With spring just around the corner, it’s time to start looking forward to the season’s museum shows and biennials. Below is a guide to upcoming offerings, from the Whitney Biennial to the Venice Biennale, from the largest American survey of Cuban art since 1944 to retrospectives for Louise Lawler, Lygia Pape, Seth Price, and many more.
“Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950”
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
March 5–May 21
Before former President Barack Obama announced in 2014 that the United States would resume diplomatic relations with Cuba, major art institutions were in the midst of planning exhibitions on Cuban art. This exhibition, initiated by collector Ella Fontanals-Cisneros through her foundations and organized by a team of independent Havana-based curators, will look at Cuban art since the upheaval wrought by the country’s five-and-half-year revolution beginning in 1953. The most far-reaching American exhibition of its kind since 1944, this show surveys Cuban art over the past 65 years, from the little-known abstractionist Concrete movement to the influence of poster art and the conceptually focused Nuevo Arte Cubano to contemporary art practices. Through photographs, paintings, sculptures, and video, the show explores how the idea of a utopia, both in Cuba and elsewhere, has impacted artists’ attempts, successes, and failures to find social harmony in often untenable circumstances. —Maximilíano Durón
Whitney Museum, New York
March 17–June 11
Since it began in 1932, the Whitney Biennial has been the exhibition that the New York art world loves to hate. And hates to love! The show is always hotly anticipated but this year it’s more so, not only because this is the first edition in the Whitney’s two-year-old Renzo Piano building in downtown Manhattan, but because it has been a full three years since the last Biennial. The event’s two organizers, Whitney associate curator Christopher Y. Lew and independent curator Mia Locks, have chosen 63 artists, including Los Angeles painter Henry Taylor; New Mexico–based collective Postcommodity, whose video work in the show, A Very Long Line, is an extension of their 2015 installation, Repellent Fence, which intersected the US–Mexico border; and Occupy Museums, which will show their Debtfair project, for which they solicited stories from artists about being in debt. There are some seasoned figures, like 87-year-old minimalist Jo Baer, and some wild cards, like jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington. —Sarah Douglas
“Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms”
Met Breuer, New York
March 21–July 23
Like Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, her compatriots in Brazil’s Neo-Concrete movement of the 1960s, Lygia Pape (1927–2004) took European Modernist painting by the likes of Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich as the starting point for a peculiarly sensual variety of nonobjective art. Fusing geometric abstraction with real life experience, Pape created experimental “books” whose pages are painted wood constructions, gleaming sculptural installations made from gold thread that change appearance as one moves around them, and interactive pieces such as her living, moving, canvas Divisor (1968). This retrospective exhibition, Pape’s first in the US, will feature a restaging of Divisor, which will proceed down Fifth Avenue and to which all of New York is invited. —Anne Doran
Zhang Peili burst onto the art scene in 1988 when he filmed himself picking up a small mirror, dropping it, letting it shatter, carefully gluing back together, and then repeating that cycle for hours on end. The resulting work, 30 x 30, cemented his reputation as the “father of Chinese video art”—a veritable master of time-based works that parody conceptualism’s obsession with following directions. Though Zhang is a pioneer in his home country (he inspired a host of artists, from Huang Yong Ping to Zhang Huan), this show, which also includes later installations about voyeurism and the act of seeing, will be his first museum survey in America. —Alex Greenberger
“Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C.–A.D. 220)”
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
April 3–July 16
Drawing on loans from 31 museums and archaeological institutions in China and tending toward works never before seen in America, this survey will feature ancient art from a 400-year period of “classical” Chinese civilization that coincided with Greco-Roman history in the West. The show will include more than 160 artworks—including ceramics, metalwork, textiles, sculpture, painting, calligraphy, and architectural models; among its stars are likely to be a group of terra-cotta warriors armed with real weapons created more than 2,000 years ago. —Andy Battaglia
Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still’s masterly paintings of black-edged jagged cliffs will be shown at the Denver Art Museum alongside Mark Bradford’s similarly elusive and colorful paintings in the first half of this two-part exhibition. Meanwhile, at the nearby Clyfford Still Museum, another show will present 15 works by Still brought together by Bradford, who is representing the United States at this year’s Venice Biennale. The Clyfford Still Museum show will address Bradford’s concern with how abstraction can address social and political issues. —Barbara A. MacAdam
Few young artists have been able to conjure a world so strange and so intriguing as Ian Cheng, whose infinitely changing “live simulations,” moving-image works made from algorithms that constantly recombine data, have tackled everything from sentient chatbots to training dogs. For his first-ever solo exhibition in America, Cheng will show his remarkably ambitious “Emissary” trilogy, which charts the evolution of a world not unlike our own. His mind-bending art is, rather appropriately, about the mind itself—how, over time, the human brain adapts, evolves, and develops in response to its environment. —A.G.
