneemann’s contributions to art history through the work of artists and collectives in subsequent generations. Ten seminal works by Schneemann, including the show’s eponymous work, Up to and Including Her Limits (1973–76), will be placed in dialogue with more than 60 works by artists including Matthew Barney, Chicks on Speed, Katrina Daschner, Andrea Fraser, Ragnar Kjartansson, Kris Lemsalu, Sarah Lucas, Paulina Ołowska, and Pipilotti Rist.
WHERE: Muzeum Susch, Sur Punt 78, 7542, Zernez, Switzerland
WHEN: December 29, 2019–June 28, 2020
“Edward Hopper” at the Beyeler Foundation
WHAT: The American artist is perhaps best known for his cityscapes, but he was also a prolific landscape artist. This exhibition focuses on rural paintings by Edward Hopper, who grew up in upstate New York on the Hudson River. And while he spent his heyday in Greenwich Village in the heart of Manhattan, he went on frequent road trips and would spend nearly every summer from the 1930s to the 1950s on Cape Cod. The filmmaker Wim Wenders has created a 3D film, Two or Three Things I Know About Hopper, specifically for the exhibition.
WHERE: Fondation Beyeler, Baselstrasse 101, 4125 Riehen, near Basel, Switzerland
WHEN: January 26–May 17
“Wolfgang Tillmans: Today Is the First Day” at WIELS
WHAT: “Today Is the First Day” will be the first solo show of photographer Wolfgang Tillmans in Belgium. Never-before-seen photographs, as well as video installations and sound works, will be presented across two floors. The Berlin-based artist aims to “make pictures that talk about what it feels like to be alive today,” whether he is offering a view of a large London round-about under construction or the underground club scene in Iran.
WHERE: Centre Av. Van Volxemlaan 354, 1190, Brussels
WHEN: February 1–May 24
“Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution” at MSK Ghent
WHAT: This exhibition will “only” include 10 works by Jan van Eyck, a titan of the Northern Renaissance—but that is half of all the Flemish painter’s surviving known works. His masterpiece, the Ghent Altarpiece, or the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (1432), has been newly restored and will be a highlight of the show. The exhibition places Van Eyck’s achievement in a wider context, and includes around 80 works by the artist’s late Medieval contemporaries from Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. The curators also aim to show how Van Eyck changed the course of Western art through his skill in oil painting, coupled with scientific knowledge and unrivaled observational skills. To cope with the expected crowds, the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) Ghent will be open seven days a week during the run of the show.
WHERE: Fernand Scribedreef 1, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
WHEN: February 1–April 30
“Peter Lindbergh: Untold Stories” at Kunstpalast Düsseldorf
WHAT: “Untold Stories” is due to be the first major survey dedicated to the beloved photographer since his death this September—and it was, amazingly, curated by Lindbergh himself. He spent the last two years of his life preparing the show, which will include 140 photographs spanning the 1980s to 2019, including fashion commissions from Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Interview, among others. The show will travel to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, and MADRE in Naples.
WHERE: Ehrenhof 4-5, 40479 Düsseldorf, Germany
WHEN: February 5–June 6
“Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life” at the Guggenheim Bilbao
WHAT: Some 30 artworks by Danish-Icelandic artist will put viewers at the center of his inventive and transporting artistic practice. For “In Real Life,” Eliasson’s diverse sculptures, photographs, paintings, and installations will span a range of materials including moss, water, glacial ice, and fog.
WHERE: Abandoibarra Etorb., 2, 48009 Bilbao, Spain
WHEN: February 14–June 21
“Tomàs Saraceno” at Palazzo Strozzi
WHAT: The Italian palazzo will host the Argentinian artist’s largest exhibition in Italy to date. Saraceno will present a selection of his major works together with a radical new site-specific installation in the palace’s courtyard. (We bet the odds are good it involves spiderwebs.) The exhibition promises to create “a sort of living system inhabited by the human and non-human—a shared reality in which all entities contribute to the network of resonances between beings.”
