Cultural events that will light up 2018

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on January 9, 2018.

William Powell Frith’s A Private View at the Royal Academy, 1881. Photo by The Royal Academy of Arts

Gilles Caron’s Catcher demonstrators, Battle of the Bogside, Derry, Northern Ireland, August 1969. Photo by Fondation Gilles

Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz’s Portrait of Doña Tomasa Durán López de Cárdenas (detail), circa 1762. Photo by Rafael Doniz

Gabriele Münter, Woman Writing in Armchair, 1929. Photo by Visda 2017

Michel Sittow’s Catherine of Aragón as the Magdalene, about 1515 oil on oak panel. Photo by Detroit Institute of Arts

Abraham Lincoln by Matthew B Brady, 1860. Photo by National Portrait Gallery

Oliphant from Siciliy, Italy, made out of Ivory in the 12th century. The mount was made in 17th century England out of silver. Photo by Sean Weaver Photography

The Vienna Secession Group by Moritz Nähr, 1902. Photo by Moritz Nähr

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There are a lot of social, political, economic and ecological unknowns going into 2018. The future of art in the coming year, in contrast, is pretty much set in stone.

Visitors the world over have museum, biennial, and non-profits’ advance programming to thank: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for instance, can schedule an exhibition as much as four years in advance.

A lot of these exhibitions require years of planning. There are loans from other museums and private collectors to negotiate, wall text and catalogues to write, shipping to arrange, and, often must crucial of all, special funding to secure to make the exhibition possible.

In short, in an increasingly tumultuous world, culture remains the one constant. For anyone in need of reassurance, check out 10 of the most exciting exhibitions on the horizon and take heart.


1. ‘Uprisings’ at the Contemporary Art University Museum in Mexico City
Feb 24 to July 29

Although this was planned well in advance, Uprisings, a sweeping show curated by the star French art historian Georges Didi Huberman feels awfully topical. Ostensibly a highly theoretical show, the exhibition features documentation of literal revolt — paintings, films, photographs, even engravings — set within the largest public institution in Mexico.


2. ‘The World of the Fatimids’ at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto
March 10 to July 2

The Fatimid dynasty’s staggeringly sophisticated caliphate reached its peak in the 10th and 11th centuries. Stretched along North Africa and the Middle East, its capital in what’s now Cairo, Egypt, fostered a boom in arts and sciences, eventually surpassing virtually any other contemporaneous civilisation. The Aga Khan Museum’s show will include an array of delicate, intricate objects that include ceramic lustreware, rock crystal and ivory.


3. ‘Painted in Mexico, 1700-1790’ at the Met Fifth Avenue in New York
April 24 to July 22

In a show that first appeared at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2017 as part of Los Angeles’ Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, which explored Latin American art throughout the city, this show, a collection of more than 100 artworks, will travel to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art next year. Put in the context of the Met’s prodigious collection of European masterworks of the same period, the show will take on a new importance as questions of colonialism, international exchange, and art history are put in stark and fascinating relief.


4. Gabriele Münter at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark
May 3 to Aug 19

It’s always nice to be genuinely surprised by an artist you know nothing about. Given that very few people have ever heard of Gabriele Münter (1877 to 1962), let’s hope everyone else feels that way too. Münter co-founded the influential Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter with Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Lyonel Feininger and others, but her oeuvre actually spanned numerous styles and periods. With more than 130 works in total, this is one of the first exhibitions to re-examine (or for many, introduce) one of the most influential, if not talented, artists of the 20th century.


5. ‘Michel Sittow: Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe’ at the National Gallery in Washington, DC
Jan 28 to May 13

People have the tendency to assume that celebrity is a contemporary phenomenon, but the success of Michel Sittow (1469 to 1525), an Estonian artistic savant who was sought-after by European heads of state, proves that celebrity goes back a long way. Thirteen of the artist’s known paintings will be assembled alongside those of one of his contemporaries, Juan de Flandes, in the museum’s West Building.


6. Sixteenth International Architecture Biennale in Venice
May 26 to Nov 25

For the past three decades, Venice, Italy, has hosted an international architecture exhibition in the Giardini, (a public park filled with pavilions hosted by countries around the world) and in its Arsenale, a massive, ancient warehouse where Biennial organisers install exhibitions by architects and artists. While the Biennale can have its slightly wonky, academic side, there’s always a dazzling, spectacular component to the show, too: Uncanny structures, unheard of materials materials, and new technologies are sure to make it a must-see. Plus, you will be in Venice, so how bad can it be.


7. ‘The Great Spectacle: 250 Years of the Summer Exhibition’ at the Royal Academy in London
June 12 to Aug 19

Every summer for the past two and a half centuries, London’s Royal Academy of Art (RA) has put on a rambling, blockbuster show that highlights work by British artists. Historically, there was so much art crowded onto the academy’s walls that it transcended a “salon-style” exhibition and came to resemble something closer to wallpapers. To mark the 250-year anniversary of the Summer Exhibition, the RA has created a retrospective that marks the exhibition’s highlights, both historical and contemporary — the show promises to run the gamut from Joshua Reynolds to Wolfgang Tillmans.


8. ‘Daguerreotypes: Five decades of Collecting’ at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC
June 15, 2018 to June 2, 2019

Daguerreotypes were the precursor modern-day photography. The process, which was ubiquitous in the mid-19th century, involved exposing a treated silver plate to light through an early camera. In 2018, the National Portrait Gallery will have been collecting daguerreotypes for 50 years and has planned a large installation to commemorate the milestone. These aren’t just fascinating artworks; they are also stunning chronicles of the birth of modernism.


9. ‘Moriz Nähr: Photography and Modernism’ at the Leopold Museum in Vienna
Aug 24 to Oct 29

It’s hard to overstate the convulsive urban and social change that Vienna was subjected to at the turn of the century. Long the jewel in the crown of the Hapsburg Empire, its wedding-cake buildings and ornate cafes were subsidised in large part by the outlying Crown Lands, which, by 1900, were beginning to make concerted efforts towards autonomy. Insulated as it was, Vienna began to feel the effects of change: Its city fortifications came down, the middle class grew, and it ever-so-slowly began to embrace technology and modernism. Moriz Nähr (1845 to 1945), a pioneer of the photographic medium, was appointed court photographer to the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and thus was on hand to capture the changes from the highest (and occasionally, lowest) levels. This will be a spectacular, not-to-miss exhibition of his oeuvre’s highlights.


10. Thirty-third São Paulo Biennial in São Paulo
Sept 7 to Dec 9

Generally considered one of the most important contemporary arts events in South America, the São Paulo Biennial has a history of combining unknown artists with the type of discourse that the international contemporary art world knows and loves. Set in locations throughout the city and in a massive modernist pavilion designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the biennial comes at a delicate time for art in Brazil: Earlier last year, protestors shut down an exhibit of Queer Art in the city of Porto Allegre because, protesters claimed, works by blue-chip artists such as Lygia Clark promoted paedophilia. How organisers of São Paulo’s biennial tread an increasingly reactionary social line remains to be seen, but regardless, the show itself is not to be missed. — Bloomberg