Summer Preview: The Most Promising Museum Shows and Biennials Around the World

Suné Woods, Falling to get here (still), 2017, single-channel video installation. “Made in L.A. 2018,” Hammer Museum.


Travel, a summertime ritual for many in the art world, is naturally the subject for many shows this season. A John Akomfrah survey at the New Museum in New York will offer many in America their first significant glance at the Ghanaian-born artist’s video installations about migrations; the SITElines biennial at SITE Santa Fe in New Mexico and the Berlin Biennale will likewise examine the flow of people around the world. But there are more metaphorical forms of travel, too, and some will be explored at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago survey “I Was Raised on the Internet,” which is sure to explore various voyages from IRL to URL. Below, a look at this summer’s most promising shows, including the latest edition of the Made in L.A. biennial, retrospectives for Charles White and David Wojnarowicz, a survey about African cities, and more.




Carolina Caycedo, Cosmotarraya Yaqui, 2016, hand-dyed artisanal fishing net, led weights, wood stick, cotton poncho, leather maracas, and dry chile pepper. “Made in L.A. 2018,” Hammer Museum.


“Made in L.A. 2018”
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Through September 2

Now in its fourth iteration, the Made in L.A. biennial, which spotlights work by artists based in the greater Los Angeles area, has established itself as one of America’s most reliable showcases for emerging and under-recognized talent. This year’s edition, curated by the Hammer’s own Anne Ellegood and Erin Christovale, will include 32 artists, among them Daniel Joseph Martinez, Luchita Hurtado, Carmen Argote, Beatriz Cortez, Christina Quarles, Eamon Ore-Giron, Candice Lin, and Patrick Staff, and explore a wide range of concepts, such as Los Angeles’s sociopolitical history, Southern California’s landscape, and the body. —Maximilíano Durón

Charles White
Art Institute of Chicago
June 8–September 3

This retrospective celebrates the 100th anniversary of White’s birth with a display of more than 80 drawings, paintings, prints, and photographs that span his career, from the 1930s through his death in 1979. Associated with the Harlem Renaissance, White captured African-American history and culture through a realist figurative style, connecting past artistic traditions to present ones via his signature warped-looking subjects. (His work has been influential for many artists working today—one of his most notable students was Kerry James Marshall.) After its run in the Windy City, the exhibition, which includes White’s tableaux related to the Great Depression, the Great Migration, the Black Power movement, and more, will travel to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. —Grace Halio

Charles White, Sound of Silence, 1978, printed by David Panosh, published by Hand Graphics, Ltd.


“Baselitz: Six Decades”
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
June 20–September 16

This show will feature over 100 works from the six-decade career of Georg Baselitz, who celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this year. Influenced by movements like Informalism and Abstract Expressionism, Baselitz first garnered international attention in the 1970s with his upside-down paintings, which were widely considered some of the most important examples of the Neo-Expressionist movement. The Hirshhorn exhibition, which will showcase works never before seen in the U.S., chronicles each phase of Baselitz’s career, starting with his work from the late 1950s and closing out with more recent pieces. —Claire Selvin

“John Akomfrah: Signs of Empire”
New Museum, New York
June 20–September 2

The slow-paced video installations and films Akomfrah has produced over the past four decades—both on his own and as part of the now-defunct Black Audio Film Collective—have been known to test some people’s patience. But the Ghanaian-born, London-based artist’s work, which often deals with migration and identities in flux, rewards those willing to spend time with it. Though his achievements have been recognized in the film world for years, Akomfrah has only recently gotten attention in American art institutions—this will be his first U.S. museum survey. Featured in the show will be Vertigo Sea (2015), a three-screen installation about oceans that threads together nuclear tests, Moby-Dick, and the current refugee crisis. —Alex Greenberger

“Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen”
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
June 21–January 6

Should we fear or love Paglen’s photography? Many of his images are beautiful, alluring abstractions that, beneath their colorful patterns, portray concealed surveillance technology. These works, along with more recent pieces about artificial intelligence and the ways that machines “read” pictures, have cemented Paglen’s reputation as one of today’s best photographers. (He was named a MacArthur fellow last year.) In this mid-career survey, the full breadth of his work, which deals with how vision is changing in the digital age, will be on display. —A.G.