WHERE: Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza degli Strozzi, 50123 Florence, Italy
WHEN: February 22–July 19
“Lygia Clark: Painting as an Experimental Field” at the Guggenheim Bilbao
WHAT: The artist Lygia Clark was a leading figure in the Brazilian avant-garde—but less is known about her early work, before she shifted into experimental sculpture and ultimately art that was more akin to what we could call social practice today. This exhibition, on the other hand, focuses on her innovative work in the decade between 1948 and 1958. Her experiments that hovered between figurative art and geometric abstraction laid the foundation of her later work in painting, sculpture, film- and print-making, as well as participatory actions.
WHERE: Avenida Abandoibarra, 2, 48009, Bilbao, Spain
WHEN: March 6–May 31
“Abel Rodríguez” at the BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art
WHAT: This exhibition will be the first ever solo show dedicated to Abel Rodríguez, an elder artist from the Nonuya ethnic group. Native to the Colombian Amazon, Rodríguez and his family were displaced to Bogota by the Colombian armed conflict and exploitation of the natural resources of the rainforest in the 1990s. His practice is rooted in his ancestral knowledge of the indigenous plants of the Amazon, passed down to him by his uncle. Through detailed paintings and drawings, Rodríguez depicts the rainforest’s ecosystem as a way to preserve his own knowledge and memory of the region.
WHERE: BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art, S Shore Rd, Gateshead NE8 3BA, UK
WHEN: March 14–June 28
“Christo and Jeanne-Claude in Paris” at the Centre Pompidou
WHAT: Christo wouldn’t be Christo without Paris. It’s the city where the young Bulgarian artist met his wife and artistic partner Jeanne-Claude, and where they lived between 1958 and 1964. It was in Paris that he turned from painting to wrapping everyday objects. Within three years, the pair were also realizing their first public interventions, albeit on a small scale initially but they always thought big. They first imagined wrapping the Arc de Triomphe in 1962. More than five decades later, that project—delayed by nesting birds this past spring—is finally due to be realized in the fall. It will debut in conjunction with an exhibition that explores the works the duo made in and about the city.
WHERE: Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France
WHEN: March 18–June 15
“Artemisia” at the National Gallery, London
WHAT: Overlooked by (mainly male) art historians, feminist scholars where the first to rediscover the work of Artemisia Gentileschi, the most famous female artist of the 17th century. The National Gallery’s purchase, in 2018, of a recently rediscovered painting was the catalyst for this solo show, its first of a female Baroque artist. Featuring around 35 works, the exhibition will trace her training in Rome under her father Orazio Gentileschi and how she survived rape and a harrowing trial to establish herself as an independent artist in Florence and Naples.
WHERE: Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN, UK
WHEN: April 6–July 26
“Smoke and Mirrors: The Roaring Twenties” at Kunsthaus Zürich
WHAT: After World War I, art flourished as social conventions were overturned in cities including Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and Zurich, the birthplace of Dada. This show places lesser-known female artists in the foreground and adds a contemporary twist by including the work of living artists inspired by the artistic, design, and architectural innovations of the 1920s. The show travels to the Guggenheim Bilbao in the fall.
WHERE: Heimplatz 1, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
WHEN: April 24–July 19
“Otobong Nkanga” at Gropius Bau
WHAT: The Nigerian-born artist will present new work inspired by the extensive research she conducted during her yearlong residency at Gropius Bau in 2019. The show will present drawing, installation, and performance that all explore Nkanga’s frequent subject: tracking the migration of minerals, resources, and people. During her stay at the museum, Nkanga built upon her acclaimed documenta 14 project, Carved to Flow, where she produced black marbled soaps in Athens with materials sourced from the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Africa.
WHERE: Niederkirchnerstraße 7, 10963 Berlin, Germany
WHEN: April 30–August 2
“Katharina Grosse: It Wasn’t Us” at Hamburger Bahnhof
WHAT: For her solo exhibition entitled “It Wasn’t Us,” German installation artist and painter Katharina Grosse will present an array of spectacular large-scale and site-specific paintings. It seems that nothing is safe from Grosse’s air guns and vibrant acrylic paints, which crawl up the walls and across the floors. They will grip the historical main hall of the museum (and the public grounds outside) with color and contrast. It’s bound to be an Instagram hit.
