Big museum shows to catch

A portrait of Marie Antoinette and her children (centre) displayed as part of the retrospective exhibition of French portrait painter Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun at the Grand Palais in Paris.
A portrait of Marie Antoinette and her children (centre) displayed as part of the retrospective exhibition of French portrait painter Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun at the Grand Palais in Paris.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Picasso Sculpture at MoMA
Ushio Shinohara's Doll Festival at the Tate Modern show.
Ushio Shinohara's Doll Festival at the Tate Modern show.PHOTO: TATE MODERN

NEW YORK • As the world's major museums roll out an extraordinary line-up of shows this fall, there is a lot to be excited about.

Some of them are blockbusters that have already garnered significant (expected) attention - Museum of Modern Art's Picasso show has received almost uniformly gushing reviews - and others, such as Hammer Museum's quiet but superb exhibition of jewel-like landscape paintings by the little- known artist Lawren Harris, promise to be the season's sleeper hits.

Not everyone can be everywhere, of course, so Bloomberg has compiled a list of some of the most exciting shows from around the globe. Consider it your cultural passport for fall.

1. Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun, Grand Palais, Paris, till Jan 11

Unbelievably, France has never before held a retrospective for Le Brun, who rose from a relatively modest background to become a painter in the court of Marie Antoinette.

It would be a remarkable story in itself, but the fact that she was a woman makes her achievement even more astonishing.

2. The Best Designed Books Of 2014, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, till Oct 25

Questionable as it might seem to institutionalise books as design objects rather than things to be read, the Stedelijk's Best Designed Books exhibition is a nice reminder that there is an art to good design. The annual competition, in place since 1932, is a concise, usually rewarding shortcut to discovering the tomes that the industry's own leaders consider the best of the best.

3. Lee Miller, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, till Feb 21

Lee Miller managed the remarkable feat of transitioning from surrealist photography to war photography. She is one of the most accomplished photographers of the 20th century. The show comprises a number of her earlier works, many of which were part of a trove of 60,000 negatives discovered in her attic after her death.

4. Who Interprets The World?, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, till  Dec 13 

Exhibitions grappling with The Contemporary always have the potential to be fraught or boring or both. But Who Interprets The World?, a group show that involves artists such as El Anatsui, Pedro Reyes, and Susanta Mandal, promises to be an interesting variation on the theme, and the Kanazawa museum building - a gorgeous, low-slung glass circle - is worth a visit no matter what is inside.

5. Jim Shaw,  New Museum, New York, Oct 7 to Jan 10

The New Museum has been on a roll recently, with exceptional solo exhibitions of Sarah Charlesworth and Albert Oehlen. Now, it has organised the first New York retrospective of the Los Angeles-based artist Jim Shaw, whose cartoon-like drawings, paintings, videos and room-size installations interrogate and occasionally subvert mainstream American culture.

6. Lawren Harris, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Oct 11 to Jan 24

Oftentimes, when a museum introduces someone from outside of the Western canon of modern art, it can feel like a novelty for novelty's sake. But Hammer's exhibition The Idea Of North: The Paintings Of Lawren Harris has unearthed that rare gem: an astonishingly gifted painter with whom many people in the United States are unfamiliar. 

7. Picasso Sculpture at MoMA, New York, till Feb 7

Not always the case when it comes to exhibitions conceived and executed as "blockbusters", the superlatives heaped upon Picasso Sculpture by the world's critics ("a dumbfounding triumph") are totally deserved. More than

100 sculptures large and small and in every conceivable medium - clay, bronze, steel, wood, even cardboard - are spread across the fourth-floor galleries. The only downside to the show? The crowds, which have been (unsurprisingly) unrelenting. 

8. Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, Metropolitan Museum, New York, Oct 12 to Jan 24

It does not matter if you are an academic or a five-year-old: The wonderful thing about the Met's Egyptian exhibition is that the material is so superb and so stunningly beautiful, that you can enjoy it no matter what. The international exhibition includes 230 objects from the Met's collection and 37 lenders across the United States and Europe. 

9. Alfred Stieglitz And The 19th Century, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Oct 31 to March 27

The Art Institute has one of the best photography collections in the US, which is due in no small part to the Stieglitz Collection, which Georgia O'Keefe donated to the museum in 1949. Drawing exclusively from this collection, Alfred Stieglitz And The 19th Century contains gems from masters including Julia Margaret Cameron and the Scottish duo David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson.

10. The World Goes Pop, Tate Modern, London, till Jan 24

Finally, a show about pop art where women are the artists and not the objects. Sure, the show is not exclusively about female artists, but its mission - displaying pop art by under-represented practitioners of the genre - includes 25 women artists and is stronger for it. It is always refreshing when a blockbuster show sets the record straight and, this one promises to correct, or at least amend, conventional narratives.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline 'Big museum shows to catch'. Print Edition | Subscribe