Turtleneck sweaters sprouting bouquets of tempura fried flowers out of their tops; contact lenses in burbling tanks of water, a clothes dryer filled with strange scents—these are just a few of the outré sculptures that the New York–based artist has made in recent years. Yi’s art is wonderfully unstable—growing and decaying, always transforming into new and strange. Her ambitions have grown steadily from one show to the next, so all bets are off for her valedictory Hugo Boss Prize exhibition. —Andrew Russeth
“We Wanted a Revolution: Radical Black Women, 1965–85”
Brooklyn Museum, New York
April 21–September 17
Gradually, it’s becoming obvious that the feminist movement, or at least as we understand it through most history books, was overly white. Black women were often kept to the margins of it, and that was especially the case in the art world. This landmark show aims to further rectify that oversimplification of feminist art. Surveying art made by black women artists over the course of two pivotal decades, the exhibition will feature a wide array of work, from Spiral collective member Emma Amos’s playful figurative scenes to Carrie Mae Weems’s reflections on black women’s hard-won battles for equality. —A.G.
The London-born painter, who has earned renown for her psychologically detailed portraits of black men and women against subtly colored backdrops, will present a selection of her deceptively simple works, in which the glint in an eye or the curve of a lip can suggest larger narratives, thoughts, and states of mind. A veteran of the 2015 Sharjah Biennial, the 2013 Venice Biennale, and the 2012 New Museum Triennial, this will be her first major museum show in New York. —A.R.
“Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW”
Museum of Modern Art, New York
April 30–July 30
In her 1990 photograph Untitled (History Painting), Louise Lawler shows the afterlife of Cindy Sherman works: stacked together in storage, collecting dust. It’s a typical work for Lawler, the Pictures Generation veteran who, for the past four decades, has mocked art’s sticky relationship to museums and the market. This long-overdue retrospective, Lawler’s first in New York, will survey the artist’s photographs and installations, among them her “adjusted to fit” series, in which install shots of Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol shows are squished until they fit the wide dimensions of billboards and walls. —A.G.
“Urban Planning: Contemporary Art and the City 1967–2017”
Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis
May 5–August 13
The rise of highways and the decline of industrialization count among the catalysts for art in this exhibition that peers—and leers—at the urban landscape as it has changed in North America since the ’60s. Living in the city means living with flux in terms of identity, class, economics, and collective health, all of which figure in work in different media by a roster including Zoe Leonard, Mark Bradford, Catherine Opie, Glenn Ligon, Agnes Denes, Josiah McElheny, and Ed Ruscha. —Andy Battaglia
An epitome of the wit and charm of Manhattan’s artistic vanguard in the early 20th century, noted saloniste Florine Stettheimer (1871-1944), was a woman of many talents—not least, a painter, designer, and poet surrounded by such leading lights as Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Elie Nadelman, and Marcel Duchamp. This show at New York’s Jewish Museum includes over 50 of her paintings and drawings of parties, still lifes, and nudes, as well as costume and theater designs, photographs, and poems. —B.A.M.
“Katharina Fritsch: Multiples”
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
May 11–October 15
A companion exhibit to herald the installation of her sculpture of a giant cock (or cockerel, as the bird is more formally known) in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, “Katharina Fritsch: Multiples” surveys the career of the 60-year-old German sculptor with some 40 works from the Walker Art Center’s own collection. First presented in London in 2013, Hahn/Cock—20 feet tall and intensely blue—is the beguiling public work that will likely make Fritsch a bigger name in the Midwest. —Andy Battaglia
“A World View: John Latham”
Serpentine Galleries, London
March 2–May 21
In 1966, the Zambia-born, London-based artist John Latham (1921–2006) had his students at St. Martin’s School of Art chew up and spit out art historian Clement Greenberg’s book Art and Culture. For this Latham was fired, even as his place in history as a pioneering conceptual and performance artist was ensured. At the Serpentine, a retrospective will survey Latham’s wide-ranging and provocative output, including his spray paintings, book sculptures, films, and theoretical writings, while Flat Time House—the artist’s London studio, which he designated as an artwork in 2003—will host workshops and events for the run of the show. —A.D.
“Los Angeles, a fiction”
Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, Lyon, France
March 8–July 9
In yet another exploration of the supposed myth that is Los Angeles, this exhibition brings together a swath of blue-chip artists currently based in the sprawling city—John Baldessari, David Hockney, Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, Alex Israel, Catherine Opie among them—as well as some 80 authors, to look at their role in giving “the city its distinctive character.” (They’re joined by young up-and-comers, like Samara Golden, Tala Madani, and Martine Syms.) And yet, despite the fact that Los Angeles’s population is around 50 percent Latino, almost all of the artists here are white. The City of Angels, at least in the way most people think of it, is a fiction, and its reality still has yet to be fully revealed. —M.D.