WHERE: Invalidenstraße 50-51, 10557 Berlin, Germany
WHEN: April 24–October 4
“Henri Matisse” at the Centre Pompidou
WHAT: To mark the 150th anniversary of the French artist’s birth, the Centre Pompidou will present works from across Matisse’s long career in a show billed as Paris’s biggest Matisse exhibition since a blowout at the Grand Palais in 1970. The Pompidou will supplement Matisse’s works in National Museum of Modern Art collection with those on loan from the Musée Matisse in Cateau-Cambrésis and from the Matisse museum in Nice, where the artist lived in his final decades. The show is divided into nine chapters, as if Matisse’s career were a great novel. It will also draw on his own writings to illuminate his paintings, collages, and stained glass.
WHERE: Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France
WHEN: May 13–August 31
“Kara Walker : A Black Hole Is Everything a Star Longs To Be: Drawings 1993–2020” at Kunstmuseum Basel
WHAT: In her first expansive solo show in Switzerland, Kara Walker is letting museum visitors in on her closely guarded personal archive of drawings. Spanning the past 27 years, the American artist is presenting hundreds of drawings and works on paper from her studio alongside brand new works. Paper has been a central medium in Walker’s provocative oeuvre, which takes an unflinching look at US history.
WHERE: Kunstmuseum Basel, St. Alban-Graben 16, 4051 Basel, Switzerland
WHEN: May 16–August 23
“Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul” at the Munch Museum
WHAT: One of the inaugural exhibitions at the soon-to-open, newly expanded Munch Museum will reveal Tracey Emin’s long-held fascination with the Expressionist pioneer Edvard Munch. Drawn back time and time again to the Norwegian artist’s expressionism and interest in the human psyche, Emin says, “I’ve been in love with this man since I was 18.” New and older works by Emin will be presented alongside Munch’s, as well as a new bronze sculpture by the British artist, The Mother, which will be unveiled as a permanent site-specific work on Oslo’s Museum Island, next door to the institution. The exhibition will travel to the Royal Academy in London in November.
WHERE: Munch Museet, Edvard Munchs plass 1. 0194 Oslo, Norway
WHEN: Summer 2020 (exact dates to be confirmed)
“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” at Tate Britain
WHAT: The British painter and writer, who was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2013, is best known for her contemporary portraits of imaginary black characters, which often allude to European art history, from Goya to John Singer Sargent to Édouard Manet. The politics of identity and representation come to the fore in this exhibition, which will bring more than 80 paintings and works on paper spanning 2003 to the present in Yiadom-Boakye’s most extensive museum survey to date.
WHERE: Tate Britain, Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG, UK
WHEN: May 19–August 31
“Magdalena Abakanowicz” at Tate Modern
WHAT: The Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz is best known for her so-called “Abakans,” towering hanging sculptures made with woven sisal fiber, which she created in the 1960s and ’70s. Now, Tate will exhibit the most significant examples of these works, which are rarely seen together, in a 209-foot-long open gallery space. Other key works in the show include early textiles, her “War Games” sculptures, as well as wood and iron pieces made around the trunks of felled trees.
WHERE: Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG, UK
WHEN: June 17–September 13
“Hito Steyerl” at Centre Pompidou
WHAT: Paris’s Centre Pompidou and K21 in Düsseldorf are collaborating on a major joint retrospective dedicated to the rabble-rousing, uncompromising German artist, whose work explores technology, systems of power, and history through mind-bending videos and installations. The show will include major works, a new production, and two publications. In her new work, Steyerl will use the architecture of the Centre Pompidou as one of her points of departure. After its run in Paris, the show opens at K21 in Düsseldorf on September 26.
WHERE: Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France
WHEN: June 24–August 24
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