Juliana Huxtable, Untitled (Anachronism), 2013. “I Was Raised on the Internet,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.


“I Was Raised on the Internet”
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
June 23–October 14

True to its title, many of the artists in this far-reaching exhibition—Sophia Al-Maria, Ian Cheng, Juliana Huxtable, Andrea Crespo, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Cao Fei among them—were literally born after the internet. Curated by Omar Kholeif, the show surveys how various forms of digital technology have shaped our present culture, from the ways we share images to the methods by which we’re sold various products. —A.G.

Keith Sonnier
Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York
June 30–January 27

One of the the first artists to use neon and fluorescent light in sculpture, Keith Sonnier has influenced multiple generations of contemporary artists. Although the artist has found success and critical notice in Europe, he has yet to stage a major institutional survey in the United States. That will change this summer with this exhibition, organized by Parrish guest curator Jeffrey Grove, which comes with a fully illustrated catalog and surveys work from throughout the Post-Minimalist sculptor’s career. It is one of two Sonnier shows this summer in the Hamptons; the second will fittingly take place at the Flavin Institute, long known for its patronage of light-centric works. —John Chiaverina


David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (Green Head), 1982, acrylic on masonite.


“David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night”
Whitney Museum, New York
July 13–September 30

Buffalos falling off a cliff, ants crawling across a crucifix, a face emerging from sand, and a boy surrounded by text that alludes to the AIDS epidemic: these are perhaps Wojnarowicz’s most iconic images, and all will be featured in this long-awaited retrospective. The artist, who died in 1992 from AIDS-related causes, first came to prominence as part of New York’s East Village art scene in the 1980s, though he is perhaps best remembered for his later work, made during—and responding to—the AIDS crisis. The exhibition promises to tell a much more capacious tale of Wojnarowicz’s work, which runs the gamut from photocollages based on Arthur Rimbaud’s writings, to murals made for the piers facing the Hudson River—an area that was once a famous cruising ground—documented here via photography by his mentor (and lover) Peter Hujar. —M.D.

FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art
Various venues, Cleveland, Ohio
July 14–September 30

The inaugural edition of this much-hyped triennial, titled “An American City: Eleven Cultural Exercises” and curated by Michelle Grabner, will explore the dire state of United States heartland cities. Cleveland itself is a historic manufacturing hub. The works presented, by such artists as Cheng Ran, Sky Hopinka, and Josh Kline, draw attention to city landscapes, contrasting their natural and man-made elements. The triennial’s titular eleven “exercises” refer to various interventions around Cleveland staged as part of the festival—one allows viewers to go on a tour through the city and treat it as a ready-made object. —Annie Armstrong


SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico
August 3–January 6

Santa Fe, New Mexico, may be a quaint Southwestern city known primarily for its arts and crafts, but with its large Latinx population, the city’s quietude has more recently been disrupted by nationwide debates surrounding immigration. The title of the third edition of the SITElines biennial is “Casa tomada,” after a Julio Cortázar short story about two siblings who have to reorient themselves after being kicked out of their own home. Its organizers—the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s José Luis Blondet, MoMA PS1’s Ruba Katrib, and independent curator Candice Hopkins—have promised that the biennial will be “an opportunity to speak about borders.” Artists featured in the biennial include Tania Pérez Cordova, Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds, Sable Elyse Smith, Andrea Fraser, and Curtis Talwst Santiago. —A.G.

Dawn DeDeaux, Constructing Goddess Fortuna, from the installation “The Goddess Fortuna and Her Dunces in an Effort to Make Sense of It All,” 2011, sculpture, video, and surround-sound installation. Open Spaces Kansas City.