The inaugural Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art will include the work of over 68 artists and artist groups working throughout Russia. The Triennial, and its accompanying website of “local scenes” in contemporary Russian art, coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. But the museum has greater ambitions than just reflecting on the country’s rich history of avant-gardes—the museum hopes, as one ambitious press release states, to spur on the next vanguard of Russian artists. —Angela Brown
Various venues, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
March 10–June 12
A biennial spread out over time and space, the Sharjah Biennial 13 began last October and will run through October 2017, with projects in Sharjah, Dakar, Ramallah, Istanbul, and Beirut. Organized by Lebanese curator Christine Tohmé the exhibition will include a mix of local and international artists, including Polish artist Monika Sosnowska, who makes huge abstract, architectural sculptures, Algerian artist Massinissa Selmani, noted for her delicate, political narrative drawings, and Emirati conceptualist Abdullah Al Saadi. Utilizing existing institutions and informal networks, Tohme’s biennial will consider the role of art in an increasingly interconnected world. —B.A.M.
“L’emozione dei Colori nell’arte”
Castello di Rivoli and Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin
March 14–July 23
At this historic moment, marked by extreme feeling, what could be to the point than an exhibition devoted to the emotions of color in art—showing, not telling, what we feel. “Colori” is a show of some 400 works by more than 125 artists, from the 17th century to today, addressing memory, politics, spirituality, storytelling, psychology, and synesthesia. This ambitious exhibition features modernist masters alongside today’s most promising young artists—everything from Sonia Delaunay to Hito Steyerl. Curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the director of Castello di Rivoli, with input from Marcella Beccaria, Elena Volpato, and Elif Kamisli, the show also explores the impact of color through an on-site interactive neuroscience laboratory. —B.A.M.
“Miroslaw Balka: Crossover/s”
March 16–July 30
Like the work of Polish artist Monika Sosnowska and the Lebanese sculptor Mona Hatoum, Miroslaw Balka’s is deeply poignant and nostalgic. This retrospective devoted to the Polish artist will reflect on his life and European history. His work, once devoted to the human figure, shifted focus in the 1990s to objects and ideas associated with the body, such as bedframes and symbolic objects, with pieces often relating to Balka’s own physical dimensions. With 15 sculptures, installations, and videos, the show will provide a three-decade survey of Balka’s melancholy work. —B.A.M.
“The National: New Australian Art”
Various venues, Sydney
Opens March 30
“The National: New Australian Art,” Australia’s ambitious contemporary-art biennale, staged over six years (2017, 2019, and 2021), appears in three of Sydney’s major arts venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia. (Closing dates for each part of “The National” vary by museum.) The biennial will include a highly multicultural cast of emerging, mid-career, and established Australian artists, working in and outside the country and in all media. With work by such artists as Agatha Gothe-Snape, Helen Johnson, and Khadim Ali, the biennial will offer a broad picture of what it means to work in Australia today. —B.A.M.
“Queer British Art”
Tate Britain, London
April 5–October 1
To mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of male homosexuality in England, this exhibition will bring together a variety of queer-themed British art produced from 1861, when the death penalty for sodomy was abolished, to 1967. The exhibition, as most shows focused on queer identity tend to be, will be freewheeling in its scope, ranging from the highly coded works of the Pre-Raphaelites to the explicitly sexual paintings of Francis Bacon. —M.D.
“Akram Zaatari—Against Photography: An Annotated History of the Arab Image Foundation”
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona
April 7–September 24
Long before talk of America’s “post-truth” times, there was the Arab Image Foundation, the nonprofit founded in 1997 by the Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari, along with photographers Fouad Elkoury and Samer Mohdad. (Later on, Walid Raad also worked on the project.) Together, they’ve collected amateur photography from Lebanon, in a two-decade search for the truth in a region where photography can be manipulated to achieve political ends. In typical fashion for Zaatari, the show will double as a reflection on archiving—it will include photographs collected by the AIF, as well as documentation of how the AIF brought together those works. —A.G.
