Wednesday, 23 March 2022

8 must-see art shows this spring

The biggest news in the art world so far? The 59th Venice Biennale is finally pushing through in late April, having been postponed last year. Over 75 countries are expected to participate in this much-heralded event – titled “The Milk of Dreams”. Singapore will be represented by artist Shubigi Rao, who will mount a multimedia installation about the nation-state’s publishing history.

International art fairs are not the only ones back in the game, though. As the world begins to travel again for leisure and a much-needed boost of art and culture, museums from Dubai to Paris and London to New York are again setting up large-scale exhibitions that are expected to draw in the crowds.

If you’re flying from a city that’s part of Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) list, why not transit through the Little Red Dot with Singapore Airlines and check out the the following show at the National Gallery, then travel the world to catch our seven other top picks.

“Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia” in Singapore

Where and when:  National Gallery of Singapore, 28 May to 25 Sep
This exhibition of Indigenous art is the largest of its kind to travel to Asia. Drawn from the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art, the artworks in “Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia” surveys historical and contemporary works by over 140 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across Australia. The exhibition also grapples with Australia’s complex history with its original settlers, and draws out links with Southeast Asia, connecting First People’s art from Australia to the broader history of this region.

“Yves Saint Laurent aux Musées” and “Gaudí” in Paris

Where and when: Various venues, ongoing till 15 May
Over a decade since Yves Saint Laurent died of brain cancer, the French continue to pay tribute to this iconic couturier, who was also the first in his industry to embrace ready-to-wear. In Paris, six museums are simultaneously mounting exhibitions to mark the 60th anniversary of his fashion brand: the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée National Picasso-Paris and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris. At the Louvre, head to the Galerie d’Apollon to marvel at the couturier’s masterful execution of his love of gold. But if you are more interested in how he played with colours, go to the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris. True fans will be tickled pink at the YSL Museum, which will be displaying pieces from the designer’s personal archives.

A black gazar jacket with gold embroidery by Yves Saint Laurent. Photo credit: Nicolas Mathéus / Louvre Museum

Where and when: Musee d’Orsay, 12 Apr to 17 Jul
Everyone is familiar with the style of Spanish architect and Art Nouveau master Antoni Gaudí – indiscernible yet recognisable organic shapes that look like ice cream melting under a hot sun. And while this Catalan iconoclast is best known for his buildings – including the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, which remains unfinished 139 years after it first began construction – Gaudí also, not surprisingly, made odd furniture and sculptures, such as a dresser with a mirror skewed at a 45-degree angle. At the Musée d’Orsay, “Gaudí”, the first major exhibition in 50 years that is devoted to him, the architect’s drawings, models and furniture are shown in the hope of helping viewers understand his madness and – indubitably – genius.

Mural by Gaudi
A mural by Antoni Gaudí

“Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear” in London

Where and when: V&A, 19 Mar to 6 Nov
As Paris pays tribute to Saint Laurent, London trains the spotlight on men’s fashion and how it has defined masculinity over the years at the V&A Museum. The exhibition “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear” is timed perfectly, as genderless fashion becomes more mainstream, thanks to pop icons challenging the concept of what, exactly, is manly. Think Harry Style’s embroidered Gucci suits and pearls, and Pose actor Billy Porter’s hot-pink cloak, worn at the 2019 Golden Globes. Both items are part of this exciting show, co-presented by Gucci, which puts clothing, sculptures and artworks from as early as 1565 side by side.

Harry Styles in Gucci

A photo of Harry Styles at the V&A show

“Takashi Murakami: Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow” in Los Angeles

Where and when: The Broad, 21 May to 25 Sep
When The Broad opened in Downtown Los Angeles in 2014, one of its biggest problems was where to display the largest piece in its collection, a 25-panel work by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami that measures 3m x 25m, since not a single wall in the museum was big enough to accommodate it. This May, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow will be shown alongside 18 other works in Murakami’s first solo exhibition at The Broad. The mural is inspired by chaos and natural catastrophes – such as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan – though it is easy to gloss over the distressing theme when faced with the artist’s bright pop of colours and manga-ish execution.

Murakami's "In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow"
A detail of Murakami’s “In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow”

“Alice Neel: People Come First” in San Francisco

Where and when: de Young Museum, 12 Mar to 10 Jul
If you were unable to catch the blockbuster show of America’s greatest portraitist at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York early last year because of, well, the pandemic, don’t waste this second chance. The travelling exhibition “Alice Neel: People Come First” heads to de Young Museum in San Francisco this March after a five-month stopover at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and will show more than 100 works, including paintings, drawings and watercolours. Known for capturing her subjects at their most natural and vulnerable, Neel’s portraits of ordinary people of different colours and persuasions serve as a refreshing splash of cold water in this age where we are deluged with social media photos that are mostly staged, idealised or fake.

Rita and Hubert by Alice Neel
“Rita and Hubert” (1954) by Alice Neel. Photo credit: Malcolm Varon

“Desert is a Forest” in Dubai

Where and when: Jameel Arts Centre, ongoing till 4 Sep
A must-visit for plant lovers visiting the United Arab Emirates is the Jameel Arts Centre near the Dubai Creek. Here you can admire the seven gardens meticulously designed by Swiss-Dutch landscape architect Anouk Vogel, with each one displaying plants from a particular desert as if they were sculptures. Alongside the gardens is an exhibition space that is now showing “Desert is a Forest”, where Kerala-based artists Sunoj D and Namrata Geog explore the biodiversity of the UAE – 80% of its land area is desert – and show us how some plant species have become scarcer, while some have increased in numbers, as they are consumed by humans and goats.

Desert in a Forest
A detail shot of “Desert in a Forest”, ongoing at the Jameel Arts Centre

“Tracks We Share: Contemporary Art of the Pilbara” in Perth

Where and when: Art Gallery of Western Australia, ongoing till 29 Aug
Another exhibition of Indigenous art can be found in Perth. Double the size of Great Britain, the Pilbara region of the Western Australia is believed to have formed more than 3.6 billion years ago, making it the oldest place on earth, around long way before humans appeared on Earth. It is also home to more than 31 rich and diverse Aboriginal cultural groups – the original settlers of the land. In “Tracks We Share: Contemporary Art of the Pilbara”ongoing at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, this unique legacy informs more than 200 contemporary works of art by over 70 artists from this region, already known for its artistic diversity. Expect to see acrylic paintings, as well as works on paper, installations, film, animation, photographs sculptures and carvings.

Illyampi Victor Burton artwork
Untitled (Mamu), 2020, by Illyampi Victor Burton


Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.

The information is accurate as of press time. For the latest travel advisory updates, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.

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