Open Spaces Kansas City
Various venues, Kansas City, Missouri
August 25–October 28

The debut edition of this arts festival is being organized by former Orange County Museum of Art chief curator Dan Cameron—a seasoned biennial curator, who’s headed up editions of Prospect New Orleans, the Istanbul Biennial, and the Taipei Biennial—to oversee the exhibition. Among the 40 artists announced so far to participate are Anila Quayyam Agha, Kathy Butterly, Nick Cave, Kimsooja, Ebony G. Patterson, and Nari Ward. –A.G.



Sputnik Photos, Anaklia, Georgia, 2013, from the series “Lost Territories Archive,” 2008–16/2018, site-specific installation, photographs, torn wallpaper, new commission for Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art.


Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art
Various venues, Riga, Latvia
Through October 28

Focusing primarily on artists working in the Baltic, this nascent biennial of European art recently premiered its first edition, titled “Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More” and curated by Katerina Gregos. The show centers around the concept that, while the objects in our lives are impermanent, stability is found in change itself. The biennial’s title comes from a book by Alexei Yurchak which explores the fall of the Soviet Union and the ways it influenced a population’s perception of societal change. Like the book, the biennial aims to illustrate the layers of change experienced by today’s society at-large. Some 113 works are currently on display at Riga; 70 percent of them are by Baltic artists, the likes of which include Andris Eglītis, Ieva Epnere, and Liina Siib. —A.A.

Christian Schad, Self-Portrait, 1927, oil on wood. “Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One,” Tate Britain.


“Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One”
Tate Britain, London
Through September 16

To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Tate Britain is taking a look at the art that illustrates the conflict’s impact on European culture. Following WWI, artists took two approaches to their work—they either returned to the traditional sensibilities of classicism, or they transitioned their output into meeting the demands of new fantastical movements, like Surrealism and Futurism. Max Ernst, Winifred Knights, and Otto Dix are just a few artists whose work will be on display in this show, which aims to provide a view of the various reactions to wartime trauma. —A.A.

Anni Albers
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany
June 9–September 9

The influential abstractionist and textile artist Anni Albers lived and worked in the U.S. for much of her life, having studied at the Bauhaus School in Germany during the 1920s; some of her teachers there included Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. With their visually striking experiments with form and color, her works, which often resemble zigzagging geometric abstractions, bear those artists’ influence. Albers imbued the act of weaving, often considered a lesser form of art-making, with conceptual weight, and this exhibition, which will travel later this year to Tate Modern in London, will bring together many of her inventive woven works. —C.S.

Berlin Biennale
Various venues, Berlin
June 9–September 9

Curated by a team led by Gabi Ngcobo, the 10th edition of the Berlin Biennale takes its name, “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” from a 1985 song by Tina Turner. The exhibition makes use of what its organizers have called a nonlinear approach to recent history, which they have said is in a state of “collective psychosis,” with all sorts of crazy things seeming to happen at once. That nonlinear approach is reflected by the artist list, which includes deceased artists alongside emerging living ones—work by Ana Mendieta will share space with pieces by Dineo Seshee Bopape, Sondra Perry, and Julia Phillips. —J.C.

Donna Kukama, Chapter P: The-Not-Not-Educational-Spirits, 2017, durational performance within “I’m not who you think I’m not #1,” 2017. Berlin Biennale.


Manifesta 12
Various venues, Palermo, Italy
June 16–November 4

The twelfth edition of the roving biennial Manifesta will take place in a coastal Italian city whose location between Europe, North Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean has placed it at the center of the refugee crisis. Led by director Hedwig Fijen, Manifesta’s organizers will work directly with local leaders in an attempt to understand art’s role in community engagement, and perhaps even jump-start Palermo’s revitalization in the process. Jelili Atiku, Uriel Orlow, and Maria Thereza Alves are among the artists set to participate. —J.C.

