Words: Chris Erik Thomas.
Art has always been a salve for the soul, but during winter, it’s especially important. As the temperature outside plummets and the skies grow dark by midday, a good exhibition is a perfect place to relax, wander through climate-controlled exhibitions, and maybe even have an espresso (or two).
As the holiday season ends and a new year begins, the wealth of great exhibitions around Europe offers plenty of options for art lovers looking to see shows from established and underrepresented talents. From the BDSM-inspired works of Monica Bonvincini in Berlin to a sprawling group show focused on Surrealism in Potsdam or the Wolfgang-Hahn-Prize-winning work of Frank Bowling in Cologne, there’s something for everyone. While some shows will stretch through the next few months, we’ve picked a few who deserve to be seen in their final few weeks, including the stunning portraits by Alice Neel and the stark drama of Anne Imhof’s site-specific installations in Paris and Amsterdam, respectively.
Across the continent, we’ve pinpointed ten must-see shows on view everywhere from Luxembourg to Stockholm that even the most casual admirers of contemporary art should add to their list. Scroll through to see what exhibitions we’ve picked out.
It’s been nearly a century since French writer André Breton published the Manifesto of Surrealism, yet its impact still reverberates through culture. This manifesto — and the literary and artistic movement of Surrealism that it birthed — forms the backbone of “Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity”, a sweeping group exhibition at Potsdam’s Museum Barberini. Organised in collaboration with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, it was first shown from April to September 2022, parallel to the Venice Biennale.
The show is the first large-scale international loan exhibition to focus on the Surrealists’ interest in magic and myth, featuring ninety works by over twenty artists. Moving through the labyrinth of works, art lovers have a feast for the eyes. Pieces by artistic legends like Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and René Magritte can be seen alongside many women artists who have historically been overlooked — including Leonora Carrington, Jacqueline Lamba, Kay Sage, Remedios Varo, and more.
“Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity” is on view at Museum Barberini in Potsdam until January 29, 2023.
A woman lounges in a purple mid-century chair, lazily looking out at the viewer as her leg dangles off the side and an arm rises above her head to grip the back of the chair. She is the “Marxist Girl”, the subject of a visually arresting painting created by Alice Neel in 1972. A half-century later, this painting has become a powerful centrepiece in the Neel exhibition on view at Centre Pompidou.
Though the late North American painter went largely unnoticed in the art world during her lifetime, she produced a rich oeuvre marked by both militant feminism and intersectionality far ahead of the era. With over 75 paintings and drawings spread across the “Un regard engagé” exhibition, the pieces tackle everything from the prison system and antisemitism to interracial relationships and female sexuality. Together, the show is a valiant (and successful) attempt to honour her contribution to art history while providing a crash course in Neel’s striking meditations on class and gender for curious art lovers.
“Un regard engagé” by Alice Neel is on view at Centre Pompidou in Paris until January 16, 2023.
“The possibilities of colour are infinite.” That’s the core philosophy that guides Museum Ludwig’s new exhibition of Guyana-born artist Frank Bowling — this year’s recipient of the Wolfgang-Hahn-Prize. In celebrating his long career as a painter and writer, the show offers viewers a fresh insight into his unique style that fuses the British abstraction and American colour field painting movements.
With such a strong oeuvre, it’s fitting that the artist was chosen for the award by Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst and Museum Ludwig. To see his immense talent, one need only look to his 2020 work, “Flogging the Dead Donkey”, which is the first acquisition of one of his pieces for a public collection in Germany. Alongside that work, viewers will also find a print made from the dripping edge of the painting, archival materials from his writing work in the arts, and a film created by his son, Sacha Bowling, that combines both footage from throughout his career as well as an interview between Bowling and critic Mel Gooding.
The Frank Bowling exhibition will be on view at Museum Ludwig in Cologne until February 12, 2023.
Seshee Bopape’s work has a pulsing, earthy energy. Using soil and other materials sourced from the natural world, the South African artist has built a formidable reputation for her ability to draw upon the elements to create emotionally arresting works that tackle themes of memory, identity, and belonging. With “Born in the first light of the morning [moswara’marapo]”, her new show set against the stark, industrial interiors of Pirelli HangarBicocca’s Shed, the artist has weaved a piercing and poetic narrative that examines female-led myths and archetypes.
Using the phrase “moswara’marapo” from Sepedi (a language of Southern African BaNtu), which translates to “the holder of bones,” she has created an exhibition that tackles memories and tradition through a series of stirring pieces, including two site-specific wall drawings (“Untitled”, 2022) that are reminiscent of lines left on sand from the ocean’s tide. There is a range of mediums to pore over throughout the exhibition, but it is the two installations of earth compressed into towering dome structures — “and- in the light of this._ _ _ _ _”, 2017/2022 and “Mothabeng”, 2022 — that demand to be experienced.
“Born in the first light of the morning [moswara’marapo]” by Dineo Seshee Bopape is on view at Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan until January 29, 2023.
The radical, refreshing artistry of Anne Imhof has always lit up whichever institution hosts her, but there’s an added layer of emotion present at the Stedelijk Museum this winter. For her first solo show in the Netherlands, the young artist transformed over 1,000 square metres of space in their lower-level gallery into a labyrinthine exploration of, ironically, emptiness.
As the first exhibition in nearly a decade not to feature a live performance element, it marks a bold new direction and an evolution in her chameleonic oeuvre. Through a mix of light, sound, and site-specific installations — including school lockers — she tackles everything from body dysmorphia to anxiety. Two particularly arresting pieces are “AI Winter” and “Fate”, two symbiotic video works that see the artist wandering the snowy industrial ruins of Moscow and riding atop a horse, respectively. Taken as a whole, the sprawling exhibition is another strong showcase for Imhof’s eye for the uncomfortable, seedy underbelly of youth angst.