Various venues, Athens
April 8–July 16
Marking a first in its history, the fourteenth edition of Documenta, one of the biggest and most important international art exhibitions, will be held concurrently in both Kassel and Athens. For its Athens half, which opens this April, over 130 artists will exhibit work—including paintings, installations, live music, and film—in museums, buildings, and public squares throughout the city. Artistic director Adam Szymczyk, who conceived this new format, invited participants to use the differing contexts of both cities as a source of inspiration for their work. Appropriately, he’s called this part of Documenta “Learning from Athens.” —Robin Scher
For the first time since François Pinault acquired both the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana in Venice to display his immense contemporary art collection, the two private museums will collaborate on a show of one artist: Damien Hirst. There are scant details on what exactly the show will entail, but a Pinault press release informs us it has been “ten years in the making.” Hirst, famous for his dead shark suspended in a formaldehyde-filled tank, is known as much for his showmanship as his art, so fasten your seatbelts. —Nate Freeman
“Seth Price: Social Synthetic”
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
April 15–September 3
It’s hard to imagine a contemporary art world without Seth Price, whose writings, sculptures, installations, and films have inspired a generation of younger artists making work about the internet. Since the early ’00s, Price’s work has looked at what happens when an object, image, or idea becomes part of a network—how it morphs, warps, and shifts form as it moves between people. The Stedelijk Museum’s 140-work show, Price’s first-ever museum survey, will place new works alongside well-known classics, such as his “Vintage Bomber” works, for which the artist created vacuum-formed casts of bomber jackets, enshrining them as fashion collectibles and enduring symbols of underground culture. —A.G.
Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Germany
Opens April 23
The British-born, New York–based artist Nick Relph first caught the eye of the art world in the early 2000’s through his lo-fi pseudo-documentaries created in collaboration with the artist Oliver Payne. Since then, he has gone off on his own, first with a 2010 exhibition at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York. Using materials including paper and video, Relph explored the relationship between art, textiles, and branding. His more recent work has incorporated photo and crafting methodologies like weaving, in the process connecting the digital with the tactile. His recent exhibition at Herald St gallery in London seemed to obliquely comment on the gentrification of his adopted home base. This show will be Relph’s first institutional exhibition in Germany. —John Chiaverina
Photographer Walker Evans, the great chronicler of American life, was also a great collector of Americana, particularly old signage. (Walter Hopps, in his upcoming book on artists and art, recalls that Evans was delighted to learn of something called Liquid Wrench, which would quickly loosen rusted nuts holding signs to buildings.) Connecting Evans’s twin passions, this exhibition will pair more than 300 vintage photographs by Evans—from his early images of New York City and his Depression-era portraits of sharecroppers for the Farm Security Administration, to his late color Polaroids of street markings—with ephemera from his archive, including plates, postcards, and, of course, signs. —A.D.
The German maestro gets the full retrospective treatment in this show, which includes some 120 of his works. His photos, many large-scale, gloriously detailed, and rich with color, capture the ineffable—people beholding paintings in museums; advanced technological devices quietly humming away, beyond the comprehension of any single human; or even Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, living embodiments of centuries of history and tradition. This is art as high humanism—a potent antidote to these dark times. —A.R.
Adrián Villar Rojas
Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria
May 6–June 25
What will be left behind when the world ends? That’s always the question in the back of Adrián Villar Rojas’s mind as he creates his monumental clay and brick sculptures, which have taken the form of a crumbling portrait of Kurt Cobain, a 33-foot beached whale in a forest, and a larger-than-life version of Michelangelo’s David curled up in fetal position. Disturbing yet understated, Villar Rojas’s sculptures show that there is always life after life; one civilization ends, and another begins. For this show, the young Argentinian artist will create a new work in response to the Kunsthaus Bregenz’s concrete architecture. —A.G.
Tate Modern, London
May 10–September 10
His attenuated, solitary, standing or striding figures, made from 1935 on and viewed as distillations of the existential plight of modern man, have never been more sought after; one, Pointing Man (1940), sold in 2015 for $141 million, breaking the record for the most expensive sculpture in the world. Capping a year of exhibitions marking the 50th anniversary of Alberto Giacometti’s death, this retrospective will trace the artist’s career from his early representational works through his Cubist and Surrealist periods, to the tremulous, obsessively reworked postwar sculptures and portrait paintings that seem so resonant now. —A.D.
Multiple venues in Venice, Italy
May 13–November 26
The international art crowd will flock yet again to Venice for the second stop on this summer’s “Grand Tour.” (Technically, the first stop is a branch of Documenta in Athens, which opens in April.) Here are some national pavilions to get excited about: Mark Bradford (USA), Sharon Lockhart (Poland), Tracey Moffatt (Australia), Manuel Ocampo and Lani Maestro (Philippines), Phyllida Barlow (Britain). Who will win the Golden Lion? What on earth will Anne Imhof, known for her unsettling performances, do by way of representing Germany? As for the curated exhibition, organized by Centre Pompidou chief curator Christine Macel, little was known by press time besides her show’s title—“Viva Arte Viva”—and a bit about its format. It will comprise a series of pavilions and include a section called, intriguingly, “Unpacking My Library.” We do know this: Macel is the fourth female curator in the Biennale’s 122-year history. Progress! —S.D.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of ARTnews on page 16 under the title “Editors’ Picks.”