“Laure Prouvost: Ring, Sing, and Drink for Trespassing”
Palais de Tokyo, Paris
June 22–September 9

Laure Prouvost has, in the past few years, made a name for herself with a series of elusive video installations that defy straightforward interpretations—a recent one at Lisson Gallery in New York turned a faux travel agency into a post-apocalyptic office space, complete with fountains resembling breasts and sand-covered floors. Whether because of its weirdness or its perceptiveness about a society where so much is happening at once, Prouvost’s work has been closely watched. Ahead of her French Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale comes this exhibition, the Turner Prize–winning artist’s first in Parisian museum. For the Palais de Tokyo, she’ll create “a space where nature is purported to have taken over from humanity,” per a release. —A.G.

Kiluanji Kia Henda, Le Merchant de Venise, 2010, inkjet print on cotton paper. “African Metropolis: An Imaginary City,” MAXXI.


“African Metropolis: An Imaginary City”
June 22–November 4

It’s never easy to stage shows that are meant to encapsulate an entire continent. But for this exhibition, MAXXI has tapped some notable talent: Simon Njami, who previously curated “Africa Remix,” a landmark survey show that debuted in 2004 and helped put a host of contemporary African artists on the map, and who was also artistic director of the 13th edition of the recent Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal. He will work with MAXXI’s Elena Motisi to showcase work about African cities, including pieces by around 40 artists, from Pascale Marthine Tayou to Mimi Cherono Ng’ok. —A.G.

Vivan Sundaram
Haus der Kunst, Munich
June 29–October 7

Curated by Deepak Ananth, this retrospective of work by the Indian artist Vivan Sundaram will cover nearly five decades, making it the artist’s most comprehensive to date in Europe. Although Sundaram started off as a painter, since the early 1990s he has developed a practice that often includes sculpture, video, and large-scale installation. Among the work on view in Munich will be Memorial, a large multimedia installation created in tribute to a victim of the Hindu-Muslim riots that took place in northern India in 1992 and 1993. The piece, like much of Sundaram’s best-known work, investigates issues of cultural history and memory. —J.C.


Rehana Zaman, Sharla Shabana Sojourner Selena (still), 2016, video. Liverpool Biennial.


Liverpool Biennial
Various venues, Liverpool, England
July 14–October 28

In 1788 Friedrich Schiller wrote a poem that includes the mournful line: “Beautiful world, where are you?” Thirty-one years later, the composer Franz Schubert set Schiller’s poem to music. In the intervening three decades, a wave of nationalism swept Europe. With that history in mind, the 20th edition of the Liverpool Biennial has taken Schiller’s rhetorical question as its title, using it here as a prompt for the show’s 40-plus artists to examine Brexit and the period of socioeconomic tumult in its wake. Among the works on view will be Agnès Varda’s first-ever piece produced in the UK, to be shown in conjunction with screenings of her film Ulysse (1982), as well as Francis Alÿs’s paintings of war zones and pieces by Inuit, Aboriginal, and indigenous peoples. —G.H.

Xu Bing
Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing
July 21–October 18

This past March, following an outcry from animal rights activists, the Guggenheim Museum in New York removed from a survey exhibition of Chinese contemporary art documentation of Xu’s controversial performance A Case Study of Transference (1994), for which calligraphy was printed on pigs. Now Xu, one of China’s most important living artists, will receive long-overdue attention in his home country, this time in the form of a mid-career survey. Included in the exhibition will be many of his most famous works, most notably Book from the Sky (1987–91), a room-size installation featuring long scrolls filled with Chinese text that, upon close examination, reveals itself to be gibberish. —G.H.

Xu Bing, Book from the Sky, 1987–91, mixed media installation, installation view, National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa, 1998.



“Neil Beloufa: Global Agreement”
Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany
August 23–October 28

Much of Neïl Beloufa’s work has meditated on surveillance, the pervasiveness of moving images, and the thin line between fact and fiction today. So it is only fitting that, for his Schirn Kunsthalle show, the Paris-based artist will turn portions of the museum into stages, collapsing any divide between real life and fantasy. This was a gesture Beloufa already attempted for his first Palais de Tokyo show, in 2012, but if the show’s title, “Global Agreement,” is a hint at what’s to come, the scale of his work’s concerns has only gotten bigger. —A.G.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of ARTnews on page 24 under the title “Editors’ Picks.”

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