“Youth” by Anne Imhof is on view at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam until January 29, 2023.
Looming over the Neue Nationalgalerie, a giant mirrored sign is the striking entry point for the comprehensive new solo exhibition from acclaimed artist Monica Bonvicini. Reflecting the (usually) grey Berlin skies, massive black lettering reads “I do you” — literally mirroring the name of the exhibition that now occupies the museum’s ground floor. Acting as the central focal point, a site-specific installation constructed of scaffolding, wood, foil, and mirrors rises up to create a temporary second level. As viewers ascend the metal steps, the upper level opens to a selection of works that are at once both playful and foreboding.
Alongside the blistering brightness of “Light Me Black” (2009), two hammocks crafted from steel chains — “Chainswing Belts” and “Chainswing Leather Round” — offer a nod to the BDSM club scene and invite visitors to climb in, lay back, and relax into the surprisingly comfortable contraptions. Downstairs, the new work “You to Me” lines the perimeter, offering a set of 20 handcuffs that viewers can lock themselves into for 30 minutes.
It’s a testament to the power of Bonvicini’s craft that her piercing interrogations of masculinity and power aren’t just free of melodrama — they’re also quite fun to interact with. With such a strong range of works tackling everything from bondage to the uncontrollability of time to pour over, the exhibition is a welcome reprieve from the gloomy weather just outside the museum’s glass-paned facade.
“I do You” by Monica Bonvicini is on view at Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin until April 30, 2023.
The new exhibition by English artist Tacita Dean is a sensory journey — fitting given that its creative nucleus is Dante’s Inferno. Occupying the East Gallery at Mudam, the show is centred on ‘The Dante Project’ — a moving ballet that premiered at London’s Royal Opera House in October 2021. For that production, Dean designed not only the costumes but also the sprawling sets, which have now found a temporary home in Luxembourg for the exhibition’s duration.
Stripped of the context of the theatre, the incredible pieces that Dean produced from the play take on a new life ensconced within the modernist facade of Mudam, where a mix of photography and film accompanies them. Staged in three parts that mirror the three acts of the story (Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso), the pacing of the exhibition view feels fluid, ebbing and flowing as the pieces transition from monochrome to colour. In 2020’s “Purgatory (Threshold)”, a large-scale photo of Jacaranda trees nearly four metres by five metres has been pinned to the wall and intricately overlaid with white pencil marks — casting a veil over the urban setting around the tree.
In addition to the two other set pieces from the ballet, 2019’s “Inferno” and 2021’s “Paradise”, the exhibition also features smaller works that showcase her versatility as an artist, including an eight-part photogravure, films shot on 16mm, and small chalk drawings.
The Tacita Dean exhibition is on view at Mudam in Luxembourg until February 26, 2023.
Staged one year after her death at 96, a retrospective of Etel Adnan has captured the radiance of the Arab American artist’s oeuvre. There is a warmth emanating from the works as viewers wander through the famed Lenbachhaus Kunstbau. Comforting yellows, bright reds, suns, hills, broad strokes, and seeping lakes of colour are sectioned off by fine lines — a striking correspondence to the Kandinsky paintings just across the street at the permanent collection.
Born to Greek and Syrian parents, Adnan became a writer and poet before pivoting to painting and textile art. The confluence of her talents is on full view, with many of her paintings being accompanied by texts she’s written — including a selection of works inspired by the Japanese Leporello folding screen technique.
As her first major solo show in Germany, it represents a major achievement for the late artist while also showcasing the tight bonds within the country’s contemporary art scene. The show was produced in collaboration with Düsseldorf’s Kunstsammlung NRW, which will stage the exhibition at their museum on April 1.
The Etel Adnan retrospective is on view at Lenbachhaus in Munich until February 26.
When you’re as astronomically important to the art world as Nan Goldin, staging a retrospective takes a lot of space. In the case of “This Will Not End Well”, a retrospective at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, it took six unique buildings. Designed by architect and frequent Goldin collaborator Hala Wardé and specifically staged to embrace her original vision for how her work should be experienced, the show is one of the most personal odes to the artist yet.
Anchored by both slideshows and video installations, the images she has captured across the last half century are given a new energy. Major works that tackle tough issues like drug addiction, suicide, and gender — including “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” (1981–2022), “The Other Side” (1992– 2021), and “Sisters, Saints and Sibyls” (2004–2022) — are given an added layer of depth through a mix of images, voices, and archival material. For both devoted lovers of Goldin’s work and those new to her oeuvre, the village of rooms erected to house her works during the exhibition is necessary viewing.
“This Will Not End Well” by Nan Goldin is on view at Moderna Museet in Stockholm until February 26, 2023.
A dark atmosphere permeates the new Joan Jonas exhibition in Munich’s Haus Der Kunst. Serving as the first major comprehensive survey in Germany for the grande dame of video and performance art, it is a moving tribute to the 86-year-old provocateur.
Full of cinematic flickers and melodic soundscapes that transport viewers into her world, the show has an impressive range of both newer work and classic pieces from the 1960s, including a massive ode to her 1968 performance of “Wind.” With more recent works, including “Rivers to the Abyssal Plain” (2021) and “Out Takes. What The Storm Washed In” (2022), the artist explores the relationship between humans, animals, and nature — a recurring motif in her historic career.
The Joan Jonas exhibition is on view at Haus Der Kunst in Munich until February 26, 2023.
Chris Erik Thomas is the Digital Editor of Art Düsseldorf. They work as a freelance writer and editor in Berlin and focus primarily on culture, art, and media. Their work can also be seen in Highsnobiety, The Face Magazine, and other publications.